Dancing for Birth is a program founded by Stephanie Larson and based on the premise that dance and movement will help women navigate pregnancy and, especially, labour. They offer dance classes for women from pre-conception to post-partum, instructor training, and the DVD, Prenatal Dance and Birth Wisdom. I received a review copy of the DVD, and have been looking forward to trying out another prenatal dance offering. Larson leads the program in a garden, accompanied by three other women, one of whom is visibly pregnant. There are motivational segments to the DVD, but I tend to find those kinds of exercises forced, so I gave them a skip.
Dancing for Birth as Prenatal Workout
The DVD is definitely at the gentle end of the spectrum. When I did it I was suffering from back pain, and at no point did it aggravate me. In fact, my pain has been gone since the day I did it, which makes me think it was just the right level of exertion for someone in the third trimester, fatigued and achy. Doing the dance program will probably raise your heart rate a little, but if you’ve been active in any other way you’re unlikely to feel like you’re exercising. There is a nice warmup on an exercise/labor ball, the moves from which could be used apart from the video. At the end, a short segment on abdominal and pelvic work introduces a few exercises you could repeat outside of the video.
The movements Larson presents are inspired by bellydance, African, Caribbean and Latin dance. There are a few small combos in the bellydance section, but for the most part this is a one-move-at-a-time program. They generally feel good to do, and many of them resemble what I’ve learned in labour prep classes. Larson is a certified doula, so this is not a surprise!
Dancing for Birth as Dance Program
If you have dance training and especially bellydance experience, you will probably be confused by much of the DVD. I’m not as good a judge of the other dance forms, but most of the dance movements are introduced as bellydance, and they would probably be better described as “bellydance inspired.” I found myself repeatedly correcting movements when I performed them, making sure, for example, that my horizontal figure-8’s were truly horizontal. And wondering why I was stomping before doing a hip bump.
The strangest aspect was the arm work. It generally did not look bellydanceish (and I think that’s a shame, since this is such an easy way to look graceful when feeling massive and pregnant), and at one point it was confusing for me precisely because I do study bellydance. To wit: the “go-to” arm pattern for large hip circles is generally to fold the hands to the chest when leaning forward (thus also modestly covering heaving cleavage), and to open the arms out when leaning backwards. In this video, the arms do the opposite — they open out with the lean forward, and fold together during the lean back. Someone else may not have trouble with this, but I found myself floundering constantly because the movement was so counter-instinctive to me. Again, when doing hip sways with snake arms, I’m used to having the arm and hip on the same side go up at the same time — the instruction on this video has you do the opposite.
The individual movements and combos are usually performed for a random amount of time, and then abruptly stopped. Larson does sometimes count out the moves, sometimes to 8, sometimes to 10, but repetitions on the other side might be done without a count, and may vary in number. Cueing is not mirrored. There is soft background music, but the movements are not performed to the music. Again, if you’re happy to just follow along and go with the flow, you may not mind. But if you’re used to the structure of balanced sides and reps of eight, you will probably be frustrated.
At the same time, I think the instruction is not really detailed enough for a beginner. There is some attention to posture, which is always good, but the moves are done in “follow along” format, and some of the background dancers struggle to follow too.
In short, Dancing for Birth is fine as a gentle movement practice for labour, but not solid dance instruction.
Thank you for your review of Dancing For Birth™: Prenatal Dance and Birth Wisdom. As you mention, the moves are inspired by Bellydance, African Dance, Latin Dance and Caribbean Dance. At the heart of the DVD is my passion for helping women have great births, which has powered my groundbreaking work creating global Dancing For Birth™ classes, for which I was honored to be named USA’s National Birth Hero, 2011.
The DVD teaches signature Dancing For Birth™ movements such as “Dilation Gyration”, “Birth Goddess” and “Down Baby Down” that are specifically designed to help women feel great during pregnancy, prepare physically and mentally for labor,learn how to give birth intuitively with ease, and encourage fetal rotation and descent. It presents essential birth wisdom based on my 12 years as a certified birth doula and a childbirth educator/speaker. Women using the DVD at home can learn many of the same invaluable techniques that hospitals and birth centers in the USA and around the world bring me in to teach to their doctors, midwives, nurses, doulas and childbirth educators.
The segment entitled Birth Wisdom VS. Birth Myths debunks many common birth myths and includes demonstration of simple postural adjustments pregnant women can make to help their babies achieve optimal fetal positioning and avoid common fetal mal-positions that can lead to “back labor”, forceps delivery, or cesarean section. I am especially excited to teach in the DVD the position which I created and named “Powerful Woman” that enables women to easily open their pelvic outlet to approximately 20-30 centimeters (two or three times larger than the typical ten centimeters) during birth to create ample space for even large babies. Using these movements and birth wisdom I gave birth to my four children with natural, quick, un-medicated births. One of my babies (ten pounds plus) was born in slightly over an hour. Dancing For Birth™ participants consistently share how the DVD and the classes helped them diminish fear, build confidence and have great births!
The DVD is endorsed by Pam England, author of “Birthing From Within”, Suzanne Arms, founder of “Birthing The Future”, Diana Paul, director of “Birth Day”, Simone Snyder of “Mothering Magazine”, Vicki Elson, director of “Laboring Under an Illusion”, Ann Grauer, DONA International director of education, and more…
I hope that it will contribute to a positive pregnancy and birth experience for you too. Best wishes for continued joy in dance and for a beautiful birth to you and to your expectant readers as well!
Thanks for your comment, Stephanie!