By Hayley Crandall
With the continuous chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic mixed with everyday life stress, mental health wellness has become a prominent concern. Mind, Body, & Soul Dancers is working to offer wellness support to the community.
But this isn’t exactly some run-of-the-mill therapy – this is wellness through dancing. Line dancing, to be exact.
The nonprofit organization hosts Line Dance Wellness Therapy every Tuesday and Saturday, in-person and virtually, with the hope of giving people a chance to relieve stress, express themselves and get moving, said founder Nzinga Khalid.
“It’s relieving some stress that they might be feeling and of course it’s great physical exercise,” Khalid said. “And research has shown when you move your body, you release this natural chemical called endorphins which give us a natural high. It makes you feel a whole lot better than you probably did when you started.”
Khalid got inspired to spread the art of line dancing with the community when she started her own wellness journey years ago. She gravitated towards the line dancing classes offered at a gym. Enjoying this newfound passion, Khalid began researching and attended a line dancing convention where she got really inspired.
“It really opened up my eyes to a whole new world of opportunity to get well through dance,” Khalid said. “What I saw there were people of all ages and ethnicity having a wonderful time doing something they loved. When I came back, I was so inspired that I began to teach line dance classes to people who were more in my age group.”
Khalid went on to get fitness and line dancing certifications and started the nonprofit in 2010. Now the organization not only offers the community classes but books events and teams up with other local organizations.
While usually held in-person, due to the pandemic the organization shifted virtual classes. Khalid said she adapted to the changing times immediately. She felt people, including herself, needed the classes in these uncertain times.
“My mental health depends on it and if I need it, I that know my clients who’ve been dancing with me for years need it, too,” Khalid said. “This is a life-line for us.”
And it seems like her inklings were right. The virtual classes have expanded beyond her regular client base and can see over 40 participants. Numbers continue to grow every week, Khalid explained, and the interest goes beyond Milwaukee. Participants log on from as far south as Mississippi to out west in California.
Each class runs about an hour and features three different beginner-level dances along with a warm-up and teaching of line dancing terminology, Khalid explained.
Being beginner-level dances, Khalid assures absolutely anyone is able to follow along.
“This is for everybody, no experience necessary,” Khalid said. “All you need is a positive attitude and a willingness to try. I like to tell people that if you can walk, you can line dance.”
Seeing how the virtual classes have been a hit, Khalid plans to continue them post-pandemic. She finds it to be a great way for people to be social while staying comfortable dancing in their own space.
“Not everyone likes to come to be social in-person and this has really provided an opportunity for those people who have always wanted to participate but might have been a little bit shy or apprehensive,” Khalid said. “This allows them to be in their own space, their own element. There’s no pressure to turn their camera on but oftentimes they do and it’s a beautiful thing to come back behind the camera and see people moving in sync.”
Overall, Khalid hopes the dance therapy gives the community a chance to relieve their stressors, especially in these trying times, and motivates them to take time for some self-care.
“The goal for this program is to provide an outlet for individuals to relieve their stress and get involved in activities that will make them feel better mentally,” Khalid said. “My goal is just that residents of Milwaukee County will be introduced to a fun new way to provide self-care.”
In-person classes are still running Tuesdays, with pandemic precautions in place, but she hopes to keep in-person classes small. Khalid encourages all to attend virtual classes.
More information can be found on the website, https://www.linedancemilwaukee.com/.