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My name is Vincent Owoko but my artistic name is Vvyque. I am 29 years old and I am afro-contemporary dancer. Dancing has been good for my mental health. When I dance, I feel like I am in my safe space. I forget everything. It is my therapy. When I am depressed, the moment I get to the dance space, everything that is troubling me goes. Currently with the pandemic, there has been anxiety. I used to teach at schools. But now there is no school, there is no work and when you need to pay bills, it is stressful. But at the moment, I teach some dance classes online to kids and when I teach I feel better. I feel productive. The stress and anxiety is gone.
Sometimes when I am depressed or anxious I go to the roof and I dance. I invite my friends and we dance together. And we feel better.
Dance has been helpful to people around me. It is therapeutic. Some of my friends, they have troubles at home. There are challenges like financial struggles, family issues, relationships, etc. But when they come to the studio to dance it is like nothing is happening. It always gives them a safe space.
I have seen dance benefitting the mental well being of my students. There was a student of mine, she was always shy and was anxious to do things in front of people. But with dance, I have seen her self-confidence and self-esteem increase. She has also opened up and can now talk more freely to people about her feelings.
In the dance world, dancers experience mental health issues, sometimes from the stress and demands of perfecting their skills. Also, the stereotype that only slim people can dance causes body image issues. Some dance companies only accept thin dancers.
I use my dance to help people with mental health. When I do dance projects and choreography, I tend to focus on social stereotypes and mental health. There is a project I did with Yawa Dance Company a year ago. It was about mental illness. It was really interesting as contemporary dance is about expression. We were telling each other’s story and expressing our emotions through dance. We covered mental illness in relationships and in individuals. One of our female dancers created a dance about her experiences going through rape. I created a dance about my experiences going through domestic violence. The project was called “The Hanging Tree”.
Dance is a safe space and people happy. People become mentally ill when they are sad. Dance brings people happiness. It does not matter how bad you are at dancing, I encourage everyone to dance. You only need your two feet. And even if you don’t have your feet, you can use your arms. Just dance.