Receiving a breast cancer
diagnosis can be devastating. For Lynne C. Belsky, M.D., and Lisa Gold, both
breast cancer survivors, dancing has been one way for them to literally and
figuratively move forward with their healing. In 2016, the cousins co-founded
the nonprofit CBG Institute for Dance and Health
with a mission of enriching
the health and quality of lives for older adults through dance education,
performance and outreach. With October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month,
they are reviving a special series of classes called Dance for Joy, designed
for people in any stage of a breast cancer diagnosis or recovery. “We want to
create a safe space for people to feel connected and free to move without
judgment,” says Belsky. The classes are free and will be held over Zoom to
allow people from all over to safely participate and connect.
Belsky and Gold had dance
backgrounds before their cancer diagnoses. Belsky danced with the Joffrey
Ballet before becoming a physician, and would return to the studio when her
schedule allowed. “Being back in the studio with my hand on the (ballet) barre
allowed me to find my center again,” she recalls. Gold, with a Bachelor of Arts
degree in Dance from Barat College, taught at the Conservatory of Dance at
DePaul University for 16 years and now owns North Shore School of Dance
Highland Park. She recently received a Professional Award in Adult Dance
Practices from the Royal Academy of Dance.
“We founded CBG
to help older adults build
balance and strength through dance and to enrich their health and freedom of
movement. The community we have created here has become incredibly rewarding
and fulfilling because people are empowering themselves through dance,” says
Teaching to people that have been diagnosed
with breast cancer was a natural progression to help this population in need of
wellness and healing. During their cancer treatments, neither
Belsky nor Gold felt comfortable going back to traditional studios. “Because of
my scars and surgeries, I had trouble moving in the ways everyone else did,”
says Gold. They realized there were countless others facing the same issues and
wanted to bring them together instead of letting them feel isolated. “We
created a class where cancer survivors could feel safe and discover how dance
offers freedom from life’s challenges. We also give participants a sense of belonging
and a community,” says Gold.
While they may be therapeutic in nature,
the classes at CBG
are not specifically dance therapy. “We focus on the
dancers’ well-being through dance instruction. Our classes are designed for
this specific population and their needs,” Belsky explains. Studies show that
structured dance is also medically therapeutic and has direct benefits that
include increased stability, muscle strength, improved reaction time, cognitive
improvements, tactile and motor skills performance, perceptual abilities and
Having a supportive group
can diminish the feelings of isolation which many cancer survivors experience.
“Even through Zoom, students feel a heightened sense of joy and connectedness.
They feel less alone and have a community to belong to. They know that others
in the group understand the trials of radiation, chemotherapy and surgery, and
the effects they have on the body,” says Belsky.
The Dance for Joy classes are available to
people of any age and stage of cancer or recovery, and dance experience is not
required. “We revel in feeling good. We are all in this together and getting
stronger together,” says Gold. They have students in their 90s that are still
participating with impressive vigor and students that dance in spite of illness
Dance is also a way for people that have
been through cancer to appreciate their bodies in a new and deeper way. “I do
not define myself by my cancer. I have overcome it and feel great. Dancing and
being able to challenge myself again while having fun is a huge part of that.
We now help others remember who they were before their cancer diagnosis and
connect to that through dance and community,” says Belsky.
Carrie Jackson is an
Evanston-based writer and frequent contributor to Natural Awakenings
magazine. Connect at CarrieJacksonWrites.com.
Dance For Joy
Dance for Joy will take place at 9:30 a.m., October 3,
10, 17 and 24 via Zoom at the CBG Institute. Although the classes are free,
donations are accepted so the nonprofit can support its mission of enriching
the health and quality of life of adults through dance education, research and performance.
Classes are open to people in any stage of breast cancer
diagnosis and of any age. No prior dance experience is required, and students
are encouraged to participate at their own pace.
For more information and to register,