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26 Apr 2016


Refugee women express themselves through dance

The introductory workshop gave the women a taste of the traditional dance style of Bharatanatyam, which is an intricate and expressive form of dance that has been practised in India for centuries.

SSI clients and staff joined Aruna for the class.


The workshop was organised as part of Settlement Services International’s Arts and Culture program with the aim of equipping female refugees with the tools to use dance as a physical outlet to express their emotions.

Talented performer and educator Aruna Gandhi led the women in an exploration of the hand gestures, rhythm, storytelling and movements that are an inherent part of the classic Indian dance style.

“All of us have a dream. We all want to achieve something or to create something, so we put all of those feelings and aspirations together in a dance. That’s what this workshop was all about,” Ms Gandhi said.

“Each person has to feel and express their own unique feelings and experiences.”

SSI’s HSS Service Delivery Manager Yamamah Agha said the workshop was a great confidence-building exercise for the women and gave them a safe environment to connect with their peers.

“Isolation is a real risk for some female refugees, so it’s important for SSI to facilitate social opportunities that help women to connect with other women while learning new skills,” she said.

“These workshops also support refugees’ physical and emotional wellbeing by promoting the benefits of exercise and physical activity.”

For many of the women, the dance workshop was also a unique introduction to a new culture, Ms Agha added.

“Many of these women come from countries without the widespread multiculturalism that is such an inherent part of Australian society, so this workshop was a great way to explore a new culture and learn about traditions to which these women may not have previously been exposed,” she said.

The women reconvened this week for a second workshop with Aruna, where they used the skills they acquired in the introductory session to begin choreographing a piece for showcase later this year.

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