As an avid traveler, you know the word “femme” for even if you don’t speak French fluently, its a bit of a universal word and for those who do speak French, it just sits ‘well’ however the term itself has countless meanings depending on gender and also interpretation. See this piece on one perspective on who gets to identify as ‘femme’ as one example.
In the more traditional sense and meaning, the French femme translates to woman, from Old French feme and from Latin femina and Webster depicts ‘femme fatale’ as a woman whom men find irresistibly attractive.
Meet Bernadette Pleasant, the power and voice behind an experience she calls Femme! She began Femme! as a movement experience that passionately fuses primal movement, sensual dance, meditation, creative visualization, and celebration of the human form. Pleasant‘s Femme! is inspired by African, Tribal, and Free Dance interwoven with the somatic and primal healing arts.
In all the amazing ways that makes Pleasant the strong and beautiful teacher that comes through in all of her work, she creates sacred, safe spaces and invites everyone to reclaim and boldly display their power.
Many things come into my in-box from PR and marketing folks for products, services, events, activities and experiences and despite not having a relationship with anyone on the other side of Femme!, I was intrigued enough to open the emails more than once. That intrigue led to curiosity, and then a compelling “what IS this thing about?”
I had the opportunity to go through a teacher training experience with Bernadette Pleasant recently in order to learn first hand and review the experience. I don’t regret my gut decision that stemmed from an inner knowing that Femme! was so much more than a movement experience and contrary to what you might think from first glance, it isn’t a ‘dance class’.
In the midst of a Covid-19 lockdown, the teacher training was done via Zoom, which may not have the same impact as learning it with a group of people in the same room, with a live drummer in your midst, but nevertheless, I found it to be pretty powerful and learning via Zoom has a unique intimacy that we’re also finding in our own teaching.
Pleasant has a way of listening to people with many of her senses, not just her ears. She feels into what you’re feeling and wanting to express, especially as she notes, “its obvious that a particular part of the body is wanting to move more.”
“When emotions have nowhere to go, they go inside and attack.” — Bernadette Pleasant
So, if it’s not dance then what is it exactly? And why do it?
Why Experience Femme!?
I am always intrigued by something which presents itself as one way but does so at an emotional and heart place, so that you know at a soul level, that it is about so much more.
In our own healing work, we don’t pretend that we can unlock trauma — we aren’t medical or healthcare practitioners nor are we psychotherapists or psychologists. And, we’re the first to let people know that when we do our spiritual work and channeling. That said, an amazing thing happens when you trust in your inner knowing and in that ‘innate’ place, stuff gets unlocked by YOU when you trust in your own ability to heal.
Pleasant is a Somatic Healer who has spent a lifetime exploring creative visualizations and celebrations of the human form, from sensual dance to somatic healing.
She is known to channel her own personal journeys and her radical empathy into transformative, immersive experiences that empower and celebrate people around the globe.
So while she has no shortage of certifications and studies, some of which include dance—the Nia Technique, Nia 5 Stages, Ageless Grace, Pole Dance, Somatic Healing, Reiki, Integrated Energy Therapy, studies in African, Tribal, and Free Dance—the big takeaway from the Femme! experience is that it promotes emotional freedom through movement and empowerment.
What does this do? HEAL of course.
All without judgment (as all healing arts should be), people are welcome and come together in a safe, sacred container. This means that whatever emotions you’re not expressing can come out in this safe sacred container so you can ultimately find comfort in your own skin regardless of your color, sexual orientation or size. In Femme! everyone is infused with the affirmation, “It’s your body; you can do whatever you want with it-including love it unapologetically.”
“It’s your body; you can do whatever you want with it-including love it unapologetically.” — Femme! Affirmation
So, what was my experience like taking the teaching certification course?
This kind of work is bound to attract those who resonate with healing already but it doesn’t necessarily have to, since this work is for anyone who wishes to express more of themselves and in that process, to embrace and bring in the healing that they desire.
Remember when we heal others we heal ourselves. When we heal ourselves, we heal others.
Day one is spent understanding why Femme! and what the experience is designed to do. Pleasant doesn’t see emotions as dark or light, evil or good, but simply there as they are waiting to(and needing to be) expressed. When we don’t work through our emotions in a Somatic way, energy gets stuck and over time leads to emotional turmoil and distress and even physical disease. After all, since we are all energy-beings, it’s all connected.
The Femme! experience is a 90 minute one and like the best spiritual practices, you begin the session with Grounding. This is important regardless of what kind of work you’re doing — physical, meditation, yoga or other things — so getting connected to Mother Earth or whatever that feeling or sense of grounding is for you is key.
The next two phases are Awakening and Flow, which to either live drumming or music that represents those words and ways to express through our bodies, you begin to open yourself up. As Pleasant says often in her session, “Eyes Follow Hands,” which I love. Essentially these stages are precursors to the signature part of the Femme! experience which Pleasant calls “The Emotional Tour,” in which she (as the teacher) is your tour guide.
During this phase, you are brought into and encouraged to move THROUGH the emotions on the tour. You don’t stay in any one emotion for long, but the key is to keep moving so these emotions can get expressed, regardless of how. Movement through is key to the somatic experience and healing process. Some of these emotions include joy, grief, anger (or rage) and desire.
You end up with a phase called FLIRT, which isn’t so much of an emotion as it is a way of ‘being’ and showing up in the world. Alignment and empowerment of one-self — it’s not a sexual thing, but one of self-care and joy within oneself. It’s certainly a fun way to end the Emotional Tour and extends beyond confidence and joy in a myriad of beautiful ways.
The celebration part is next which is traditionally done to live drumming (Congos or Djembes) but it doesn’t have to be. Pleasant feels that drumming is incredibly power and is why its her first choice. It allows us all to get in touch with our primal, wild side and there’s no question: drums bring that out in all of us as human beings when we allow ourselves to open up to that internal beat.
If someone feels in their body through the drumming experience to go to a quieter place, that’s okay too – there’s no right or wrong way to express, but the key is to keep the emotions moving through the body.
Then you wind up in the following stages as you go through the 90 minute session: Reflection, which brings us back into our bodies and physical awareness (a mini-ceremony can be done here, a reading, or a song as a few examples) and Meditation, which can be moving or still, but the idea is to quiet the body, soften the mind and calm the nervous system.
“There are no good or bad, light or dark emotions. Only ones that need to be expressed.” – Bernadette Pleasant
The last part of the process, we Re-Ground and here people can share in a way that makes those participating feel ‘heard’ and aknowledged. Pleasant has built in language to make it more real in the sense that when someone says to you Say it Now or Please Say It, then it brings presence to the experience. So often, we aren’t truly present when we are listening to what others have to say and by stating this aloud as a group to the person wishing to share, it brings that realness into the body. Once again, it allows you to feel feel those words and emotions as you speak up and share to the group.
For more information, visit Live Femme’s website to learn more about Bernadette Pleasant’s work with Femme!, her teacher training and the Emotional Institute website, which she says that she created in order to “allow people to build stronger, healthier, and fully expressed lives to help lead an emotionally conscious world.”