It’s no secret that many great dancers come from Utah — from “Dancing with the Stars” coaches Julianne and Derek Hough, to popular dancers Jade Chynoweth and Tori Kent, to the Brigham Young University Cougarettes.
Utah has a plethora of dance studios where dancers can train no matter their age, giving rise to adult amateur dancing — particularly sexy or sensual dancing.
In a state where the population is made up predominately of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, sexual expression is often discouraged for women (whether they are members of the church or not), who are encouraged by church leaders to embrace their virtue and morality.
Many religious women do not have the opportunity to explore their sexual expression outside of sex in marriage. This makes the rise in popularity of amateur adult sensual dance classes especially intriguing. Perhaps the popularity has to do with a greater number of Utah women putting themselves, their sexual expression, and their mental health first.
What does sexual expression have to do with mental health? Utah women have higher rates of overall mental health issues compared to Utah men. Dancing has been shown to have positive mental health benefits, including increased self-esteem, self-confidence and decreased stress. Greater self-esteem and self-confidence can lead to increased self-acceptance, which can contribute to good mental health outcomes.
Particularly, with sensual dancing, folks can have positive experiences embracing and loving their body and body diversity. As an attendee of some of these classes, I have seen an improvement in my mental health due to better self-esteem and overall sexual empowerment.
Some of the sensual dance classes on the rise in Utah include burlesque, heels dancing, twerking and hip hop, just to name a few. Many of these classes are offered at local gyms, and easily accessible to those with a gym membership, such as ClubFiit and Dirtylicious Dance Fitness. Others are offered at dance studios, and even the names of their classes show that they prioritize mental health and promote healing, such as Heal in a Heel and Zensualityflow.
For many women, especially those who grew up in Utah with a conservative upbringing, these types of dance classes are their first opportunity to let loose and embrace themselves as powerful, sexual beings — whether they are sexually active or not.
In a state where women are told to focus on religion and family, attending dance classes that empower their own sexuality can be an opportunity for self-care, friendship outside of religious circles and to build body confidence, all of which can lead to better mental health outcomes.
Additionally, loving oneself and prioritizing one’s mental health empowers Utah women to participate to the fullest in those things that are important in their lives, whether it be family, religion, education, career, volunteer work or all of the above.
Utah women are multidimensional, and deserve to explore their sexual expression in addition to working, being a mom, or going to church. Something as simple as attending amateur sexy dance classes can provide women the healing and affirming spaces they need to improve their mental health.
Jordyn Hansen Burton, Draper, is a master of public health candidate at the Yale School of Public Health in Connecticut, studying social and behavioral sciences with a U.S. health justice concentration.