Above, Cassandra Bien-Aime (center), poses with her fellow endo warrior-dancers. Credit: Cassandra Bien-Aime
Cassandra Bien-Aime is giving a whole new meaning to dancing the pain away.
The 32-year-old East Orange, N.J.-native, endo warrior, dance instructor and founder of Dancin' Off The Endo is on a mission to uplift endo women by organizing group classes to help them shake, shimmy, strut, and groove to fun dance, hip-hop, and R&B beats.
“We dance to hip-hop, salsa, trending songs such as [Ciara's] ‘Level Up’—all different types of music,” Bien-Aime tells The Blossom. “Dancing helps you feel good about yourself, and it’s a great way for women to get more in touch with their bodies. My goal is for women to feel beautiful despite any illness. I want them to move forward and be spiritually connected to themselves.”
Classically trained in ballet, jazz, lyrical and hip-hop, Bien-Aime began dancing at the age of five before enrolling in dance school. “Dance is truly a form of therapy and inspires your body, mind, and soul to be free,” she shares. “In addition to physical pain, pain can also be mental and emotional. Through dance, pain can be released for the moment.”
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She knows the pain of endometriosis as well as she knows her flashy dance moves.
“I always had bad periods, but I didn’t know what endometriosis was. There were days I couldn’t go to work and days I just couldn’t do anything. I started doing my research and really listening to my body more."
Bien-Aime's endometriosis diagnosis in 2015 eventually sparked the idea of Dancin'. She says she battled depression but made the decision to channel her pain into a positive movement to empower other women struggling with endo. Just one year later, the org was born.
So far, she says women with endometriosis, fibroids and other reproductive health ailments have embraced the movement. In a nod to the official color of endometriosis awareness, they hit the dance floor waving yellow bandanas while clad in yellow t-shirts and accessories.
Bien-Aime leads the pack with a humble heart. She admits that she wakes up never knowing how well or unwell she’s going to feel. But through her creative expression, she hopes to lift the veil on the disease and its pains and create ripples of change in her community.
“Culturally, it’s not something we talk about enough. When my mom was younger, she suffered from fibroids and terrible menstrual cramps. When I was 10, I found baby bracelets, and my mom explained to me that she had my brother and me, but lost ten children,” Bien-Aime reveals. “My mom’s sister lost six children. We think they both may have had endo, too.”
Bien-Aime says she suffered a pregnancy loss in September, followed by the death of her beloved grandmother in February. Before the death, she says put dance on the back burner as she cared for her ailing grandmother, but has now returned to it full force.
“People from my community don’t really know about endometriosis. People constantly ask if I have kids. You never really know what someone is suffering from. It’s important to be aware of that.”
Editor's note: Bien-Aime is planning to launch a new Dancin’ Off The Endo class in September. She hopes to begin live streaming her classes soon so more women can join in on the fun. For more information, visit Dancinofftheendo.org or her Instagram page at @dancin_offthe_endo