My Thoughts on Body Image In the Dance Community
By: Serenity A. Taylor
Body image issues have been highly prevalent in the dance community for longer than I
can imagine. Specifically, ballet dancers have been told since they were children that they need to look a certain way in order to become a prima ballerina. Growing up in a dance institution where ballet and modern were the foundation, I was under the constant pressure to make sure my body was always “in shape”. As a result of this constant pressure, I became very insecure with my body once I entered puberty. I was ashamed that I grew curves and was scared that I would never make it in my dance career. Now nineteen years old, I have come to learn to accept and love my body more than ever. This did not happen overnight. It took a lot of time and healing for me to be where I am today and I still believe that I can make some more progress.
I am trying to establish my brand in the commercial dance industry and I’ve observed
that I hardly see anyone that looks like me. I am an African American girl with natural hair,
boobs, butt, and a gut (Just to keep it real!). Watching all of these dancers on stage who look nothing like me alongside the artist that I want to dance for, it originally made me feel
discouraged. Immediately I began to think of ways to look skinnier, to change my hair, and to change my style. I truly believed that if I did not look like them, then I had no chance of getting booked for any jobs. I started wearing box braids so that my hair was long enough, and I started wearing baggier clothes so one could see my bustline and my not so flat stomach. It was a time where I did not love my body, and it felt like no one in the dance industry would love my body. After a while, I said to myself, This is ridiculous. There is nothing wrong with my body. I believe that all body types should be equally accepted, loved, and glorified.
I understand for every company/job and audition that there is possibly a “certain look”
that is being casted, but I believe that there is not a lot of body diversity shown in the dance
industry right now. When dancers who don’t have the typical “dancer’s body” get applauded for dancing well, it baffles me that they are praised because people did not think that they had the ability to dance with such grace and ease. That’s like giving a dog a biscuit for playing with his toy! Dancing should not be judged by the way bodies look. Just because my body is different from someone else's does not mean that it is any easier or harder for me to dance. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being healthy and skinny. However, we must accept the fact that being healthy does not look the same on all bodies. Being healthy for me may be losing weight while being healthy for someone else may be gaining weight.
It is not just the dance industry that glorifies skinny figures, but on social media as well
the general body type that is praised is the “slim thick” figure. The idea of looking a certain way for approval on social media is easy, but the only approval that you need is your own! You don’t need reassurance from comments or followers on Instagram to know that you are beautiful. You don’t need to photoshop your pictures because you are scared that you might not look good in other people’s eyes. Loving and accepting yourself is the first step. Do things that make you and your body happy, don’t try to change yourself for society. Stop trying to please others, live for yourself!
"I am working towards self love 100 percent of the time, and starting today I am challenging myself to banish any negative body image thoughts from my mind, because there is no time for such nonsense," - Kylie Shea (Professional Dancer).
Tips on building confidence/loving yourself:
➔ Stop comparing yourself.
There are no two people in this world that are exactly the same. No matter how hard you try to look, act, and/or to be someone else, you will never be that person. Just like no one else will ever be you. We are all born uniquely different and that is what sets us apart from each other and what ultimately makes us all so beautiful. The more you try to compare and be like someone else, the more you will end up hurting yourself. Take the time to stop looking at other people and start looking at yourself. Get to know yourself and embrace all that you are!
➔ Embrace your flaws.
We all have something about ourselves that we don’t like or wish we could change which is
normal. This becomes unhealthy when we start to belittle ourselves and allow outside sources to determine our definition of beauty. To hinder this from happening, we have to truly accept ourselves for who we are. We have to be able to look in the mirror and be able to say, “I may have put on a couple of pounds, but I am still beautiful!”. Instead of putting ourselves down, see what happens when you start to embrace your flaws. For example, instead of seeing your nose as ugly, be happy and proud that no one else in the world has the same nose as you. Who knows, in a couple of months you may start to love that beautiful nose of yours.
➔ How do you expect someone to love you, if you don’t love yourself?
If you made it to the final cut of an audition, and the panel of judges wants you to try on an outfit that completely points out one of your biggest flaws and insecurities, what are you going to do? Are you going to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t wear that because it makes me feel uncomfortable?” Are you going to start covering your body and dancing small after a whole day of being full out? If that is the case, then you not only wasted the judges time, but your time as well! No matter how uncomfortable you are, you need to go out there and dance your heart out. Don’t shy away because you are scared of what they will think of you. Show them the real you, not the person you think they want you to be. Most of the time, you will gain respect for being confident and fearless. Truthfully, you may not get the job or the contract, but at least you know that you stayed true to yourself no matter what. If they decide to let you go, remember that their choice is not a reflection of you and how you look. It could be for many different reasons that are not under your control, but you gave it your all and that’s all that matters.
➔ Positive Affirmations
Positive affirmations are the practice of positive thinking and self empowerment. I personally
make it a part of my daily routine to recite positive affirmations so that I am consciously feeding my mind and body with love. Believe it or not, what you say and think comes to life. That is why it is important to say loving things about yourself so that you feel good about yourself. Here are some positive affirmations that you can say out loud or in your head that will help let go of negative beliefs about yourself:
I am worth more than my appearance.
I am enough.
I am grateful for everything my body allows me to do.