Positive Body Image, Healthy is the New Skinny, Proud2Bme, the Body Image Movement, Dove commercials and celebrity spokesperson Demi Lovato, are pointing us in a new direction. Popular online communities are advocating for healthy lifestyles and positive change. Pink, and Kelly Clarkson are just two of many celebrities talking about healthy body weight and self acceptance. Lane Bryant is promoting #imnoangel to create diversity in lingerie advertising by having plus size models, instead of extremely skinny models like Victoria Secret. (By the way, there is nothing wrong with being naturally skinny, there is no hate either way. ) It sounds like things are turning around but we still have a long way to go. My question is….
How is this impacting dancers?
Could this be rubbing off on our ballet culture? Are we no longer putting as much value on body type and more on passion, artistry and dedication? Yes! From what I have read in dance magazines this past year, there are more articles on body type diversity. Especially in ballet! In the Ask Amy questions and advice column for Pointe Magazine, Dr Nadine Kaslow gives excellent feedback to a young dancer struggling with her changing body due to puberty. The dancer’s encouraged to challenge her perspective on ballet body type, her self-talk, and environment. Dr Kaslow states, “Your doors aren’t completely shut because you have hips”. Well, that’s good to know. 🙂
So, how can a dancer, whose body is art and income have a healthy body image, and see themselves more than a reflection in the studio mirror?
Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Try not to live in the mirror. You know what I mean. Staring at yourself, non stop, picking apart every little thing so much, that you can’t even feel the rush of air across your face as you grande jette. You miss the feeling of flying during grande allegro because you’re so busy staring at the lines your arms and legs are creating. I tell my dancers when I teach, Get out of the mirror! If you can’t dance without your reflection, there is a problem. If you live in the studio mirror, that is all you will see.
2. Believe you are more than your body. You are more than the legs and arms, neck and stomach that you are constantly obsessing over. I couldn’t even begin to feel good about myself until I could look at myself in the eyeballs, without my focus shifting to other parts of my anatomy for critique. As soon as I stepped on the dance floor at age 12 I heard ” OMG, you have the perfect ballet body!” and it was mostly said with jealousy. I never thought about my shape before, or other girls for that matter. But dance introduced me to my body in a whole new way. It took me years to take “myself ” back out of my body size, and to just be me. ( and be okay with it )
3. Give your body permission to be human. This is a big one, you MUST understand. Your body is a body. It works to sustain life, and it will do what it needs to do to live. Your body is not a picture in a frame. It is real, feeling and imperfect. Everyone is, regardless of how much you disagree. That is the truth. Believe me, you don’t want to join the “perfection” club. It will rob you of your joy so fast, suck all the life right out of you and your dancing and you will want to quit before you even begin. You and your body have a lot to do in this life, and you won’t be able to do any of it, if you don’t give yourself permission to be a human.
4. Try to surround yourself with positivity. I know it’s difficult to find, but it exists. If you want to start feeling better about your body, you may want to start by being around those who feel the same way. These are examples of people you don’t want to be around: The Counters, and The Haters. The Counters talk about the numbers of everything!! From what they eat and drink to how many foute’s they did on pointe or the size of their skinny jeans. Numbers are always the focus. The Haters are those who talk about themselves and others negatively. The talk is of what they did wrong ( in any part of their life ) and what others have done wrong. They are flat-out mean to themselves and proud of it. Stay as far away from that as humanly possible. It’s hard if you are a part of a small studio, so just do the best you can. And if it ends up being a toxic environment, then you may want to consider another studio. You are very important.
5. Start a healthy body image journey, and I call it a journey because….it is. You can’t get anywhere unless you start. So grab your dance bag, get into the studio. Challenge the old stuff, bring on the new stuff.
You are human. You are not a mirror. You are not a bunch of body parts. You are important.
You can do this.
I believe I have given you enough to digest for one day. Please share these tips with your friends, and just maybe, you can start the healthy body image focus at your studio/school.
I welcome comments! Talk to me 🙂