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Dancing your way into body positivity
The world of dancing has often been one where people are prone to being more conscious of their bodies than the general public. Our bodies are on display to the world, and in many dance forms, there’s an expectation to conform to a certain shape or size. It’s something I discovered for myself through .
When I was younger, I dreamt of being a professional ballet dancer. I had taken classes since I was small and there was nothing I loved more than dancing my heart out. But when I was eleven, I found a book about ballet, with a chapter called ‘The Ideal Dancers Body’.
Reading through that chapter, I felt my dreams of being a professional dancer fall apart, as I saw that before I was even a teenager, I was already too tall to dance, my boobs were too big, and I didn’t have the petite, small frame that I supposedly needed. I didn’t stop dancing, because I still loved it to pieces, but I felt so disappointed in my body that it had developed in such a way that I couldn’t fulfil my dreams.
I was so focused on other people’s expectations for my body in that world, that I let it interfere with the way I danced. I would feel self conscious of myself in classes – the tallest girl there – and I tried not to draw attention to myself when I danced, so much so that while my dancing was technically fine, I couldn’t feel comfortable performing.
But then something dawned on me. I loved dancing, but I had spent so long letting my dance be dictated by other people’s expectations. The world of ballet told me that if I wanted to dance, I had to look a certain way, but it occurred to me that dance is an expression of freedom, and there was no way I could let someone else decide where and how I could dance. I was only hurting myself by letting the world try and change what I loved to do.
I decided that when I went to a class, I would rejoice in the fact that I was dancing and what I was doing, and stop spending so much time and attention on the way I looked. And I became a much better dancer for it – because my love for what I was doing shined through, not my insecurities.
When I left for university I left ballet behind, and fell in love with a whole new way of dancing – Pole Dancing. This was a kind of dance which celebrated everyone’s differences, and didn’t try to place people into little boxes. People’s body sizes and shapes were diverse and accepted – and no one was trying to hide the way they looked (after all, when you’re wearing minimal amounts of clothing, that becomes a bit hard!) Pole lets you take your own style of dancing, and lets you express yourself just the way you want. If you want to be 100% sexy, you can, and if you’d rather focus on a more contemporary style of dance, that’s fine too.
I discovered I could take my love for ballet, and dance just the way I wanted, but without having to be judged for the dance I wanted to do – because to this day, pole dancing has been the most accepting dance community I’ve been in.
What’s more, there is nothing that can make you feel more positive about your body, than developing strength and flexibility to the extent where you achieve moves your never thought was possible. When your body starts doing amazing things, you start appreciating it for the amazing vessel it is. I can have tummy rolls, bigger legs or bulky arms – things I’d previously worried about – and love them because they help me grip on the pole and house a whole host of amazing muscles. My body helps me do the things I love to do and I am so grateful for that.
So here are the main things I’ve learnt through my dancing life, that have helped me to completely love the body I’m in, while dancing my heart out every day:
- Feel free from other peoples expectations.
- Dance for yourself – because it makes you happy
- Feel proud of your body, it’s doing incredible things
- Work with your body – we are all unique and able to bring something to the table.
- Look after yourself. When you love and care for your body, and treat it with respect, you’ll be a happier, healthier dancer, and your audience will see that too.