Rhythm: Bodies In Dance

by Olivia Weatherall

It’s ironic how an art designed to create beauty with bodies, can also put your body in such a negative light. As a competitive dancer of six years, I have seen the best and the worst of the dance world, and have learned more than I could have ever imagined about my body in the process.

In many ways, dance was and can be about the conformity of bodies. To this day, professional ballet companies will measure proportions from the length of your neck, to how prone your Achilles may be to injury. Height, head size, frame, turnout, all things beyond your control are taken into consideration and can dictate positions within the ballet, regardless of talent. It’s easy in a world of thin, flexible ballerinas, dancing with bodies in perfect unison, to feel self-conscious about yourself as a dancer.

Approaching my last year of competing in dance, I am just beginning to feel beautiful moving on my own. Constantly comparing yourself to other dancers and their bodies can be what pushes us to improve, but is also what holds us back the most. I’m too tall for ballet, my shoulders are too broad, and I have the natural flexibility of a frail, 80-year-old woman. To let go of these notions and recognize your own body and its abilities as beautiful is what will provide you with the natural grace and confidence to succeed in dance.

The body of a dancer is simply the body of a person who loves to explore movement. I’ve seen girls contour their legs and abs, even cleavage, before performing, not eating and obsessing over sizes because of dance, but that’s not what it’s about. Dance is a celebration of your own unique form and ability to move in a way no one else can. You don’t have to be flexible, or able to turn or jump high, you just have to have passion and a willingness to be completely, unapologetically yourself in form and expression.

Strip away the costumes, makeup, lighting, and you’re left with the core of what it means to be a dancer. To be a body in dance is to be an artist and an athlete, to be aware of standing tall with confidence, and most importantly, loving and respecting your body.

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