Body image distress in dance is rampant. The majority of dancers experience negative body image at some point in their training or careers. It can come on due to body changes, injuries, casting, or environment. Sometimes there’s no single cause but rather a collection of the perceived ideals, the images you see in social media, or the dancers you idolize on stage.
Building awareness is essential if you’d like to move through your body image stresses and find a resilient body image. When you achieve body image resilience, it doesn’t mean you’ll never worry about your body. However, when those concerns surface, you’ll better be able to move through them and redirect your focus back to your dancing.
Body image stress in past training environments.
Sometimes dancers don’t realize the damage of a toxic training environment or teacher. You might think that if you’re in a troubling environment, once you leave you’ll be fine. But those experiences tend to stay with you, and it’s really important to process and evaluate the impact.
It’s possible you’ve trained in schools or danced in companies where body feedback was dispensed in group settings and with total nonchalance. It starts to feel strangely normal to be critiqued for the size of your body and not just the quality of your dancing.
This is not normal.
It’s not normal, and it can have a real, lasting impact on your self-image. Take stock of your past experiences. Consider rewriting your body story or seeking support. Your body image can improve but it will likely take time, attention, support, and effort. The body doesn’t have to distract you from what you’d like to achieve in dance.
Your body doesn’t have to be a distraction.
This can happen quite easily, so if you come to a place where you feel distracted by your body in dance, don’t fault yourself. When you’re in a negative place with body image, it’s easy to start hyper fixating on a specific body part or your body in general. I’ve definitely been there.
If you’re still in a challenging environment, it will be harder to make personal shifts, but it is possible. It requires body image resilience. Body image resilience acknowledges that, in all likelihood, you will encounter body comments, shaming, or feedback at some point. The way you deal with these can help you bounce back more quickly to a healthier mindset—becoming more resilient. This is not about believing that your body looks good but rather knowing that your body is good, however it looks.
Claim an empowered position on your body journey in dance.
Part of the challenge with body image in ballet is that you’re thinking about what they want, prefer, or like. You’ve likely removed yourself from the equation entirely and are set on pleasing the person at the front of the room.
Take your power back.
What does it mean to you to feel good in your body for dance? Consider how you feel at your healthiest, when you’re adequately fueling, and when you’re taking time to care for yourself outside of class. Perhaps you’ve not been taking care of yourself in these ways. Make an effort or reach out to a coach to get the help you need.
Find dancers of varying body types to follow and admire. Take a look at the dancers around you and make a concerted effort to see the beauty in the differences in each dancing body.
Many of the people at the front of the room are leading from a place of unconscious bias when it comes to viewing bodies in the studio. Many don’t even realize they’re passing on this pain and stress. Beyond that, they aren’t providing you with the support you need to feel your best in your body and to achieve your personal best body for dance.
A couple of questions for you to reflect on:
What would it feel like to dance without your body being a distraction?
When you think back to when you were just a young dancer, where did your dancing joy come from?
Are you ready for the next step? Sign up for a complimentary coaching call here.