The Type of Body You Need to Dance
Written by Arielle Juliette
I have been teaching dance classes for twelve years. Over that time, my body and appearance have changed in numerous ways, giving me an interesting perspective on how people frequently view dance and their capacity to execute movement when they first come to class. Before allowing themselves time to learn the movements, or to see how their body might do the movement differently from what they see on my body, students sometimes will compare themselves (the beginners) to me (the professional) and decide that since they don't have whatever physical attribute I have that they deem necessary, they aren't capable of whatever move we're practicing.
When my hair was longer or shorter, I heard things like:
“My bend n’ snaps don’t look right because I don’t have long hair like you” or “I can’t do a hair figure 8 like you, my hair isn’t short.”
When my chest was smaller or more generous, I heard things like:
”Of course you can pop your ribcage so fast, there’s nothing heavy on top" or ”I can’t shoulder shimmy, I don’t have enough to shake like you.”
When I was in a smaller or a larger body, I heard things like:
”This move doesn’t look good on me, I’m not thin like you are” or ”I’m not voluptuous enough to make it look sexy like you do.”
In my 12 years as a professional dance instructor, do you want to know what kind of body I've found that you need to dance? One with a skeleton, and one with drive.
If you have a skeleton, you have everything that you physically need to be able to dance. Since you are also alive and animated, that means you have flesh on top of that skeleton, which is even better. Everyone's bone-and-flesh composition is going to be different, which means that one single move is going to have a thousand different variations for a thousand different bodies. It's the beauty of the art!
In addition to that skeleton, you'll need a brain with drive. Even though our bones and flesh are usually immediately capable of the majority of moves they encounter, we frequently need to convince the brain of our capabilities through repetition and understanding. It also takes conscious effort to shut down the critical voice (I call mine Chad) that says we don't deserve to dance or call or ourselves a dancer until we meet some (usually impossible) outside standard.
If to dance or to call yourself a dancer is what you want, it's yours to be taken right now- you do not need to wait for your body to look a certain way before it gets to be the vessel for this kind of expression. Dance teachers are here to show you how to put your skeleton into fun and safe shapes, and to give you enough practice doing it that your mind understands how the move is done and gains the ability to reproduce the movement after much repetition. You don't need to look like anyone but you to dance.
Looking forward to seeing you on the dance floor, if that’s a place you’d like to be!