Body Image and Belly Dance Class
Body image not only plays a role in class for a belly dance student, it can affect the decision to join a class in the first place. It affects everyone from the big time headliner belly dancer, to the instructors, to students of all levels. Students feel they are too thin without “assets,” they feel they are too large, they are too old, and so on and so on.
There is not an easy “read this blog and you are cured” solution. BUT there are ways to lessen its effects on you. Let’s face it - poor body image can eat away at your confidence in class (and in the rest of your life, but that is a whole other blog), keeping you from not only improving but having FUN!
I am here to tell you that everyone has issues… EVERYONE. Some talk about them freely and some keep them locked in their heads. Let’s take a look at some real life solutions in class and in a performance setting that can help.
I will start with this: There is always going to be someone smaller than you, bigger than you, older than you, younger than you, you get the idea…. But you want to be the best YOU can be and enjoy belly dance!
Tip #1 – Tell that B***H in your head to Stop!!
One habit I see in students with poor body image is dancing small, almost like they are trying to hide while moving. Posture is inward and head dropped at times (this can also happen with a student who feels self-conscious about the quality of their movements, but that is for another blog post as well).
The habit to talk down to one’s self is prevalent as well:
“I don’t have enough chest to do shoulder shimmies”
“I don’t have a curvy belly dance body”
“I am (insert: too big, too small, too old, whatever fits) _____ to look good belly dancing.”
“I can’t wear a belly dance costume so I won’t dance at student shows.”
The list goes on and on. No! These things have nothing to do with being a student and enjoying learning to belly dance or performing in a student performance! They say nothing about what you’ve learned, the belly dance movement vocabulary you’ve mastered or are working on mastering.
Sooo, get over it! I MEAN it, get over it! Only YOU can! Here’s how to start:
Ban all thoughts and talk that is negative about your body from your dance space. That includes both at the studio and at home while practicing. Train your brain to stop thinking these thoughts every time you dance (and yes, practicing is dancing!). It isn’t easy, but it is well worth the effort. You get a break from all those negative thoughts! After a while, those thoughts will only pop up every so often and you get to enjoy belly dance more!
When I hear students talking about body issues I am happy they feel comfortable and safe to do so. BUT it also can be detrimental. So change the way you speak as well. When a student says (and yes I’ve heard this one) “I am ordering a gown because I am too big for a two piece costume,” I feel like I want to hear “I love this gown and it will make me feel beautiful” instead. First off, maybe your fellow student has a two piece and she now is questioning herself on that? A student of a different size now feels uncomfortable and doesn’t know how to respond-- Perhaps she looks up to you for your lovely dancing and never thought about it? So, change the way you think and speak and I promise you will be better for it!
Tip #2 – Wear What Makes You Feel Beautiful
Wear practice clothes that are comfortable and you feel good in! Wear costumes that are well-fitted and compliment how you want to see yourself.
Nothing makes a dancer feel more uncomfortable than dancing in ill-fitting, unflattering dance wear/costumes, whether it be practice or performance. So wear something that makes you feel good; look in the mirror and enjoy it. It isn’t vain to acknowledge to yourself that it looks good! Do it more often.
Tip #3 – Don’t Wait For Someday!
We do it all the time: “someday I will try that class,” “someday I will do that solo,” “Someday I will____.”
What are you waiting for?
Consider this. What if today is as good as it gets? OK, so I stole it from a movie… but it is a good point!
What if your body is always the same as it is today? Are you going to love it and have a great time dancing your heart out? OR are you going to hate it and deny yourself the sheer joy of learning and improving in belly dance because you are waiting for the perfect “someday?”
We all want to be better and improve ourselves, no doubt. BUT, you should enjoy the journey and not deny yourself the joy of dance because body image is holding you back.
Go forth and practice!