Body Image in Dance


Dancers spend their whole lives watching themselves in the mirror as they dance, hyper-fixating on their bodies and movements. Due to this constant fixation on their bodies, body image issues for young dancers most likely begin at dance class. As a dancer of sixteen years, I have seen many dancers experience body image issues and how these have affected them throughout their life. In dance, you are trained to watch yourself in the mirror and critique your position and movement. This reflects on lots of dancers’ personal lives too because looking into the mirror makes you self-aware of your insecurities. You have to keep in mind that there are also many different types of dance classes from ballet, hip hop, lyrical, modern, pointe, tap, and so many more. There are “dress codes” for most of these classes, and each varies to the specific course.
During classes such as hip-hop or modern, comfort is a feeling that is reoccurring for dancers because these classes usually do not have a dress code, but one class in which every dancer feels judged and insecure is ballet. Tiny leotards which only have enough fabric to cover the bare minimum make it hard for dancers to have a positive image of themselves. One local dancer tells me that “dancing facing towards a mirror makes it easy to point out something that doesn’t look quite “right” on their body or sometimes can make the dancer feel overweight. It’s hard to be a dancer with a positive body image because in the dance world skinny is mostly perceived as perfect and dancers who are not tiny and do not fit in the skin-tight leotards “just right,” will feel insecure and look down upon themselves for “not being skinny enough.”
When most people imagine a dancer, they tend to think of super small, thin, with beautiful features, but this harmful stereotype is not realistic for everyone. Every dancer is beautiful in their own way, which sounds cliche, but it’s true. There are people that do fit the stereotype, and there are many that have many different body types. You see every shape, size, and gender who dance, and they all have many talents and abilities. Growing up, you naturally have insecurities, but when you add on an art sport like dance you gain the extra insecurities that are not present among other sports who don’t see how they look when they perform. Dance is a beautiful thing, and so are the people who do it too. As a dance community, we need to find ways to accept and bring each other up to resolve unneeded insecurities and grow as an inclusive environment.