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Dancing To Heal Body Image

dance lady white dress

Dancers Everywhere Are Coming Out of the Woodwork (yep, that’s me!)

Here in the Kootenays, we are having a dancing “movement” so to speak. Dancing has been on the rise the last few years and is making quite an impressionable comeback. Local dance studios have been popping up steadily, offering kids classes that stretch styles from modern ballet to break dancing. There are adult offerings as well: ballet, belly dancing, hip-hop, party dance, and burlesque, to name just a few.

I danced my way through childhood and adolescence, with a small town local studio, the high school dance program, and through competitive gymnastics. After high school, dance became something of the past and, though I yearned for it and missed it terribly, I was convinced my dancing days were over.

And yet here I am, at 38, gearing up for a show. I joined an intermediate group at our local studio last year and am hitting the stage at a level I wasn’t sure I’d ever see in my life again.

So what does this have to do with body image?

Slipping into some stretchy clothes and braving a room full of dancers and mirrors is not something I am terribly comfortable with. I don’t know many women who are. It is a room that asks you to dare to be uncomfortable, to watch your reflection, and to share with others the subtle, twirly, and jiggly movements of the body.

If you remove the aspects of comparison or judgment, set fear aside and simply enjoy it, the artistic beauty and innate desire of the body to move shines through and overrides self-doubt and discomfort.

Dancing invites you in. It asks you to tune in to your innate and physical strength, coordinate your mind and muscles, and connect to rhythm and sound, letting go of the rest for the time being. Re-connecting body and mind is an imperative step towards healing body image. Physical movement activates a sense of power and control, that, for many, has so often been neglected.

Body and movement come together.

If you have struggled with body image, as I have, I invite you to explore the idea of joining a dance class. Stepping out of our comfort zone is CRUCIAL for healing and we cannot move forward without taking any steps.

belly dancers street

So, for those of you that are scared silly to step foot on the dance floor, here’s a few tips to get you motivated:

Making It Happen:

  • Find the Style that’s Right for You: Think about where you are at in your life right now and find a class that fits with you. If you used to be a ballerina, but are intimidated by the idea of returning to ballet, find something a bit modern and groovy like belly dancing. If you’ve never gone to a dance class ever in your life, start with something easy, such as a drop-in, beginner, movement class; something very casual, light, and fun. Make sure you opt for a doable level, trying something beyond your range can be deterring. No dance studio nearby? Try online: Look here.
  • Try a Workshop: If you aren’t willing to commit to an actual class yet, sign up for a one-time workshop on a weekend or during a summer festival. Find inspiration here.
  • Go With a Friend: Ask someone to go with you the first time.   Not only will they help you get there, but having a friend by your side may help reduce anxiety levels and get you past the first class nerves.
  • Do It for Your Health: Any physical movement is good for your health, straight up! Dancing has been proven to increase mental clarity, decrease the onset of Alzheimer’s, improve physical coordination, increase metabolism, have a positive influence on our mood, and reduce seasonal depression. More about the health benefits of dance here.
  • The Time is NOW: Putting things on hold until a later date severely decreases the chances of making it happen. No matter how old you are, waiting to do something good or fun or beneficial, has no place in this life! Stop waiting, get grooving!

Carpe Diem, my friends, seize the dancer in you and set her (or him) free!

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