This World Dance Day 2020, let no dancer feel inferior, let no dance be motivated by one’s body size, let dance be what it is, an expression of words. 

I was fourteen when I last danced on the stage. After years of learning Kathak and looking at other dancers, a question poked me right in the face. With gorgeous long hair, well proportionate bodies, beautiful Kathak dancers danced right beside me, while I tried to avoid looking at the large mirror right in front of me. Was I trying to avoid not dancing in front of others? I disliked how my breasts moved when I danced, or how I looked amidst several slim and lean women. It took my years of body positivity and unlearning to go back on stage without fearing log kya kahenge? 

My privilege provided me with the resources to learn and unlearn that dance is an emotion. Yet, over 13% of British adults considered attempting suicide over concerns related to body issues. The quest for a thinner body is consistent. According to BBC, ballet dancers are over 10% more vulnerable to eating disorders than non-dancers. With girls as young as 12, they question even puberty to not give them a shape a Ballerina would have. Low body weight and menstrual imbalance largely characterise their childhood. 

According to research conducted by the National Center for Biotechnology Information and National Institute of Health, “Dancers were more likely to have an eating disorder when strict modified DSM-3-R criteria were applied.” If statistics are to be believed, anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa largely affect the young dancers. 

However, the other side of the spectrum expects women to be “fuller” with appropriate distribution of body weight. Devika, a Mohiniattam dancer who has battled with her lean body says, “Back in my childhood, I was a skinny person, but I loved dance way too much to let go of it. I always remained unnoticed and right at the back of the line. Being skinny and tall was tough, I looked weird. I kept on dancing right at the back until I acclaimed my position right at the centre.”

For some, dance is freedom, yet, they remain confined to the shackles of societal norms and body standards propagated by capitalist pioneers, feeding off the young minds. Traditionally, dance has narrowed itself to lean, slim and proportionate dancers leaving a large part of individuals with bodies which are, well, normal. A Bharatnatyam and Contemporary dancer from Kolkata, Rajlakshmi Ghosh Dastidar sometimes gives in to what others would think. “I’m a dancer, yet I shy away sometimes. I always think about what people will think. I know I shouldn’t. But you see, dancing in front of an audience on stage and dancing in public randomly has a lot of difference. I feel uncomfortable.” 

In 2017, a #BoPoBallerina (#BodyPositiveBallerina) movement was initiated by an Anorexia Nervosa survivor who aims to build a change in the dance world by encouraging body diversity and the body positivity movement. Recently, body positivity lectures have also been introduced in dance classes. Nothing is more disappointing than a ten-year-old limiting herself because she feels inferior due to her body! 

In a world surrounded by constant jibes coupled with insecurity, let dance remain free of its constraints. On the World Dance Day 2020, let no dancer feel inferior, let no dance be motivated by one’s body size, let dance be what it is, an expression of words. 

Feature Image Credits: Today Show

Anandi Sen

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