Accepting my body as a dancer

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Accepting my body as a dancer

Abby Intveld

Picture a ballerina. The image that went running through your head was most likely an elegant thin girl whose legs go on for days. This, to say the least, is not what I look like.

I have been dancing since I was three years old, mainly focusing on traditional ballet. The images of ballerinas that my younger self saw on T.V. looked nothing like me and left me feeling like my dancing ability was inadequate because I didn’t look the part.

This feeling continued through high school when people would question if I was really a ballet dancer as they looked me up and down. They would eye my curvier frame and short legs before commenting that I don’t ‘look like a ballerina.’ Although they had no way of knowing my skill from their initial look, I still took their criticism to heart.

I look at some of my teammates, and I can’t help but wish I looked more like them, with their long legs seemingly made for arabesques and grand jetés.”

— Abby Intveld

The stereotype that a dancer can only be one body type is toxic and makes many other girls, just like me, question their talent. I am usually happy with my body, but the pressures within the ballet community often make me rethink whether or not I am good enough.

I constantly see these standards impacting my teammates. My friends, who are healthy girls, are infatuated with being slimmer and wishing for characteristics that they simply weren’t born with.

It’s hard not to compare yourself to beautiful dancers who are slimmer and taller than you when they are so prevalent. I look at some of my teammates, and I can’t help but wish I looked more like them, with their long legs seemingly made for arabesques and grand jetés.

The body ideals in ballet make some of my instructors favor girls who fit the standards, while making patronizing comments directed at those who don’t. This promotes a lack of confidence among my teammates and myself.

In the end, comparing myself to other dancers or letting teachers get me down won’t help me. I enjoy ballet, and I love my teammates and the exhilaration of performing on stage too much to let a flawed standard of beauty keep me from doing what I love.

My journey of becoming comfortable in my own skin within my dance community has been long. It has taken me years to finally realize although I do not fit the ballerina standard, I am not a lesser dancer.

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