When someone mentions the word "ballet", you may automatically envision a waif-like ballerina floating across a stage in a filmy tutu. What do you think of when someone mentions "tap", "hip hop", or "jazz"?
About a year ago, there was a girl who went viral because she was a bigger girl who could dance. I hate to say it, but I never got what the attraction was--I am personally not a small girl and have always struggled with my weight, and over the past 29 years of teaching, I have had all shapes and sizes in my classes. Why was this girl such a revelation? My students who were the same size as her (or bigger) could do just the same stuff--maybe some of it better. Perhaps the truth of that is rooted deep in that stereotype that was previously mentioned--she didn't "look" like who you immediately thought of as a dancer. The same can be said about the "hip-let" video of girls of colour doing hip hop/ballet in pointe shoes. There was a HUGE outcry in the ballet world... (seriously, I think every kid tries some jazz or tap or some kind of move on pointe.) These girls just put theirs on youtube. But was the underlying factor that it was a "shock" to see these African American girls in Chicago on pointe?
A question was posed to myself and other dance teachers at a summer convention in Toronto, Ontario by a teacher from the National Ballet School. The general gist was "how accessible is ballet/dance classes to the average Canadian? What about someone who lives up North? What about someone with a visible/invisible disability?..." I have always believed that anyone could dance--no matter what your size, age, or what you feel your limitations are, but the way they phrased the question was like getting a glass of water thrown in your face.
It was an eye-opening query. And it made me think.
The NBS is on a mission for "inclusion" and to dispel the "elitist" stereotype of ballet/dance, and I wholeheartedly support this initiative. They are opening up the "secretive and mysterious ballet doors", and expanding to include groups and people who normally would not have ever dreamed of having the joys of ballet/dance in their lives. Ballet and dance in general touches your life in so many way--it is stress relief, fitness/flexibility, it teaches manners, responsibility, determination, tenacity... it has been scientifically proven to help with memory loss and other types of aging ailments....the benefits are numerous and priceless.
Truth is, dance lives inside of each and every one of us. Dance does not discriminate against your size, age, colour, race, sexual orientation, or your religion. It is there within our souls. As a quote by Katherine Applegate proclaims, "If you can talk, you can sing. If you can walk, you can dance." (Notice she didn't start by saying "if you are under 120 pounds, white, and middle to upper class"....)