Want Body Positive Dancers?
By Katrena Cohea
Ah, February. That time of the year where the shimmer of a new year has started to wear off and the grind of daily life has set back in. If you’re anything like me, you probably made a whole list of goals and plans for 2020, things you'd like to see this year bring you, your family, and probably even your dance students.
But you might be wondering how the heck to keep those goals in motion, or have high hopes, but not be sure where, exactly, to start.
Many of the teachers I work with tell me they wish they could help their students be more confident, encourage them to believe in themselves, and help them see that they are so much more than their reflections in the studio mirror. They have a goal of getting their dancers to be positive about their bodies and abilities, but just don’t know where to begin.
If you want your dancers to be body positive in 2020, there's one thing you have to do before you do anything else.
Model positive self-talk for your dancers.
Not what you thought I was going to say? Hear me out...
Our students are always watching us, taking their cues from what we say, and how we say it. If we want to raise dancers who are confident, resilient, and kind to themselves, we have to model that behavior for them.
They hear you when you say "Ugh. I ate waaaaay too much junk over the holidays, I seriously need to lose 10 pounds."
They watch you when you look in the mirror, pat your stomach, sigh in disappointment, and shake your head at how your pants or top fit.
In 2020, if you want to see your students be more confident in themselves if you want to help them bounce back from a setback quicker, and if you'd love for them to speak kindly about themselves, you have to start with yourself.
There’s an added bonus to modeling positive self-talk for our dancers: we become more positive about ourselves. Think about it; when you feel better (because you’re dropping the self-judgment and speaking kindly to yourself), you feel better. And when you feel better, you show up better for your students. Which makes your students feel better. And when your students feel better, you feel better!
It’s a never-ending circle of win/win!
“Ok,'' I hear you saying. “I get it, and I want to help my students with body positivity, but how do I model body-positive talk for my students, if I don’t really feel positive about my body?”
I hear you. I’ve been working on my own body positivity for years, and there are still times that it feels like I’m back at square one, so I understand. But know that the first step is the hardest. And to be completely honest with you, some days you have to tell yourself positive things even when you don’t feel them.
Some days, you will just have to choose to think "my body is strong and capable," even if you don’t feel it. Some days, you will have to choose to think "I have an amazing body," even when another inner voice scoffs. It’s a bit like "if you build it, they will come." If we at least begin by saying the words, the feelings will come.
Our willingness to be open to adopting new mindsets will serve our students just as much (if not more) than any technique we teach them. Our vulnerability will lead to their strength. Where we lead, they will follow, so let’s lead with open minds and full hearts, for ourselves, and our students.
About Katrena: Katrena Cohea is the CEO of Different Drummer Dance, a studio and online community dedicated to building body-positive dancers and educators. Katrena is a California native and danced professionally in the San Francisco Bay Area for many years before moving to upstate New York with her husband. She teaches body positivity online courses for dance educators and when she’s not dancing or teaching enjoys hiking, cooking, baking and brewing the perfect cup of coffee.