For most of us, our dance life begins around three years olds; tiptoeing in tutus and tights. We are not self-conscious, in fact, we are totally uninhibited. We do not notice the size or shape of our bodies, we just merely enjoy the way it can move to the music and perform. Our pink, whimsical attire is quite gratifying to look at in the mirror. We are perfection and we know it.
Preserving the sweet feelings of how we perceive our bodies can easily change as we grow and develop. It's so easy to begin poking and prodding in front of the mirror. Noticing the way our leotard fits and our tights grab our waistline and ultimately that it may not pull or grab at your classmates the same way. The fixation eventually takes precedence over why we are wearing form-fitting attire and why we are here; to dance.
"We must continue to nurture and build our dancers up to acknowledge the wonders of our bodies; not just how they look in the mirror."
To combat the judgement of society, peers and body pressure we place on ourselves; we must stay focused on the mind/body connection that is instilled in dancers from their days of creative movement.
We must continue to nurture and build our dancers up to acknowledge the wonders of our bodies; not just how they look in the mirror. Sometimes I will tell my younger dancers to talk on their feet or legs to make sure they behave; feet pointing, legs pulled up and knees tracking over toes in a plié. As they grow, we focus on feeling pride as their legs work to straighten in a tendu rather than disappointment because they're not completely straight. What we are able to do with our bodies as dancers is quite spectacular and for me, a critical part of my teaching from the very start is making sure my students celebrate that. Dance workshop teaches a diverse group of dancers who approach dance with varying aspirations. Some of our students pursue a formal, pre-professional path while others simply come for recreation and physical activity. Yet despite their purpose, there is a level of competitiveness that will always exist as with any sport.
Many times, this competitive spirit extends beyond skill and includes physical comparisons as well. We've learned over the years this has to be addressed as early as possible - we do believe skill is within your control but physical differences may not be and in most cases, should not. It's important to us that this message resonates with young dancers growing up in a studio environment and it's a pillar our practice is based on. It doesn't have to be said but rather shown by treating all dancers impartially. Regardless of your shape and size the expectations for you are the same. If you've come to dance, you will do just that. Achievement is acknowledged in skill and dedication.
This approach empowers our young dancers and alters their focus to what should matter in their practice. It garners immediate love and awe for the physical body. While no two bodies are the same they are equally wonderful and strong.
Approaching our bodies with admiration for how high they can jump, deep they can stretch, quick they can pirouette builds tremendous confidence. Our bodies work so hard for us and will push as far as our minds can go.
Instilling this mindset as early as possible is the best preparation for the teenage years when the pressures and insecurities creep up on almost everyone. Appreciating your body for its strength and all of the things it can achieve on the dance floor is always on full display. How it can balance your entire body weight on one foot in pointe shoes is still astounding to me no matter how many times I've seen it. What about watching a dancer execute several pirouettes or fly overhead to jete´? And our students know their practice isn't limited to the studio and the hours they spend with us each week. Providing their bodies with the proper nutrition is essential. If you want peak performance you must feed your body what it needs. It's what fuels, heals and strengthens.
"Our students know their practice isn't limited to the studio and the hours they spend with us each week."
There is certainly a shift in the professional dance community and an increasing emphasis on positive body image. It is truly incredible to watch a group of dancers of all shapes and sizes visually blend together through their execution of steps. Although physically they look nothing alike, through technique, performance quality and passion they are able to become one. The movement unifies the dancers and reminds the viewer what can be achieved through discipline and the belief that your body and mind are boundless.
The dance community's view of what a dancer looks like is evolving.
Once a business known for hiring specific body types, talent and individuality is becoming the prerequisite these days. And talent comes in all shapes and sizes. Dancers are being hired for their uniqueness more than ever. Technique, personal style, hair, skin, personality, and fierceness all play into the equation at an audition.
Having "a dancer's body" is no longer required for entry. If dancers are confident in how they look, feel and dance they will project it to casting agents, choreographers, and the world. If the dancer can move his or her body with grace and poise at any shape, weight or height they are successfully dancing. There are no preconceived notions about dancers anymore. Judgment may only be based on what happens in the movement, not simply by how they look in stillness.
We have all experienced moments of insecurity, times where we compare ourselves to others and feel discouraged. Combatting this, I really believe is a work in progress for everyone. But in my world, the more we reinforce what dance is truly about, the way our bodies can move, lengthen and strengthen through hard work and practice, the more overall pride we will feel in ourselves and can tackle negative feelings. I have it on good authority!
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.