Dancers Reclaim Ownership of their Art

We are excited to share insights from Saint Paul City Ballet dancers about eating disorders and how they embrace their bodies, and what it helps them do: perform their art. This series will show you the history of “Taking Back the Tutu” and the statements made by the nine dancers.

Brittany Adams, Social Media Coordinator at Saint Paul City Ballet Company and Dancer, introduces the program. 

The idea of “Take Back the Tutu” was born out of a small gathering of Saint Paul City Ballet’s board members and dancers. After discussing the year that we had been an artist-led company and putting on our first large-scale performance, it was time to brainstorm new ideas for the “new” you. Some words that came up were empowered courageous, and community.

We started to think about the future and reach more people. We talked about “Take Back the Tutu” in many ways, but it all came down to one concept: breaking down the conceptual barriers surrounding our art. We felt that we could help our community and other dancers. By sharing our views on how to be happy and healthy in a tradition that often assumes a certain body type or look, we could see the potential to make a difference. We are a diverse group. We are all different and have our own opinions about being a dancer. To “Take Back The Tutu” means to have the power to own your art and to let go of the notion that we must look certain ways to wear the tutu. We all have different stories, and the journeys we choose to share are as individuals like us. We hope you enjoy these reflections and inspire you to make your tutu.

Dancer Reflections

Amber: The French term “Jolie laye” means “oddly beauty.” Arrianna Huntington explains that “joine laide” refers to women who radiate a kind of beauty that transcends their physical features. This realization has allowed me to feel free and has brought me to peace. My soul is what makes me beautiful. I can do endless exercise, eat carelessly, and be accepted by society. But this is a trick to stop me from being the extraordinary being I am meant to be. Each of us has the power to make others fearful. It tries to stop us from realizing this, but once we recognize our true beauty and worth, we can let passion rule our lives and not be afraid. Magic happens when you do that.

Shamira: Although I have been dancing ballet since three, I never really thought about my body until high school. My body image was directly related to my confidence in myself and my dancing in high school. I was obsessed with what I considered healthy. I only ate healthy food, and I sometimes restricted my intake of unhealthy foods.

After graduating from high school, I took two years off ballet to focus fully on college. My body image and healthy eating were no longer my priority. I gained weight and lost muscle without dance. This didn’t bother me until I returned to dancing this year. It was hard to believe that I could be in the same shape as before, and I was again struggling with my confidence. As the year progresses, I have been gaining strength and technique. I also eat healthy without restricting what I eat.

My body isn’t what makes me a good dancer. This realization has come to me as this year progresses. I used to choose to put so much energy on my body to be happy rather than believe in myself. Now I am proud and happy with my body and treat it well to keep my mind and body happy.

Shannon: I have been a ballerina my whole life. In 29 years, I have seen all aspects of people’s bodies. A life lived in front of a mirror and where everyone looks at you can take its toll. My experience has taught me that dancers who make it a career love their bodies. It is important to listen to your body and eat when hungry. We also need to rest when we feel tired. Cross-training and nutrition have made my body stronger as I get older. It’s so satisfying to create something with the body and mental mindset that I have, compared to what it used me to be. It’s impossible to be both fierce and fragile at the same moment. I prefer to be fierce.

Preston: I have days when my body frustrates and confuses me, but there are also days when my body allows me to achieve great things. No matter how frustrating it may be, my body is essential for the work that I do every day. My body is my temple, my canvas in my work. My body will not produce the art it creates if it is neglected.

My body is my friend in the creation of my art. We fight, push it, give me the facts that I must follow, and listen. My art and, most importantly, my body will suffer if I don’t take care of them. Although my body can present me with some challenges when I try to pursue my best artistic processes, it is something that I enjoy. When I listen to my body and respect it, I can love the places it can take me.

You can catch more statements from this incredible Ballet Company on Thursday (2/27). If you are available, please join Saint Paul City Ballet and The Emily Program for a presentation on body image Friday night (2/28). We’ll end with this quote: “Be a first-rate person of yourself and not a second-rate person of someone else.” Judy Garland

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