Dancing in a Body-Safe Environment
Submitted by Inara Wheeler, PSP Dancer at Canada’s National Ballet School, former CCD student
For this post, we asked former CCD student Inara Wheeler what it’s like to recover from an eating disorder and find herself training in a body-safe environment. Read ahead for her deep perspective on letting herself be released from body dysmorphia.
What does it feel like to let yourself be free in a body safe environment? It is the most liberating, blissful way to dance and live. Knowing there is no judgement from others allows you to explore and grow in a present and positive mindset. Everyone, seeing themselves beyond their physical form, spends no energy in judgement or worry. Allowing everyone to be themselves completely. If we are so concerned about how we look and how others perceive us, we devote all this brain power to something that is absolutely worthless. Dancing without judgement towards your own or other’s bodies unlocks a magical perception that invites you to become the true artist. You discover that art and the ability to convey emotions and messages with your body is not based on how you look physically. This is made possible by becoming so comfortable in your own flesh that you allow yourself to be your most authentic and vulnerable self for those that are watching you. This is why supporting body safe environments is so crucial. We can give dancers and artists the chance to evolve to their fullest potential with zero criticism towards their instruments. With the ability to love your instrument – your body, there are no limits to what you can achieve.
Unfortunately, the world we live in today, specifically the dance world, does not provide many body loving environments. However, institutions that celebrate all body types exist, and it is completely possible to create a body safe environment wherever you go. The key to creating a body safe environment is mindset and radical acceptance for the body you have been gifted. Your body is a gift that allows you to exist. As simple as that sounds, it is the incredible truth. You are living, breathing, and sharing your unique beauty with the world. Attempting to change who you are out of hate for the vessel you have been given is erasing the full potential and hope that you have to share with the world. This is why body safe environments are so critical to every aspect of life, be that in the dance studio, out in the world, or at home. Body safe environments are born in the mind and heart of the individual and blossom in the community. They invite individuality and encourage uniqueness, which is ultimately why people watch dance. They want to see something different. They want to see a range. Not cookie-cutter beings. Not clones. But different interpretations, experiences, and living persons.
For someone who has recovered, and is honestly still recovering, from an eating disorder and has struggled with body dysmorphia, being in a space like CCD has saved my life. CCD is a place that vigorously promotes body positivity and has truly changed how I live my life, not only as a dancer – but as a human. The body positivity principles that CCD implements, have taught me what a body safe environment in the dance world can look like. Now that I am pursuing a professional career, I know what to look for in a company and how I want to represent myself and be supportive to others. At CCD, dancers see themselves and others beyond their actual matter. We see bodies not for their shapes but for what they can do. The power, elasticity, balance, and different dynamics that they can create. As artists and humans, we are more than our actual bodies. Dancing at a place like CCD has shown me what it is like to dance with love and gratitude for my body and to celebrate others. I realize how privileged I am to have had the opportunity to be a part of such an incredible school.