October 29, 2013 by Nicole
Chances are good that if you’re reading this post, your weight and feeling like you fit in, particularly in an athletic activity, are already concerns of yours. Dance class is second nature to me at this point – my first class was at age 3 – but I’ve spoken with a lot of people who started or considered starting much later than that. If you’ve never been to a dance class, just like with any new thing, it’s totally reasonable for you to have some anxiety. But I hope your weight won’t be one of those things. Let me tell you why.
Truth be told, there is nothing about the weight itself that would keep you from fully participating in dance class. Being overweight doesn’t prevent you from learning new things and it doesn’t mean that you can’t dance beautifully. You absolutely have that potential inside of you – extra pounds or not.
Your overall fitness level is much more relevant to keeping up in class, physically. That’s true of any body shape/size. And, as I’ve previously discussed, dancers of the same ability level have more in common with each other than similarly sized ones do.
Getting personal for a second, I also know what it’s like to not fit in (or at least feel that way). Most of my younger dance time was spent in a serious ballet school, where body size was noted and an issue. I was never the same size as the other girls in class and have a very vivid memory of one of the favorite students there having legs that were the size of my arms. It was discouraging for me, to say the least, knowing that I couldn’t change my body type into hers. I was much more muscular and yes, curvy, by nature and there was very little I could do to change my body into one that I felt like they wanted.
Eventually, I left the school. However, I’m now thankful for the experience because it helps me see and appreciate the difference when you find a school that is focused on creating artists first and that cares about you as a person. I found that and my sincere hope is that everyone who is looking for dance instruction finds that too.
Back to the topic at hand. Here are some things I’ve learned. It’s good advice to anyone considering taking a class, but I think it’s especially applicable if you’re worried about your weight.
- Know the dress code.
If the dress code is all black, and you show up in bright red, you’re going to feel a little conspicuous (especially if you’re already worried about sticking out). It’s certainly a forgivable offense, and no one should make a big deal out of it, but going in prepared to look like you’re already part of the group should help put you at ease.
- Take care of your body.
I know how tempting it can be to skip meals or snacks so you “feel skinny” for class. Don’t. Your body is your instrument and it needs proper nutrition to perform at its best.
- Run your own race.
I learned this lesson at a Masters swim meet. To make a long story short, I took a look around the pool and there were world class champions – Olympic champions – competing right alongside former Special Olympians, adult beginners of all ages, and everyone in between. And what I noticed is that swimmer after swimmer took to the blocks to run their own race. The mood was celebratory, not competitive, even as Masters records were being broken. Winning the race suddenly became less relevant than winning your day….beating your own best personal time, improving your start or whatever that meant to you. In other words, focus on you and don’t compare your beginning to someone else’s middle. In class, we can get really caught up in everyone else around us, especially when we start comparing ourselves. Dance is art – there is no best. You can’t be “best” at art. Focus all of your attention on you, what you’re doing, the combinations, your corrections and how your body feels in the work. Start running your own race.
- No one is judging you.
Probably because you’re doing a fine job on your own. We’re all too often our own worst enemies and harshest critics. And this actually goes hand in hand with #3 – if you’re focusing on yourself, which you should be in class, then you have no time or attention to devote to someone else. There comes a time in everyone’s class life where they realize that class is and should be a judgment-free zone and everyone’s attention is mostly focused on themselves instead of you, and it is so liberating. Try to get there sooner rather than later. It’ll change the way you take class.
I have to admit, most of these take time. I didn’t have this perspective 10 years ago. But along the way, I’ve taken so many different classes (dance, fitness or otherwise) in different settings and have had opportunities for these lessons to sink and and to see them in practice. Which is why I’m sharing them now – this is what I know to be true. I hope it helps if you’re considering class at any shape.
Were these helpful? What’s your best advice for overcoming anxiety about sticking out in class? When did it click for you?