Here it is - your first rehearsal for the show of your dreams! The type of show and opportunity that could change your dance career forever. You've trained, worked and devoted your entire self to this show. Your body aches, your muscles are fatigued and your face drips with sweat, but all you can think of is how you just gave your whole heart and all your energy to prove to this choreographer that you have IT. That you were made for this show…that you were made to dance.
As you confidently take a seat. the choreographer looks you in the eyes and says, “You were amazing but I’ll never put someone on stage that looks like you.”
The words sting you to the core and your own insecurities wrap you like a blanket. The comment is enough to chill anyone to the bone. How could something so outlandish be said to someone who is so talented?
Unfortunately, it is the harsh truth of the dance world. “Someone that looks like you” could be your shape, your color, your race, your disability, your gender, or even your age. The image of the “ideal” dancer has been implanted in the brains of dancers and dance educators for decades. However, in this generation, it is our responsibility to widen and broaden those views to see that any and all dancers can exist and thrive in this world of dance. Regardless of color, shape, age, gender, ethnicity, or genre, dancers can transform into things beyond our mind’s wildest image.
Dance continues to dazzle the nation with its rhythmic powers. Whether it's on TV, at a social event, at a party or at a gym, it seems that wherever you turn, you have access to some part of dance. However, with that accessibility comes the negativity and fear of breaking through normality.
Think back recently to August of 2019, when Lara Spencer of “Good Morning America” sparked an entire movement due to her insensitive and laughter filled comments about young Prince George attending and enjoying ballet class. This inspired the movement by Travis Wall called #ballet4boys, allowing a platform for male dancers to be safe and supported to be the dancers they want to be, regardless of the opinions and thoughts of others.
Famous dancers throughout history have broken down barriers to differences, like Bob Fosse, who created an entire signature style all his own due to his insecurities about his hands, posture, turnout and baldness; or Lester Horton, one of the first choreographers in the US to insist upon racial integration due to his philosophy that, “...art is much more important than the color of a dancers’ skin”; or perhaps Misty Copeland, who, despite not dancing until the age of 13, has broken several of dances' barriers, including training, weight and ethnicity, to name only a few. Dance has the power to shake even the most stubborn of thinkers. Countless dancers, choreographers, and educators around the globe are doing just that!
We must continue to tear down, twirl, and break those stereotypes that still exist. As dancers that are breaking stereotypes, we have the responsibility and honor to open people’s eyes beyond what they once believed, through talent, passion, knowledge, and artistry. Every time you rehearse, step into a class, or grace a stage, know that you have a chance to change someone’s perspective. That you have an opportunity to inspire someone that looks like you. But most of all, you have the chance to prove to yourself that even though someone’s opinion of you and your dancing may hurt your feelings, it will never stop what is destined for you.
Lindsay Via hails from Raleigh, NC where her training began with CC & Co Dance Complex and East Carolina University. She has won several awards for her choreography on the regional and national level competition. She also has performed for varied musical theatre productions, events and movies. Lindsay continues to hone her craft and happily works as a performer, judge, choreographer and dance teacher. She hopes and thrives to inspire others through dance with her energy, knowledge and experiences.