The tyranny of the perfect body
A new teacher straight from company life as a dancer for a famous (and notoriously cruel) choreographer pinches me and says “just a little everywhere”. I am in first year university.
At 20 I hear a fellow dance student complaining about her body. I say “I wish I had a body like yours.” She says, “I wish I could dance like you.”
In my mid-twenties I started working out at the gym (on top of dancing all the time) because I was getting married and aware that there would be a lot of photos of me that day.
At the end of my twenties I bought a string bikini because I thought that my moment for wearing one was about to end.
Someone once said to me that it was too bad I wasn’t born in the Renaissance because my body would have been considered beautiful, then.
A multidisciplinary performance programmer remarked to me that she was sick of seeing only “perfect bodies” in dance.
At 40 I started to take my clothes off onstage.
I taught this sparkly girl from the time she was 4 to 14. Last month she died from an eating disorder at age 23.
I look at pictures of myself at different ages and see how good, fit, un-fat, buff, I looked. I remember how consumed I was by body image. Feeling shame that I wasn’t skinny enough, buff enough. How much energy have I wasted on hating my body?
I made SideShow, inspired by my impression of this photo of R.E.M’s Michael Stipe with his pants around his ankles – taken in the 90’s. The idea of a woman doing this felt…what: dangerous, transgressive, empowering?
I decided to find out.