Proud2Bme | Dancing My Way to Self-Love

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Dancing My Way to Self-Love

By Dana Land--Last year, I purchased tickets to see Dita Von Teese perform burlesque. I have admired her pride in her body since I was young and I was so excited to finally see her perform in person. I did not know that the show would be a life-changing experience. My expectations going into the show were simply to see her glide around the stage in elaborate costumes that cost more than my college tuition, then slowly remove them.

What I got was being launched into the most accepting environment and being able to witness a diverse group of performers. All performers came from different backgrounds and experiences--and all displayed their bodies with such pride and love. Not a single body looked the same. No tummies were tucked in; every roll was caressed with as much love as a “flattering” part of the body. Every movement was done out of love, pride and respect for their bodies.

There was representation for nearly every body type, gender expression, sexuality and race. At the time of that performance, I only dreamed of loving my body as much as those performers loved theirs, and I hoped that one day I would be able to proudly dance like they did.

Last weekend, I performed burlesque in a student showcase. It was a year after I saw Dita Von Teese’s burlesque show, and I was now in treatment and finally able to treat my body with as much love as those other performers treated theirs. I displayed it with pride in front of a sold-out audience and felt so much love being returned to me from them. The first day of burlesque class, our instructor asked why we wanted to learn how to perform. My classmates were just as diverse as the performers at the Dita Von Teese show. We all had different reasons, but they had a common theme: we wanted to love our bodies more. We all wanted to find a deeper connection with ourselves.

Even in recovery, it is still very easy for me to disconnect from my body and pretend it is not there. During these weekly classes, I had to confront my body and myself.  At first, this was a terrifying task. I thought I would be the only one experiencing panic attacks from having to stare at myself in the surrounding mirrors for that class time. However, I was not alone. It seemed as though my other classmates also felt a little peculiar about having to stare and touch and strut in front of everyone. Our teacher offered up a bit of advice--to find one part of your body every morning and give it constant love and admiration throughout the day.

When you seemingly run out of body parts, keep going to the smallest parts of your body (like your fingernails). This exercise made the concept of self-love more tangible. It isn’t always easy to wake up every morning and perform a broad affirmation. On a bad day, I cannot convince myself. Through this exercise, I could make it easier to handle and believe--and it truly helped turn around some negative body image days. Then, every Sunday, I got to practice that self-love in a safe space surrounded by supportive people.

The movements we learned encouraged us to be aware of our bodies, and the song choice was empowering and meaningful. We were not being taught to simply take it all off, but to feel the way our bodies express themselves and to end the movements with a proud display of them.

For any person who has ever been curious about seeing a burlesque performance or taking part in one, I highly recommend it. My teacher, Po’Chop, created the perfect environment to for self-growth, and I learned some great movements and stretches too. Burlesque truly seems to be an art form rooted in self-love and compassion and it’s a great way for those who are already in their recovery to explore those concepts more.

About the blogger: Dana Land is a psychology student at DePaul University. She is proud of her body and can’t wait to keep taking burlesque classes.

Also by Dana:

Recovery Takes Time: Why I’m No Longer Ashamed of Taking Medical Leave



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