A Love Letter To My Curvy Dance Instructor

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In showcasing such unapologetic body confidence, you created a space for the rest of us to celebrate our bodies in the same way. You have no idea how freeing that was.

Dear Gorgeous, Curvy Dance Teacher,

When I walked into your dance class last week, the first thing I noticed was your energy. It was joyous, unbridled, effervescent, and totally contagious. Just watching you greet some of your regular students—hugging them, smiling, and throwing your head back laughing—it was obvious you were the kind of person that people are drawn to. You're magnetic. You lit up the room.

The second thing I noticed was your outfit. You were draped in body-hugging layers of bright colored fabric. Aqua and purple and red and yellow. Your pants flared out from your knees in wide, sweeping bell shapes. Your wrap top showcased the curve of your round belly. Your sarong traced the orbit of your hips, magnifying their shape and making you look like some fabulous Greek Goddess who oversees rainbows and unapologetic feminine power.

As I found my place in the room and started stretching, I looked in the mirror at my own ensemble. I was, as usual , dressed in head-to-toe black. My leggings had a control panel built in to keep my belly looking as smooth and small as possible. When I left the house that morning, I'd felt pretty good about how I looked, but that's because I had carefully followed about 20 different fashion rules dictating how I should look. And almost all of those rules involved minimizing, camouflaging, and generally hiding my body. The result was decidedly drab—my outfit had the visual impact of a smudge on a pair of sunglasses.

You looked big and bold and beautiful and bright. I looked . . . boring at best, depressing at worst.

*

A little back story. Dance, for me, has always been something that felt off-limits because of my body; dance is a world of long, lithe people. People who don't need to wear two sports bras under their leotards. People with willowy, lean limbs that don't rub together. Beyond the requisite kindergarten ballet class (where my little round belly was still considered cute) dance was an intimidating world where I—well, more specifically, my body—didn't feel welcome. As an adult, I've tried to revisit dance in various ways, but my short, curvy shape made me feel like I never quite belonged.

So when some friends told me about your modern dance class where all body types and skill levels are truly welcome, I was dubious, but couldn't wait to try it.

Now here I was, standing in the back, dressed like a Spanx-clad ninja, studying our contrasting reflections in the mirror and wondering why I put so much energy into hiding myself. That could have been revelation enough, but then the music came on, and you started to dance.

Your hips swayed in wide, graceful circles. Your arms floated up toward the ceiling. You sang along to the music. You writhed on the floor. You stomped to the beat without giving a second thought to any jiggling that might ensue. You made no effort to looks smaller or more subdued. If anything, your movements were exaggerated to be as big as possible.

You didn't dance beautifully in spite of your curvy body, you danced beautifully because of it. And wow, were you gorgeous.

I danced along with you, mimicking your movements, and little by little, I stopped caring about how small or big or soft I looked. I focused on how I felt, and how my body wanted to move to the music. That meant my upper arms were jiggling and my control top leggings rolled down a bit and my thighs were most definitely rubbing together. When I felt a familiar wave of insecurity creeping up and threatening to mute my movements, I looked to you for inspiration, and I danced even bigger.

In showcasing such unapologetic body confidence, you created a space for the rest of us to celebrate our bodies in the same way. You have no idea how freeing that was.

What I learned in your class that day is that celebrating my body is a practice that extends far beyond a dance studio. I want to love my body and own my power everywhere, every day, in every way I can. No apologies, no exceptions.

If life's a dance party, I'm done sitting on the sidelines. Two sports bras or not, I'm ready to (joyfully) jiggle.

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