One ballerina is working to change the rigid ideal of a “dancer’s body.” Colleen Werner, a professional ballerina in New York City, just posted a rallying cry for anyone whose body has made them feel out of place in the industry.
Posing by the water in her leotard and pointe shoes, Werner shared a lengthy story on Instagram about the body issues she’s encountered in her years as a dancer. “The dance world is FAR from body positive, and I want to help change that,” she wrote.
The dance world is FAR from body positive, and I want to help change that. • I've danced practically all of my life, and from a young age, I was socialized through the dance world to believe that my body had to look a certain way in order to succeed and be a "real dancer." As I got older, I was convinced that my body was wrong for dance. I saw photos of dancers in magazines and dancers in performances that all didn't look like me. • I started to buy into the ideal of the "ballerina body." I lost weight by disordered means, and I started to get more attention and praise in my dance classes and more featured parts. My body wasn't "wrong" when I started. There's no wrong way to have a body. I had a body that was completely capable of dancing. I had no reason to change my body other than to fit the BS aesthetic that the dance world has perpetuated. This so-called aesthetic has helped fuel many of my mental health struggles. • Yesterday during a live chat, one of my followers told me that her 10 year old niece wants to be a dancer but is on the chubbier side, so she's heard some discouraging comments. She said that she's shown her niece my account and that she loves it. It makes me so sad that a 10 year old girl is already getting negative feedback on her body. 10 YEARS OLD!!! I'm so glad that my account has been able to help this little girl, and I wish that I would have seen a community like this when I was an aspiring little dancer. • I haven't seen many other dancers in the body positive community, and I think we need to push to make a change in the narrative that is currently held. There is no wrong way to have a dancers body. It's dangerous to only represent one body type in dance companies, dance brands, and dance ads. Dancers come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and ethnicities, all dancers deserve to love their bodies, and it's time that we start bringing body positivity to the dance community. I've decided to start the tag #BopoBallerina to inspire body positivity in the dance world – who's with me? ???? Please tag any bopo dancers you know – I don't know of many and I'd LOVE to connect with more! • #MyFlawsAreFierce (Photo by @paul_dubois_photography)
A post shared by Colleen, 20, NYC ♡ (@leenahlovesherself) on Apr 7, 2017 at 1:28pm PDT
Werner goes on to detail how dancing impacted her body image. “I was socialized through the dance world to believe that my body had to look a certain way in order to succeed and be a ‘real dancer.’ As I got older, I was convinced that my body was wrong for dance. I saw photos of dancers in magazines and dancers in performances that all didn’t look like me,” she wrote. The lack of representation took its toll, and Werner writes that she turned to disordered eating to look more like the “ballerina body” ideal.
She’s called out for other dancers in the body positive community to unite under the hashtag #BopoBallerina. The manifesto? Ditch societal standards and embrace what’s natural and healthy. “There is no wrong way to have a dancers body,” she writes. “It’s dangerous to only represent one body type in dance companies, dance brands, and dance ads. Dancers come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and ethnicities, all dancers deserve to love their bodies, and it’s time that we start bringing body positivity to the dance community.”
Werner tells Yahoo Beauty that her social following inspired her to be more open about her journey to self-acceptance. “Now that I have a platform on social media, I’ve been inspired to use it to help change the narrative that the dance community has about bodies and encourage body positivity in the dance world, because I think dance is an incredibly beautiful art, and everyone should be able to experience it, regardless of body type,” she says. “I’m determined to help change the message the dance community has surrounding bodies so that it can be a more welcoming, inclusive, healthy place for all.”
Werner has already gotten dozens of comments — not to mention hundreds of likes — responding to her call. One former professional ballerina has already joined with her own #BopoBallerina story of self-acceptance.
Strong. This is what I see on this picture now. But when it was taken I didn't see that. I saw: Fat Ugly Out of shape What is my face doing Look how huge your thighs are You're a shit dancer How mean I was being to myself! In this picture, I was already a couple months into recovery and very uncomfortable with my body. I only agreed to do this shoot because my best friend who is a photographer needed some dance pictures for her portfolio. I was not any of those things I said about myself earlier. I am beautiful, even now when my body looks different than this. I am strong for allowing my body to be shown in these photos. And I am brave for facing the incredible challenge of recovery! I have come so far and I can finally give myself credit for that. Yes I'm still grieving the loss of my ballet career. No, I don't know if or when I'll dance again. But dance is a gift I have inside of me and I'm so grateful to have been able to cultivate it and share it with people. It will forever be a part of my life, and so will the pain that it caused me. That emotional and physical damage will never completely be reversed but I do not regret my journey. Keep dancing, lovelies. Whether it's in your bedroom, at a club, in a dance studio, or even just in spirit! All bodies deserve to dance! #bopoballerina
A post shared by All Bodies Are Good Bodies (@bloominglaur) on Apr 7, 2017 at 2:02pm PDT
Earlier this year, dancer Lizzy Howell caught the Internet’s attention for a video of her perfect technical turns. Howell and her contagious enthusiasm quickly became a role model for the body positive movement, with thousands of fans writing in to share how the video touched their own feelings toward dancing at any shape. “I never expected this all to happen on a video I posted last November. All the support is amazing, but I’m not sure why it’s such a big deal, as I’ve been [dancing] my whole life,” Howell told People at the time.
A post shared by Lizzy ???????? (@lizzy.dances) on Nov 21, 2016 at 4:02pm PST
As the body positive community grows, it makes sense to tackle specific fields that are in desperate need of a body image update. The #BopoBallerina movement is surely only going to get bigger.
Read more from Yahoo Style + Beauty: