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The Fat Dancer “Controversy”

A scene from Nothing To Lose

Dancers from Nothing To Lose

I’ve written a few past posts about fat dancers and was inspired to write again on the subject by a show in Australia featuring a cast of obese dancers.  What caught my interest, aside from the obvious fact of how unusual this is, was the director’s comment that such a show shouldn’t be, but is, controversial.

 

In my area there is a popular feminist dance company called the Dance Brigade. It’s talented director, Krissy Keefer, while not fat, does have an atypical body type.  She’s short, stocky, and muscular.  Just because her body is not that of a typical ballerina, her dancing is controversial.  Just what is this all about?  Why is it controversial for more than one body type to perform dance?

 

Human beings move naturally to music.  We do so with grace, or we don’t, and it has nothing to do with our shape, size, or even our physical abilities.  Yet the majority of people in our society are astonished to see great dancing in a fat body and embarrassed to find themselves as mesmerised by the movements of the fat dancer as by the more familiar lithe dancer body.

 

Even worse, derisive laughter is a common reaction, no matter how good the dancer.  Derision is a tool that keeps people in their place through shame.  So it’s all the more impressive to see the existence of a show like  Nothing To Lose, where the dancers are unabashedly comfortable in their bodies.  Take a look at this video and notice if you have a reaction, positive or negative.  It’s interesting to look at the root of that reaction and question it’s history, influence, and how much of it is culturally imposed and how much is pure artistic appreciation.  Have fun!

 

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by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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Pole Dancing for Everyone

 

pole dancers

A Pole Dance class at San Francisco’s Studio Botan

Pole dancing is a popular phenomenon on the exercise dance scene.  You can take classes at any fitness level in studios like the one in the photo in the bay area where I live.   

Formerly a style of dance relegated to sleazy strip joints, it has become a popular fitness dance fad.  Aimed primarily at women, it’s a challenging workout with sexy fun overtones.  You feel sexy as your body rises to the challenge of using the pole in graceful, strengthening, and sultry movements.  What a great time in history when women can learn to move this way just for fun, to use anyway they want. 

Some do it just for a fun exercise class, some to wow a romantic partner.  Some participate in competitive pole dance and some use it for its original purpose.  Who’d have thought that pole dancing as a job would ever be considered an old fashioned use of this formerly socially forbidden dance form?

Pole dancing really is for everyone now.  You don’t have to have a stripper’s body.  (Even strippers don’t have to have that body any more, but that’s another post!)  You don’t have to be young.  You don’t even have to be a woman.  Once pole dancing began to have mainstream contests, it was only a matter of time before men started getting in on the act. 

I’ve gathered a few short clips to illustrate the amazing variety of this graceful acrobatic art.  The oldest pole dancer, (yeah, she’s about my age.  60 really is the new 30!) Greta Pontarelli, eloquently speaks of her passion for the dance and why she sees it as a great fit for anyone:

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In completive pole dancing, there is now a male category.  The men don’t mimic the traditional style of women but give it their own style and flavor.   It’s easy to see why this gifted dancer took first place in the men’s division:

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And last but not least, in a fitting follow up to my Nov 15 post Who Wants to See A Fat Dancer?

Here’s an example of a dancer who doesn’t let her size get in the way of taking on and showing off her prowess in culturally forbidden dance to women of her girth.  I love the expression on the judge’s face when she does the splits in a perfect landing at the end.  Fat women are not supposed to have the strength and flexibility to do this kind of dance, and while the vote is split because she’s good but not outstanding as a dancer (my judgment) she still flies in the face of common assumptions about the capabilities of fat women and sets a powerful example to the many watchers of this popular TV show about dance being truly the birthright of everyone.

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by LaurieAnn Lepoff

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