Dance and Body Image: An Interview with Pilobolus

Back in college, my then-boyfriend introduced me to Pilobolus, an incredible troupe of dancers whose choreography is as acrobatic and athletic as it is artistic. I love modern dance, and since that first experience seeing them perform, Pilobolus has been at the top of my must-see list.

The company swung through the Twin Cities recently and, through the wonders of Twitter, I connected with them. I blithely requested an interview, fully expecting rejection, and was surprised and delighted when they accepted. I sent questions to Jeffrey Huang, who serves as the company’s Interactive Media Marketing Manager but danced with the troupe for years, and Annika Sheaff who is a member of the main touring company.

I wanted their take on body image in the dance world, as my impression is that dancers are as much athletes as performers. And while actors and models are intensely body-focused people, I’d wager that dancers feel even more pressure when it comes to their physical forms. In addition to exposing their bodies to audience scrutiny on a regular basis, they must keep those bodies in a certain working condition in order to perform. Their bodies must be both beautiful AND effective. It seems like a lot to bear, which is why I wanted input from professional dancers. I’m especially delighted to have conversed with members of Pilobolus because SO much of their choreography requires tremendous strength, balance, and control in addition to grace and expression.

I’m posting both Jeffrey and Anikka’s answers below, and I realize that makes this a bit of an epic post … but believe me when I tell you it’s worth the read! I’ve highlighted a few key remarks if you prefer to skim now and read later, but please do dig into the whole interview at some point. It’s especially fantastic to have a male and female take on all of these questions, so don’t you dare skip Jeffrey!

* * * * *

Jeffrey Huang
Troupe Member from 2005-2009

1. How does being a professional dancer affect your body image? Self-image?
Dancers come face-to-face with their body image every day, literally. Every time a dancer steps into a studio to begin class, there’s the inevitable reflection of his or her body in the mirror. Being a professional dancer and taking class almost every day, I am constantly reminded of what my body looks like, both in reality and in my own perception. Pilobolus doesn’t use mirrors in the studio, but I would say 99% of dance classes are taught in front of mirrors, so a dancer becomes very familiar with all of their perceived strengths and shortcomings about their bodies. I am very comfortable with my body, although I think all dancers, including myself, wish that something was different about their body. (e.g. longer limbs, more articulate feet, etc.)

2. Did you feel differently about your body before you began performing professionally? How so? Is the climate different in school or training?
There is a lot of pressure on dancers, especially in training, to have a particular type of body, which can lead to disruptive and unhealthy behaviors. Some schools actively tell their students that they need to look x or y way to be a “good” dancer. I was very fortunate that in my training I never ran into that sort of closed-minded attitude, but throughout the years I have developed my own body image and heightened self-awareness that I attribute to me choosing to pursue dance.

3. How do you think your expectations of your body differ from those of a professional athlete?
I imagine that a dancer places more importance on the actual physical appearance of his or her body than a professional athlete. While both dancers and athletes require their bodies to perform extreme physical acts, the physical appearance of an athlete’s body comes secondary to the purpose of it and is often covered in protective gear or clothing. A dancer’s body is less often hidden from view. In fact, I have heard many times during a costume fitting that “less is more” and potential costume designs are more often than not rejected because they hide too much of the body. Furthermore, once a dancer steps onstage an audience member’s mind immediately begins to form an impression of that dancer, which include judgments about appearances. Do I dare say that dancers’ bodies are more actively coveted than those of athletes?

4. What do you value most about your body?
I value its ability and its willingness to accept all of the work and stresses that I require it to do. It may sound odd, but I feel this is a common idea amongst dancers – that their body is a tool separate from their self. Dancers often personify their bodies as having independence from their mind, like when a dancer complains that their body has not yet “woken up” in the morning, or isn’t “listening” to what they are telling it to do.

5. Do you struggle with food and eating? If so, how so?
If anything I struggle with eating too much! Honestly. I’m such a glutton and a foodie that sometimes I just plain overeat. I always tell my friends that I’m so lucky to be a dancer because my work keeps me in shape. I don’t know what I’ll do if I ever stop dancing…that’s when I’ll really have to watch what I eat! So not eating enough to fuel my body has never been an issue for me.

6. Do you compare your body to other bodies? Whose? Why? When?
Always. Everybody else’s. I don’t know why. I think it has something to do with the competitive nature of dance. If I have a better, more capable body than so-and-so, then I’ll have a better chance of getting past them at an audition. At the same time, it is also inspiring to watch other bodies/dancers in class. It is a way to learn what else can be done with the body, to strive towards a higher goal, or to recognize and celebrate differences in the body.

7. Do any aspects of the dance community fuel negative body image? Or are dancers generally pretty supportive of each other in this area? Does it vary from style to style?
Criticizing our bodies is second nature to dancers. We always want to be more flexible, stronger, better. How one goes about achieving that is what differentiates a successful approach versus an unhealthy one. We can support each other in our efforts to become more limber (i.e. stretching together after class) or take positive actions to have the body we want. I am mostly modern/contemporary trained, but I feel ballet is a much less forgiving style than others in accepting different body styles because it is based on an established vocabulary of lines and positions.

8. Do the members of your troupe work out together? What does a dancer’s workout look like, roughly?
In Pilobolus, we recognize that all bodies are different. It is especially apparent when a new dancer joins the company and we have to teach them how to perform moves that we are accustomed to doing with a very particular body. Even a slight change in height or arm length makes a difference in how a move feels or is executed. That said, we each do our own warm up based on what we feel each of our bodies need at that particular time. Also, because the men do a very different type of lifting than the women, our bodies require different things.

If you’re talking about the gym or some sort of workout outside of rehearsal, none or very few of the dancers have the time or energy for that. I occasionally lift a few weights to supplement the work with Pilobolus, but if I ever go to the gym it is to do some cardio on the elliptical machines.

9. Does being acutely aware of your body make you hypersensitive to the aging process?
It’s funny you ask this question – I’m 27 now and have been dancing for about 8 years. I’ve just begun to recognize some of the changes and effects of being a slightly more “mature” dancer. I won’t go into detail, but to answer your question: yes.

10. What is the most amazing thing you’ve ever done with your body?
I’m sure there are some technically amazing feats that one might find more interesting than this, but, for me, the most amazing thing I think I’ve ever done with my body is reteaching it to be flexible and limber. I did gymnastics for a few years in my childhood and I remember being extremely flexible. I remember stretching with the other kids in my gymnastics class, sitting in the splits, and thinking, “Why is this so hard for the other students?” After years of cross-country running and not nearly enough stretching in middle and high school, I had lost all of my flexibility. At my first dance class in college, trying to raise a straight leg over 45 degrees was a challenge. Eight years later I’m still trying to gain back the flexibility I lost. While I accept that I will never be as flexible as I was when I was 10, I strive to be as flexible as my joints and ligaments will allow and honor my body for getting this far again.

Anikka Sheaff
Current troupe member

1. How does being a professional dancer affect your body image? Self-image?
Unfortunately I think dancers tend to have a very skewed sense of self. Dancers are conditioned from a very young age to be very disciplined. They are told what to do and exactly how to do it. And that mentality of always trying to get the step perfect spills over into the way dancers think about everything, I think. For me personally, my body was never an issue until I went to college and gained about 20 pounds. Then the school started to tell me I should slim down and that feeling of having someone watch your body, and keeping an eye on you to see if you lost weight, well it stays with you for a long time. Some dancers never let it go … lucky for me I joined Pilobolus and they wanted me to be strong and healthy so I gained a lot of confidence back!

2. Did you feel differently about your body before you began performing professionally? How so? Is the climate different in school or training?
Yes, during training and school I never thought I was good enough, and I always found something about my body that I didn’t like. I never had any eating disorders or physically hurt myself, but in terms of the way I viewed myself … I wasn’t in a good place. Then leaving school and joining a professional company I gained so much self esteem! My directors told me in the beginning to trim up, but that happened automatically just by dancing so much each day. After about the first 3 months of touring and dancing my body looked great, I felt great, and I started to find myself again. It was wonderful! Pilobolus has a very healthy attitude towards body image.

3. How do you think your expectations of your body differ from those of a professional athlete?
I never thought about this before! I guess a basketball player just needs to get the ball in the hoop, and at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what his body looks like, only that he or she can accomplish this task. For me, I have to be able to do 130 rigorous shows a year and look great doing it! I expect my body to be strong and injury free, and the audience expects a beautiful body onstage to look at. So, I think the difference is that athletes probably don’t worry if their butt is getting a bit big if they can still run and jump just as well. Whereas a dancer would worry about it a lot because people are paying to come see us move.

4. What do you value most about your body?
When my body is feeling great and pain free is when I am super happy with it. It is hard to dance through pain and injury, and it happens. I also love the fact that that I am 5’7″, curvy, and strong!!

5. Do you struggle with food and eating? If so, how so?
No! I love food so much! Sometimes I feel guilty after eating a huge piece of cake … but it won’t stop me from eating it! It will just make me run a little further the next day! ha ha!

6. Do you compare your body to other bodies? Whose? Why? When?
Of course! All the time every day! I compare myself to the women on the cover of Sports Illustrated, to other dancers, to any woman who I think has a great body! I think that is only natural. I try not to, but I always do, especially at dance auditions. An audition is just a big fiasco with lots of judgment in the air … it is hard to not compare yourself to the competition.

7. Do any aspects of the dance community fuel negative body image? Or are dancers generally pretty supportive of each other in this area? Does it vary from style to style?
I think it does vary from style to style. I think dancers try to always be supportive of each other. I would assume in the ballet world that it is extremely important to be very skinny, that is their aesthetic. Whereas in the break dancing world, or the hip hop world being skinny wouldn’t matter. They might be worried about a 6 pack, I am not sure! Dancers are very aware of their bodies no matter what style they dance.

8. Do the members of your troupe work out together? What does a dancer’s workout look like, roughly?
I wouldn’t say the dancer of Pilobolus work out together. We warm up together before a show. There are 2 women in Pilobolus, sometimes we hit the gym together but most of the time we don’t. A dancer’s warm up or work out if going to vary a lot depending on what genre they are in. Ballet dancers will take a ballet class every day. Jazz dancers may do a ballet or a jazz warm up. I have no clue how street dancers, hip hop artists, or breakers warm up! At Pilobolus we run around, jump, do push-ups or sit ups, do our “dailies” (moves that are hard for us that we have to do in the show). We just make sure our bodies are very warm before we start rehearsal, and the process of getting warm is different for each dancer.

9. Does being acutely aware of your body make you hypersensitive to the aging process?
Not really, I mean everyone is getting older! The only thing I ever think about is the fact that I know I can only dance as long as my body lets me. If I treat my body well, hopefully I will dance for a long time … or until I have kids anyway!

10. What is the most amazing thing you’ve ever done with your body?
Well, once I did 6 pirouettes on pointe! That was pretty amazing! I also challenged myself to go canyoning in New Zealand … that was scary and awesome! But honestly, joining Pilobolus and learning how to move in a completely new way at age 22 is probably the most amazing thing my body has ever done for me!

* * * * *

Pilobolus tours almost constantly, so do check their schedule to see if they’ll be visiting your town anytime soon. This group of performers is incomparable, and well worth the ticket price.

HUGE thanks to Jeffrey and Anikka for answering these questions so honestly and thoroughly!

Anyone out there with dance experience care to chime in? Do you agree or disagree with these responses? Particularly curious to hear from anyone with ballet experience, as that style tends to get a bad rep. Any athletes feel like physical appearance is vital to athletic success? And hey! Who else is a Pilobolus fan?!?

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29 Responses to “Dance and Body Image: An Interview with Pilobolus”

  1. Alli (One Pearl Button)

    Thanks for this, Sal – both interviews were great. As a former ballet dancer (trained in a professional school, but chose not to pursue ballet professionally), I've definitely struggled with body image. My ballet school was not open to different body types, and although I am naturally very thin (especially as a teen), I was always encouraged to be thinner. I'm a little ashamed to admit that in my early 20s, I really struggled as my body became more womanly; I was still thin by anyone's standards, but to me my growing hips were horrible. Now that I'm approaching 30, I'm much happier with my figure – I don't want to be curveless anymore! I will always be thankful that I was a dancer. Without the discipline I learned in ballet, there is no way I would be where I am right now. I would, however, like to go back and have a serious talk with a few teachers about the damage they can do by adhering so strictly to the cult of thin!

  2. LPC

    I love Pilobolus. Their concepts of movement and bodies, and what meant dance, really was revolutionary.

  3. Academichic

    Great interview, this was so fun for me to read because I've seen Pilobolus perform and think they are amazing!

    When you see them on stage, they take on the aura of demi-gods with their amazing abilities and beautiful appearance, so it's crazy to be reminded that these are real people with many of the same worries and hang-ups that we all share. It's good to remember that we all see others as perfect and ourselves as full of imperfections but those same idolized people have their worries and struggles in turn. It's a good reminder that imperfection is an illusion.

    Thank you for such great and candid answers, Jeffrey and Anikka! You guys rock, Pilobolus is amazing! S

  4. Sonja

    Great interview, Sal! I've never seen Pilobolus perform but will definitely keep an eye out for them. Thank you for sharing!

  5. Luinae

    As an Irish Dancer, this really resonates with me. I also plan to dance professionally as I get older (I'm 14)

    I've always been glad that my dance school doesn't have a mirror- it just isn't in the nature of Irish Dance. Once a girl in my school went to a competition and the judge told her she didn't have the right "body type" to be a dancer, she's more apple shaped. It was completely ridiculous. I naturally look like a stereoptypical dancer's body. I have long legs and arms, a very long neck, a small waist, and I am thin.

    One of the wonderful things about dance is you become more intune with your body and what it can do. I know the moves my body can do and how to support it better then ever. This is the biggest benefit I've had from dance- knowing and learning more from my body. It also made me respect my body more- I am so proud of what it can do.

  6. KrissyBell

    Pilobolus is amazing!

    I developed my womanly body very early, which hampered my dance career. I was lucky though to have a dance instructor who also had a womanly body. She taught me that movement, and the body can be beautiful no matter what size you are. I had to give up my dream of being on pointe (weak ankles), but discovered in the process, forms of dance that suited my personality and body better, such as Broadway and Modern.

  7. mistie

    Thank you Sal for that great interview! How cool that they would take time out to chat with you. I will be sharing this with my students!

  8. Holly

    I loved this interview! Thank you for publishing it! I have a slightly different perspective, as I was involved in gymnastics (not competitively).

    I think that gymnasts suffer some of the same issues as dancers, they compete wearing nearly no clothing, and the classic expectation for gymnasts is that of the iron curtain gymnasts, very lean. Kerri Strug wrote about her battle with her eating disorder rather poignantly in her autobiography: Landing on My Feet. While I think that young gymnasts may still feel that they are expected to look like Nastia Liukin, the new code of points, with it's expectations of high difficulty, has brought out a new bunch of gymnasts that look more like Shawn Johnson. One look at her and you just know that she is a powerhouse.

    I was never competitive, and I don't know if gyms still have mandatory weigh in sessions, but the gym in which I am employed does not do that. Yet, it still hurts my heart when I hear the mothers of the team girls ask if their daughter needs to lose weight. I wish I could tell them that not only is their daughter only ten, but she is also only muscle. I am not the team coach, but in our gym the coaches are very positive and focus on being healthy rather than being a stick.

    In conclusion, yes I think that sports that combine both artistry and power such as ballet, dancing, ice skating, and gymnastics have higher rates of girls developing disordered eating, but I think that no matter what the area one is performing in, whether it be choir, basketball, acting, or swimming, one will always suffer from a heightened sense of his or her own body, because they know they are being judged by their appearance every time they step onto the court or stage.

  9. cleverly

    Great interview. I think it's awesome that you got a guy to do it too, to gain the two different perspectives of the same type of dancing and body image.

  10. kinsey elise

    Sadly, I've never gotten to see Pilobolus live, but I'm still hoping to, one day. These interviews were very interesting.

    I'm 18 and I've been dancing my whole life in many styles; ballet, jazz, contemporary, modern, lyrical, tap, musical theater, and even hip-hop. Ballet is definitely reputed to be the style with the harshest view of body image, but thankfully, at my studio, the teachers just want us to be healthy. I attend a Christian studio, and all of my teachers have experience with the good and bad aspects of professional dancing and body image. I want my body to be healthy enough to dance; that is the key. I think as long as I remain healthy, my body is also going to look the way I want it to.

  11. Nadine

    Hi Sal – this is so interesting!

    I am a dance teacher (ballet, jazz and zumba). I trained in ballet from the age of 6, but instead of dancing professionally as an adult, I was a school teacher, and now I have combined the two areas as a dance teacher. I have never had the 'ballerina physique'. Although I am tiny, I have short limbs, a long torso, very muscular shoulders and thighs, a short neck and a huge head. But this has never prevented me from being able to do the moves! (And I know to go for a racer-back leotard rather than shoestring straps, for a more flattering neck and shoulder line!)

    In my experience, it has been rare for me to dance in a single-purpose studio with mirrors. Most of my training and all my current teaching is done in community halls. I think in a lot of ways this is beneficial, and it is a lot more fun to 'feel' how you are doing rather than 'see' how you are doing. And of course you can see other people in the mirror, but you can only feel your own body, so there's less comparison. That said, mirrors definitely have their place – I am not anti-mirror!

    With my own students, I would NEVER tell someone to lose weight. Dancers need to be strong! If any dancer is working hard, they will inevitably be fit and trim, and I personally much prefer the muscular aesthetic to the skinny aesthetic. I am quite small, and I have never felt any pressure to lose weight – what I really 'needed' to do to attain the traditional ideal was grow my arms, legs and neck longer, and of course that is impossible!

    I also find dancing dissolves the mind/body divide – when I dance I am at one with all aspects of my being, and indeed am at one with the music, and it's the best thing in the world. 😀

  12. spacegrrl

    i've wanted to see pilobolus for years – they come here every summer for the american dance festival. i'm always busy or forget to get tickets in time!

    thanks for this interview, it's great.

  13. Rad_in_Broolyn

    Thanks for the great interview, Sal. I was a budding wanna be ballerina for a little bit (I had the "right build", hip flexibility, etc.) but I didn't have the discipline and patience for all that. While I don't have regrets, reading the interview of Anikka saying, "I love that I am 5'7", curvy, and strong" that made me want to go and work out. (I did). Another inspiring post!

  14. FashionTheorist

    I, too, have loved Pilobolus since college, although I've never had the pleasure of seeing them perform live. I adore how they push the developing edge of the art form – plus, how can you not love a dance company named after a phototropic fungus?

    As a tribal bellydancer, I guess I've have a different experience regarding body image than dancers in other forms. We get to be a bit more covered up in some ways (long, full skirts, dramatic head coverings, and sometimes props such as Wings of Isis and dance veils that can conceal much, if not occasionally all, of the body). There's also a deliberate culture of female empowerment and size and shape acceptance: some of the best dancers I've met are what is sometimes referred to as "Goddess sized."

  15. Melissa

    Great interviews, Sal! I'll have to keep my eyes open for the next time the troupe is in town.

    I danced for 11 years in ballet, tap, and modern forms. I stopped when I was 17, and then took a ballet class in college. I'm now 6 months into my first year of Irish dance and I love it!

    In all the years I've danced, I've never run into anyone who told others that they needed to lose weight or be a certain body-type in order to dance. (I am 5'7" tall and don't have much in the way of hips or a bust, mostly to my dismay.) Some of the girls in my current dance class are in it more for the fitness and agility than anything else and our teachers are nothing but supportive.

    Thank you, Jeffery and Annika for your honest answers! Hope to see you the next time you're in town. -M

  16. Anonymous

    This was a very interesting interview. I did a lot of dance in college, but gave it up afterwards — a combination of a busy two-job schedule and a sense of not being a "real" dancer. Unfortunately I think that not looking like a real dancer was part of that, along with feeling like I had started too late.
    My daughter took ballet for several years. However, when she was eight years old and spent much of her class time looking in the mirror and complaining that her butt was too big, we ended her dance career. I felt that she was way to susceptible to body image problems.
    Thanks for reminding me about Pilobolus – I saw them years ago (in Minneapolis) and loved the show.

  17. fleur_delicious

    Well, here's a different perspective. I had to leave gymnastics at age 5: I'd progressed as far as my muscle mass would allow. The coaches said I'd need to take a few years off and just plain grow up, but by then I'd be too tall to come back. I hold nothing against them – in the interim, I found ice dance, which proved a truer passion.

    As for ballet, I used it as cross training when I was a serious ice dancer, and took a class again in undergrad "for fun." I never had any problems with body issues but that's probably because ballet was never the serious focus of my athletic energies, and also, I was born with the ballet body. To wit: I study with a really fabulous woman, a dancer and choreographer, a former member of Merce Cunningham's company (talk about cred!). One of the first things she ever asked me was if I was a ballerina. Even now, more than a decade since my serious dance days (and some 10-15 lbs. heavier, as puberty didn't hit until 2 years after I stopped dancing), I look and move like a ballerina. So ballet's always been good to me, but I have the genes.

    I personally never had problems with body issues when I danced. For me, dance was about grace and a serious commitment to athleticism; it wasn't about unattainable ideals so much as lots and lots of hard work into which I willingly threw myself for sheer joy. I also had a coach who didn't believe in forcing his dancers to go on strict diets. Other coaches were starving 12 year olds down under 90 lbs, but not mine. Even if he had, I was a mere slip of a girl and I seriously doubt anyone would have considered putting me on a diet (at age 14, I had a 22 inch waist and was 5'9"). I was aware of the importance of maintaining my "line," so I skipped the fried junk that many of my middle-school and high-school classmates would indulge in. But I carb-loaded like nobody's business and never gave it a second thought. The only issues I had pertained to the fact that puberty simply would NOT hit while I danced, and all the girls around me were starting to look like women, while I looked like a wiry muscled boy. But that only mattered in the outside world – dance was, forever and always, my safe and joyful place.

  18. The Raisin Girl

    This was so interesting. I did dance for a very short time as a child, and one of the things I hated about it–aside from the teacher, who was a regular Cruella DeVille–was how our bodies were compared, even at that young age. Even as a kid I was self-conscious about having my body swathed in tight, form-fitting clothes and placed next to other girls. God, how I hated those mirrors!

    Just this past Friday, I went to a dance recital at my college, and one of the things that caught my attention was that there actually seemed to be no direct correlation between body type and actual skill. The three best dancers I noticed were a medium-height girl with a very pear-shaped figure, a very short girl who was what some might call "plump" for a dancer, and one very tall, willowy girl. They were all GREAT dancers and their different body shapes didn't affect how good they looked at all. I wonder if that's just me, or if anyone else watching would have thought the same thing.

  19. Kelly

    I don't know what else to say except AWESOME interview, Sal.

  20. gina

    What a great interview! Pilobolus was the first professional dance company I saw perform live, back in college in the late 1990's!!

    I struggled with my body image for much of my teens and early 20's. In my mid-20's I started taking dance classes (ballet and jazz) several times a week. It was that experience that really helped me start to appreciate my body. I started to appreciate my body for what it could do, how strong it was becoming, and how flexible it is. I had teachers who were very encouraging of students of all body types relishing what their bodies could do. I was staring at myself in a mirror regularly, and seeing what beautiful shapes and movements my body could achieve. That was one of the things that really helped me start to feel good about my body.

  21. Kristen

    Fascinating post, Sally. As someone who danced ballet for nearly 16 years, I can agree with a lot of their viewpoints, which may be why I am harsh to judge my post-baby body even when I am nearly back to my old size (and will even wear a bikini!). This is something for me to think about.

  22. the freelancer's fashionblog

    I really wanted to see Pilobus when they were here but I already had tickers to see a play when they were here, and a show the other night – hope they make it here to Helsinki again!

  23. Kaija

    I'll echo others and chime in that this was a great interview and that I too have been a long-time fan of Pilobolus and love their combination of strength and grace!

    The body image discussion is very interesting to me because I was in hard-core athletics through high school and was always tall and strong (5'9" and 170 lbs in late high school/early college). I loved lifting weights and using my size in sports and felt like my body was a functional apparatus more than something decorative, which really helped me avoid some of the eating disorders and self-esteem issues that seemed to be rampant among young girls.

    Now, in my "adult" years, there isn't much opportunity for more than recreational sports as a way of staying active, meeting other sports people, and having fun. However, I've discovered dance, specifically ballet, as an adult and I absolutely LOVE it. I like the discipline and the challenge even though it's very very different than sports and I find that my athletic background, strength, and general body awareness is a big asset. I'm now 140 lbs and my body looks completely different than when I was an athlete (I always had to eat a lot and lift a lot to put on muscle and keep it on). I'm leaner now but still strong and I am amazed at how much my body can change with time and with different activity. I appreciate the different perspective that dance brings…it's hard to make movements that take so much strength look effortless…but I'm also much more able to keep the body stuff in context as a adult. I think I would have easily gotten caught up in trying to fit the ballet type if I did dance instead of sports as a kid.

  24. skapamusik

    What an amazing interview! I was so taken by this – I started taking dance classes (salsa) about a year ago and now I am (and the boyfriend) in the school's dance company – the other are pretty much the most advanced students.. This company puts on shows for malls, nightclubs and right now we're in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar.

    This environment is very new to me, and it took time for me to get used to the mirrors – it's easy to start looking around at the other girls and start comparing. I mean, I'm pretty much the only girl in the group with tighs… 😉

    on a another note – I attended a artist camp this past summer where I met a girl who danced with such spirit and such joy. Our teacher made a point out of this – that THIS is the way we all should embrace dancing. She did not have a "dancers" body but watching her dance was just pure joy. I think of her when I dance, that it isn't about the way we look – it's the feeling we project and what we give.

  25. pilobolus

    Hi all! This is Jeffrey from Pilobolus. Thanks for everybody's comments. It's fascinating to read so many personal accounts of how one views their own body, especially when dance or sports are involved.

    It is especially wonderful to hear that there are dance studios out there that encourage their students to be healthy and happy in whatever shape or form that their bodies take. Obviously we should pay attention to what children are eating as they develop (especially when cheap fast food is so readily available and tempting…I enjoy a burger and fries as much as the next person) and there are indeed cases where children do need to lose weight to be healthy, but there are right and wrong ways to go about it. Giving children complexes about their bodies isn't healthy and I'm glad to see that many of your experiences have been positive ones.

    Sally, this is a great blog! You are so creative with your outfits. I love it!

    Thanks again to everybody for your comments! And come see our show the next time we're in town! (Warning: shameless plug—>) Also, Pilobolus has a blog (which I run): Come check us out!


  26. Peter

    Fantastic post! I love Pilobolus and it was great to read these interviews.

  27. Mari

    These were great interviews! I'ved Pilabolus for such a long time, never realized that they only have 2 women in the troop.

    Next can we have similar interviews from professional athletes? I wonder if they think they worry about their body's appearance more than dancers do?

  28. CrankyOtter

    Fascinating. Thanks for pursuing this, thanks to the dancers for responding, and kudos on the thoughtful questions.

    I used to be in a sport one trimester a year in school to keep in shape, then did drama (badly) and chorus (well) for the rest of the year. I'm always happiest when I can trust my body to do what I ask of it. I couldn't when I was learning to snowboard, so I got wickedly fit for the next couple years, but developed tendinitis of the everything before learning how to turn right. I'm feeling inspired to get fit again as I am not at all fit now.

  29. Jennifer Sellers

    Awesome interviews! Thanks for this. I am also 27 and while I am not a professional dancer, I definitely am starting to notice my body's aging too.