Wednesday, October 1, 2008

"Too Fat to Dance"

When I was in Ghana two years ago, I frequently rehearsed with two local dance groups. On the tro-tro one day (the local public bus) traveling to a dance rehearsal, I got into a conversation with a man who noticed that I was not Ghanaian. He asked the usual questions: Where are you from? America. What are you doing here? Going to school. What are you studying? Dance. At that, he gave me a once over and promptly replied, You are too fat to dance! This proclamation quickly rolled off my back because a. indeed I was a dancer and b. Ghanaians have no sense of political correctness and say what they believe and mean, which isn't always true.

What is true though, is that the last time I was a small fry I was about seven or eight years old. Then one day my grandmother got me to eat all of my pancakes and belong to the clean plate club, and as my grandfather Ray Mosley would say, "We used to couldn't get you to start eatin', now we can't get you to stop."

Regardless of my size, I have danced since I was four years old. And for the majority of my life my size has never posed a problem for me as a dancer. Yes, I got sideways looks from people when I told them that I dance... looks that got even more sideways when I said that was indeed my professional career goal. But it never bothered me because my parents instilled in me a poise, confidence, and assurance that anything I want is possible; even if they were thinking the same thing as the people giving me sideways looks.

When anyone has ever mentioned that I should lose weight, particularly because I was a dancer, I heavily resisted. I was fine with the way I looked. I didn't feel like I was handicapped in any way, and generally outside of an "ideal dance" body, I knew that I was gorgeous. Telling me I should lose weight, was like telling me I should shave my legs (an activity that I do not, have not, and will not engage in). Why? To fit into someone else's preconceived notion of what is beautiful or what is socially acceptable? Sorry, nope! No thank you.

2008 though has brought many changes in my life, one of which is significant weight loss. Today in school, the outfit I was wearing must have been particularly revealing of my new shape because I was getting comments left and right such as, "You look so great now. Don't you feel better?" "Isn't it liberating having lost that weight?" Ummm, no. I'm really wondering, do people automatically assume that you feel bad about yourself if you're not slim? Because if they do, they are sadly mistaken. I have never felt bad about myself because of my body. In fact, my body has always been a point of self pride. I've been told innumerable times that I am the mirror image of my mother, who to me is the most gorgeous woman on earth; I love to dress my womanly shape; and I've never had a problem getting a date.

Apparently I'm also dancing SOOO much better since I came back to school this fall. While I'm sure my technique has improved over the last year, let's be real people... I could dance just as well when I walked in the door August 2007, as I did August 2008. I can honestly say to the best of my own knowledge, Iowa is the only place I have ever been where the blinders have been completely up where apparently a preoccupation with my body kept them from realizing that I knew how to dance. Maybe I've been a bit naive my whole life, but if I can get cast by working choreographers in NYC who enjoy the way I move, why the hell wasn't I cast in Iowa?

It is important for me to note that losing weight this year was not about losing weight. It was about a lifestyle change. I have always dropped a few pounds and toned up when I was dancing full time, but since that was only in the summer and the academic year was spent being a bookworm (my parents weren't the kind who let me spend endless hours drowned in my extra curricular activities), my body reflected that lifestyle. College was worse with pizza, poptarts and mountain dew which helped me survive sometimes weekly allnighters. That combined with partying until the clubs closed at 4 am, eating a full meal at an all night diner and then going directly to sleep afterwards (sometimes in the cab on the way uptown) resulted in a steady upward climb on the scale.

2008 however, began with waking up at 7 am daily to be ready to teach at 8:30 am. That meant that I had to go to bed by 10:30, which meant dinner was at 6:30 or 7 (since I wasn't cast in any performances, I could eat at a normal time). I also decided that I wanted to have more stamina while dancing in class, so I started doing a power walk on the treadmill a couple of times a week. Within a month of the start of the second semester, I literally put on a pair of leggings one day and realized that they were too big. From there, it has been about maintaining and staying active in ways that will make me a better dancer (i.e. my power walk has turned into a 20 min run). The side effect: dropping two pant sizes.

While this entry is quite lengthy, I felt the need to vent and explain the mystery of Sydnie's magic weightloss. After being practically the same size for all of my teenage and adult life, I am disorientingly smaller than ever. While I realize that now I moreso fit into the apparent ideal body for a dancer, I need it to be understood that I didn't lose weight because I thought I was too fat to dance. Rather, my current lifestyle more closely resembles that of a dancer, and my body reflects it.


Courtney said...

Syd, what can I say - you are absolutely amazing! It's such a shame those crazies in Iowa can't appreciate that. I miss you and love you, CK

Unknown said...

Sydnie - Your Dad, as he often does, forwarded your posting to me. Once again I am blown away by you, Girl. You have lived more in your young life and have more poise and grace than most of us manage to achieve in living many more years than you have.
You made me laugh at the note that the Ghanaians would call you fat. We also live among people who are terribly honest, although some social graces seem to be creeping into our Amish neighborhood. They now refer to me and Ron as "Fluffy" instead of Fat.
I must say that I have always thought of you as gorgeous - yes, in your body (although I did not know that you did not shave your legs - so I may have to re-think that one!)but mostly in your heart and your soul.
You are an inspiration and a reaffirmation of the respect and love that I hold for your parents. Thanks for allowing me to live vicariously once again through your writing. Pat

Unknown said...

Well, Sydney, you are maturing in every writing you present.

I agree that Iowa is the loser. Keep and protect the integrity and character that has been instilled in you. I guarantee that those traits will enhance anything and everything you want and touch.

I love you dearly... Lovitha

Unknown said...

I had to make another comment...

"Fat" mean prosperity. Especially in the Bible, it denotes the richest part, the best of production. Therefore, all the lives you touch with your dance will be enriched by not only your talent but your richness as well. You come from a dancing family: Uncle Whit, Aunt Lillie, Cuz Welton, me, etc., etc. Build on things eternal and watch what God will do in your life. I am soooooo
proud and thankful to God that I am learning from you even through this blog.

With that said, I think I'm done (for now...



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