I’ll admit it. I’ve always kind of wanted to be a HuffPo blogger since that site became one of my top sources of procrastination material. So I was super excited when this piece I wrote, reflecting on the trend of ballet-themed workouts, got in. I actually wrote it for my freshman writing class: we were required to submit the piece to a publication as part of the assignment. It worked.
Here’s a teaser:
I saw another one of those ads today on the side of my browser, trying to sell me another one of those ballet-themed workout classes. It had all the usual features: a picture of a young, lean female instructor, a reference to Black Swan, a statement about toned butts, and of course, the promise of “looking” (not moving, feeling, or being) like a dancer. Of course, this workout would not contain any ballet technique and certainly no actual dancing.
As a lifelong dancer, I am disheartened by such commercial movements, which have managed to strip the dancing out of dance. But even more importantly, I see this “barre workout” trend as a symptom of a culture that teaches people — especially women — to have a relationship with their bodies only from the outside — how they appear to others — while ignoring the internal experience of movement.
I am reminded of art critic John Berger’s statement about subjects in both paintings and life: “Men act and women appear.” Women cannot act without being constantly aware of how they appear to an outside surveyor. While I certainly wouldn’t say that men’s fitness ignores appearance, we can clearly see that this female-targeted fitness movement — specifically claiming to make one appear as a dancer without acting as one — plays into the notion that women’s bodies matter only for form, not function.
Sometimes, I’m actually surprised by how most people have such a limited view of the purpose of movement and bodies. When I tell people that I am a dance major or that I dance 25 hours a week, a common response is, “Wow, that must be really good exercise.”
. . .