"Oh, you dance? Prove it- do a split!"
I can't tell you how many times I heard that on the playground in elementary school.
Currently on Facebook there is a video circulating of a 13 year old cheerleader screaming in pain as she is forced into a split at cheer camp. When I first viewed the footage, my impulse was to label it as child abuse. The girl is being held down against her will and is pushed further into a split as she screams for them to stop. I'd like to say I wasn't surprised by the footage, but unfortunately, I can't. In both cheerleading and dance, flexibility is a prized possession. People watched in awe as a young Brooke Hyland bent herself in half on the early seasons on Dance Moms. So many photos and videos of seemingly impossible bendy dancers get shared on social media.
I am genetically inflexible. If I had a dime for every time someone in the dance world told me that I "just needed to stretch more", I could actually afford a new pair of pointe shoes every month. I was born with abnormally short tendons throughout my legs, meaning that I am dispositioned to be less flexible than the average person. I remember not being able to walk with my heels flat on the ground as a child; I later went through physical therapy and slept with braces on my legs to try to stretch my hamstrings out. Through years of dancing and therapy, I have become much more flexible than I would be naturally, and would be considered more flexible than the average person. However, I am not as flexible as the average dancer. I have never been able to do a full split. In ballet, my biggest weakness is my turnout. Ballet requires dancers to execute most movements with their hips facing outwards (ultimately, making your feet face horizontally instead of vertically). Because the tendons in my hips are too tight, but I was under pressure to always be in turn out, I unconsciously forced my legs to turn out from my knees. From doing this, I developed tendonitis that I still struggle with.
Being the least flexible girl in the class took a toll on my self-esteem when I was younger. I always felt like I was never good enough to be a ballet dancer because I couldn't get my splits. By not being able to participate in the spectacle of flexibility, I thought I wouldn't be cast in my dream roles. Having a physical limitation put me at a disadvantage in the dance world.
As I got older and was exposed to a wider variety of dance, I began to question why flexibility is so idolized in the dance world. Yes, extensions are beautiful in a ballet piece, and splits can help with extensions and leaps, but there are many roles that do not demand as much flexibility as others. The only character in The Nutcracker that traditionally bends in half is coffee, anyways. There are also many other movements that can be done to express something through dance. I have been exposed to and have participated in many pieces that did not require me to be so bendy, like this one...
Long story short, being incredibly flexible is impressive, but it is NOT the only important aspect of dance. Flexibility should be worked for, but not forced; dancers can still express themselves through movement even if they have physical limitations.
As a future dance educator, I want to make a promise to all of my future students, to teach them how to express themselves through whatever movement they may be capable of doing. No person should be pushed to the point that they are traumatized and injured (like the cheerleader in the viral video), or be made to feel that they aren't good enough because of things that are out of their control. Sure, maybe they'll never be the Arabian Princess in The Nutcracker, but that doesn't mean they can't be Clara.
My best friend, Casey, and I used to hang out almost every Saturday afternoon after ballet class. On one occasion, I got discouraged after class because of my lack of flexibility. Casey's mom gave me a pep talk to told me to stop focusing on what I can't do, and start focusing on what I can do. And if you ask me, that's a whole lot of dancing. So to anyone who has a physical limitation of any kind and is worried that they can't keep up, stop focusing on all the things you may never be able to do. Keep working towards your goals (I still sit in a flexistretcher to try to improve my flexibility), but don't let what you can't do get you down. Focus on expressing yourself through movement and creating art...and there are many other ways to do that besides getting your splits.
Hello there, my name is Becca and I am a 22 year old dance teacher from Massachusetts.
News & Events
9/18 Follow my new Instagram just for my dance things!
12/23 I was one of NDEO's Guest Bloggers this year! Read "Teaching is a Vocation. Not a Fallback" on their Behind the Curtain Blog!
9/27 I will be presenting my research at the National Dance Education Organization National Conference next week! See my research project by clicking the button below!
4/15 While working on PMA's production of The Addams Family, I got to combine my two favorite styles of dance (ballet and musical theatre) for "The Moon and Me"! Watch my talented students dance by clicking the button below!
2/20 I am choreographing PMA Theatre Guild's Production of The Addams Family! Come see these amazing high school students perform at Presentation of Mary Academy in Methuen, MA April 13 & 14! Tickets available at the door.
2/20 I am stage managing BSU's Dance Kaleidoscope this year! Show dates are March 29-31 at Bridgewater State University in Bridgewater, MA. Come see this student choreography showcase!
11/5 I will once again be dancing in a BSUDC concert! Tickets to WinterDance are now available!
8/24 NDEO's National Honor Society for Dance Arts has published one of my articles in their newsletter! Read an updated version of "Audition Advice" here:
5/16 Interested in learning about movement concepts? Visit Becca's new Educational Dance website!
5/8 BSU Dance Company's Dance Kaleidoscope 2017 is now on Youtube! You can watch my performances by visiting the VIDEOS page!
4/23 I recently performed for the residents of Allerton House in Hingham, MA! You can watch part of my performance here!
Amesbury Children's Theatre presents...James and the Giant Peach Jr, featuring choreography by me! Click for tickets!
2/8 My piece "Barefoot" is now available to watch online! Click to watch!
2/5 Happy to say I have been cast in BSU Dance Company's Spring concert Dance Kaleidoscope! I will be dancing in 3 faculty choreographed pieces, including excerpts from The Sleeping Beauty in which I will be dancing the role of Lilac Fairy! Show dates are March 31-April 1 at Bridgewater State University.
Click the button for more info!
1/15 Ballet with Becca is now on Facebook! Click to visit the page, and be sure to like it while you're there!
1/14 I am happy to say I will be attending artEmotion's summer intensive in June! I will be dancing in the one week artEmotion Adult Program. If anyone would like to join or audition for any other artEmotion program, visit their website!
12/13 My photo gallery has been recreated! Click to see the new page, including photos from WinterDance 2016!