From age 5 – 16, I loved to dance. You could find me in a leotard balancing on my toes after a grande plie, rocking out my kick-ball-change and jazz hands to Flashdance or warming up at the barre for point. I was a dancer through and through. My Dad’s famous words: “You need a hook to get Julie off the stage.” Dancing was my love. I felt alive, self expressed and joyful beyond belief. I dreamt of being in the 1980’s Solid Gold dancing group. Every imaginary friend was a dance teacher or ballet dancer. I found my soul in moving to music.
Dancing had been my sacred experience of release and self love, especially since I was the tallest in my class, had boobs way before anyone else and was definitely a larger size then most girls my age.
All of this love came to a screeching halt on a chilly September day, 2 months before I turned 17. Within a 2 minute conversation I went from feeling enlivened, in love with life and thrilled with my ability to move – to complete shame, embarrassment, vulnerability and self loathing. After a double hitter of a classical ballet and point class, back to back, I was pulled aside by my esteemed teacher, Miss Patricia, only to be told that while I clearly tried hard, I was too large, too heavy, too tall – too everything – to be a real ballerina. I did love food and had already struggled big time with emotional over eating (i.e. eating over any emotions, binge eating in secret and many moments of body shame). She told me I should probably discontinue dancing since it was obvious I was not cut out to be a real dancer.
What I also heard was that I was an embarrassment to her, I was not good enough nor ever would be and didn’t have talent. It was that day I believed her words and ended my dancing classes. On that day, I lost a piece of myself.
In college I desperately wanted to take an elective ballet class, for fun, but dared not since I knew I would be an embarrassment to myself. For the next 20 years, I stopped doing what I loved and ceased to dance. Time passed and I felt grief and loss as though I had lost a dear friend. In a way, I had…I had lost a part of myself.
It wasn’t until I was in a transformational personal development weekend program where I woke up and realized I had been living my life as though there was actual truth to Miss Patricia’s words. In fact, I could see I believed the story of ‘not being good enough’ in many other areas of life as well. When I pulled apart the story, like unraveling a ball of yarn, I realized that there was no real efficacy to what she said. I had been living like she was right on the mark.
It occurred to me that I could actually start dancing again. What ensued after that eye opening weekend was nothing short of a blessing and breakthrough. I signed up the next week for a ballet class at a nearby dance studio. I cried my entire way through the warm up. I began to feel a re-connectedness to my essence. I then signed up for jazz, modern dance, hip hop and belly dancing…any dance class I could fit in. Feeling like I was reconnecting with the little girl in me that had been shut down for way too long, I couldn’t get enough dancing. It was magical. Soulful. Lots of tears were shed.
I danced back to myself and made a vow to not allow other’s thoughts of me dictate how I’d live my life. I realized I was not only good enough (if there is such a thing) but that it’s my purpose to help others see where they are living out a story of someone else’s words and to help them rewrite their story. I have a thriving coaching and inspirational speaking business today doing just that.
And, today I am a certified barre instructor, I teach pilates and a barefoot dance program…and I sure as heck know that no matter what my size is, I will always be a dancer.
Julie Reisler, MA, ACC
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Your article header resonated with me! ‘If you get the chance to sit it out or dance – I hope you’ll dance!’ My absolute wish for my children but this made me apply it to me too!
“I say, we can dance if we want to we can leave your friends behind
Cause your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance
Well they’re are no friends of mine…”
— Men Without Hats