OMGEEEEE. You Guys. Today is a big day. Why? Well, just because I'm sending my very first children's book out into the Universe!
It's now available through Kindle Direct Publishing, and word has it you can check it here, but wanted to show it off here first. If you've poked at all around my site, you know that I'm pretty darn passionate about making dance accessible for everyone. One of the obstacles that people often feel is a barrier to being a dancer is their body type (raising my hand here, I feel that often), so What Dancers Look Like is all about zooming out on that perspective and refocusing on the amazing dancers that have been different and paved the way for us, and zooming in on the realization that we can look exactly the way we do, and still do anything we want. It's that simple. Another really awesome thing about What Dancers Look Like is that one of my former ballet students from Sonoma Conservatory of Dance, Natalie Anderson has done a GORGEOUS job with the illustrations I asked her to make for the book. I'm in awe of her many talents, and so glad to have her handiwork accompany my story. As nervous as I am to put this little work of mine out into the world, I would still love for you to not only read it, but share it and let me know what you think! So, without further ado my friends, I present, What Dancers Look Like!
What Dancers Look Like
Lizzy loved to dance. She was excellent at chasses and plies, and her port de bras was much better than when she started dance lessons. Her teacher, Miss Louise even said so. Other things Lizzy was not so good at yet. Sautes were really hard, and it was difficult not to get dizzy when she practiced her turns. But Lizzy practiced every day, and she loved watching the older dancers at her school, imagining the day when she would look like them.
One day, when watching the big girls, something began to nag at Lizzy. She started to notice that many of the big girls all looked.... the same. And Lizzy noticed that she practiced the same way as her classmates, and wore the same clothes as the older dancers, but she didn’t really look like any of her classmates. This worried Lizzy.
Then Lizzy had an idea. Miss Ellen would surely be the person to talk to! Miss Ellen owned the ballet school, and was always very busy in her office, but when Lizzy went there with her mother the day before she started ballet, Miss Ellen made silly faces at Lizzy when her Mom wasn’t looking, so Lizzy immediately liked her. Lizzy had also loved the wonderful posters of all kinds of dancers Miss Ellen had in her office.
So the next day after ballet class, Lizzy stood outside Miss Ellen’s office for a while. Nothing happened, so Lizzy poked her head inside the office door.
“Yes, Lizzy? You’ve been hanging outside my door for 5 minutes now, what do you need?” Miss Ellen said over her spectacles.
“Miss Ellen, will you tell me about the dancers in your pictures?” Lizzy asked, feeling a bit nervous.
“Why?” asked Miss Ellen, She put down the papers she was reading.
“Well, all the dancers in your pictures, they all look so different,” said Lizzy, “and I look so different from anyone in my ballet class.”
Miss Ellen looked at her, then said “Certainly,” and stood up.
They walked to the first poster. It had a ballet dancer, standing in an arabesque en pointe, reaching for the sky.
“You know what kind of dancer this is, don’t you?” asked Miss Ellen.
Lizzy nodded. “It’s a ballet dancer.”
“Correct.” Said Miss Ellen. “Ballet tries to defy gravity, the force that keeps our feet on the ground, but other types of dance try to stay close to the earth, like this one.” Miss Ellen pointed to the next poster, of an Indian dancer surrounded by trees. Her knees were bent in plie, and she looked like she could have been a part of the swaying branches behind her.
Lizzy and Miss Ellen moved to the next picture. These dancers were barefoot, and one dancer was in a wheelchair, and stretched his body like the letter T, while another dancer reached her legs like the letter V, upside down and doing a cartwheel.
“Some dancers dance in chairs, like this one.” Miss Ellen said.
“Why?” Lizzy asked.
“Because that is how they get around. Some dancers walk, some dancers use a wheelchair, or crutches. It does not matter how we move, only that we each find a way of moving that suits us.”
The next poster showed hip-hop dancers on a basketball court. “Some dancers don’t perform on a stage like we do, some dancers dance on sidewalks, rooftops, or mountains, or deserts.”
“Why?” asked Lizzy.
“Because that is where they feel most at home.” And Miss Ellen moved to the next picture. It had a round shaped woman and man singing and dancing on a beach.
“Dancers can be different shapes too. They can be men or women.”
“But I’ve never seen a boy dance!” Lizzy giggled.
“This boy started dancing when he was young and then made one of the greatest dance companies in the world.” Miss Ellen pointed to the next picture, which showed a strong black man soaring high in the air like a bird. Lizzy thought about how much she loved jumping, and that she’d like to be able to jump as high as this man.
“Sometimes dancing is for children.” Miss Ellen said, and stopped in front of a group of small boys and girls dancing inside of a long, twisting costume that looked like a dragon. “Other times adults dance, for an audience, or just for themselves.” And Miss Ellen struck a pose like the two tango dancers in the next picture, who were dancing all alone in an empty room.
“Some dances tell a story, or are a way for people to ask for what they need, like rain, food, or protection.” Miss Ellen touched the corner of a poster of Navajo dancers, who wore large headdresses and had painted their bodies’ red and black.
They had visited all the posters in the room, but Miss Ellen stopped in front of a long mirror by her door.
“And I see two more dancers right in front of us, in this mirror. One old, and one young, but that doesn’t make us different from each other when we dance, does it?” asked Miss Ellen, putting her feet in first position.
Lizzy smiled and put her feet in first position to match Miss Ellen. “No, I don’t think so.” She thanked her teacher with a hug and grabbed her bag to leave.
“Lizzy,” said Miss Ellen as she walked to the door. “Every body can dance. If you ever need a reminder that dancers come in all shapes, sizes, colors and from all around the world, you can always come back here.”
“Thanks Miss Ellen” Lizzy grinned.
“Or, you can always just look in the mirror.” Miss Ellen winked at her. So that’s exactly what Lizzy did the very next day back in her ballet class, and for many ballet classes for many years, until she too had a place on the wall in Miss Ellen’s office.