We are excited to share insight from YPAD Advisory Panel Member, Katie Gatlin, B.S., M.S.
Over the summer months, Curtain Call and Youth Protection Advocates in Dance (YPAD), joined forces to collaborate on a Body Image and Special Needs Initiative. The Body Image Initiative focused on a dancer’s experience while trying on costumes, while the Special Needs Initiative promoted inclusiveness in dance by providing a photo shoot with a variety of dancers and providing icons (for sensory integration needs) in the costume catalog. Both initiatives were pioneering!
I have been a dance instructor for 19 years and owned a dance studio for five years. I have my M.S. in Mental Health Counseling/Psychology and work with adolescents with a myriad of special needs and/or mental health disorders. Being a lead on the initiative committees was an inspiring and humbling experience. It is my opinion, that not only are these initiatives important but that Curtain Call has raised the standard for costume companies. Creating icons for costumes that cited a source for compression needs, fidget needs, and which fabrics are not as itchy; (to name a few) not only assists instructors in choosing a costume for individuals who have special needs but also dancers who have sensitivities. It would have been invaluable to have notation regarding a variety of sensory needs when I ordered countless costumes while I owned a studio. The process of developing icons and categorizing the costumes allowed me to truly conceptualize and appreciate the various nuances of costuming that may affect dancers differently.
The Body Image Initiative was particularly intriguing but also a bit triggering. When in college I was hospitalized for anorexia nervosa and costuming typically triggered me and my disordered eating and body image. A dancer has a multitude of opportunities to scrutinize their bodies. Dancing in front of mirrors, seeing videos and pictures of themselves, and trying on countless costumes. Although many dancers are excited to receive their costumes, some may experience anxiety and/or deflated body image and self esteem. Through a variety of medias, females learn to view their bodies as objects rather than the intricate machines that they are. Media portrays a narrow and strict definition/idea of what a body should look like or what is socially acceptable. Those that do not fit that definition/idea may feel shamed. That is then compounded by adolescence and their perception. It is a slippery slope and one that needs to be acknowledged and discussed. The Body Image Initiative provides a qualitative glimpse of this process and also provides insight and talking points for studio owners and instructors.
For many, dance is cathartic and a form of release and expression; however, during a variety of experiences (costuming, competition, recital, etc.) dancers’ insecurities can be magnified. Both of these initiatives revealed a plethora of talking points in regards to the costuming aspect of the dance world. Dance is more than just movement and counts, it is a total body experience that requires the mind, body and spirit of the being. Understanding all that encompasses a dancer’s experience will allow us to better serve our dancers and their needs. The popular YPAD hashtag, put the dancer before the dance, is given clarity through these initiatives. Curtain Call leads the industry in this standard and has proven time and again to put the dancer before the dance.
For more information regarding YPAD, please visit ypad4change.org.