I asked my ballet students to watch themselves in the mirror (a tool I hate, but have to use from time to time) and to tell me what they saw at the end of a jumping exercise.
One beautiful, blonde, 16-year-old girl with a body that many of us can only dream of, put her hand up.
I nodded at her to answer.
“Disgusting,” she grimaced. “We are disgusting.”
I felt a flash back to my life as a young dancer. The never ending self hatred and loathing. The mirror always reflecting back my failure, relentlessly; torturing me. I was haunted. I still am.
After I reassured them that none of them were disgusting, that they were in fact very talented, promising dancers, I asked them to think of constructive criticism. I asked them to give me technical corrections that they could actually improve upon. After a few minutes they came up with the correct answers: rolling knees, pelvises tipped, backs collapsing forward . Then they told me how they could correct those things.
I walked past the dancer disgusted with not only herself, but the whole class, “darling, I can’t correct ‘disgusting’ because it doesn’t exist in any of you.”
I have been bothered by the incident all week. I cannot shake it off. I understand all too well what she meant. I think it to myself every time I see my reflection.