Yes, I am fat. And I am a dancer. For some people, it may be an oxymoron. Quite a few presume that I take dance classes to lose weight. So when I meet aunties at dreaded social gatherings, they look me up and down and say, “Weren’t you going for those dance classes? Have you lost any weight because of them?” "Beta, why don't you join the gym?" It’s beyond my patience to make them understand that my reason to dance, to learn dance and perhaps someday to teach it, goes much deeper than that.
I dance because it is the only place where I am myself – unashamed, unapologetic, naked and pure. It is the only thing that binds me to this world and keeps me away, at the same time. It is the hinge that gives me wings, so I can swing in any direction and express feelings that words cannot. It is the only way I know to respond to music.
But I am not your usual dancer. Uh..uh. A passerby may look at me and never fathom that I could lift my leg, leave alone do a pirouette or a split. I don’t blame him because I don’t have the perfect, lean, slim form that dancers are wont to have. Dainty on their feet, not an inch of fat, structured legs and oh those perfectly framed arms. I can just imagine Natalie Portman in The Black Swan. She’s the picture of what a dancer ought to look like. Stereotypically.
With a body like mine, I struggle. Every class, every day, every rehearsal for stage. For my slim fellow students (and I love and respect them all and know that they toil too), the struggle is to get that step right, or to accomplish a certain feat that will make them stand out, or to perfect technique to be able to apply it while dancing. For me, the strain is double. I have to grapple with the weight first. And then with everything else. So the uphill climb becomes steeper for dancers like me. Not to forget the emotional and psychological beating that we give ourselves for failing. It takes a mammoth amount of motivation and self-encouragement to get started again every time we fall.
Fortunately, I’ve been wacky enough to believe that no amount of ‘fat’ can stop me from dancing or trying to be better than before. It has been a testing challenge, but my passion has consumed me, often enabling me to turn a blind eye to my less-than-perfect shape, that doesn’t represent the quintessential dancer.
It is true that sometimes my body defeats me. I work hard and in my mind I know I can do it. It’s the performance where I sometimes strike out. In my mind, I’m a super ninja who can do killer roundhouse kicks and blow the enemy away with a single iron fist punch. The truth is, I can perhaps injure the enemy far worse by sitting on him.
So while I’m on the floor, wrestling with the sweaty attempt to reach a full split or take my brush kick higher, I have two enemies to conquer – my weight and the inability to do it. Sometimes it pulls me down like rocks tied to my feet, and probably nobody can understand how it feels. There are days when I go back home from class cursing myself for not being able to do a step because my body came in the way.
But still, I dance. I may not be the best but I certainly try to be. I’ve never even won a competition but what I have is dance experience. I can tell you what you’re doing right and what you’re screwing up by watching you in class. I know what muscle will be worked out by what exercise and how to strengthen your core till it is rock solid. I know my music and can give anybody a run for their money when it comes to connecting movement to beats and pauses. And you should see me in my second split.