Reframing Fat as a Tissue Worthy of our Study (upcoming)

Somatic Movement in Dance Education: Engaging Health and Creativity for Teachers and Students

National Dance Education Organization presents a Special Topic Conference in partnership with the International Somatic Movement Education and Therapy Association (ISMETA), Gibney: Agnes Varis Performing Arts Center, New York, New York

July 19-July 21, 2024

Fatness interdigitates with other subjectivities (along lines of disability, race, gender, and class), but remains a starkly unexplored topic in academia, particularly in dance programs. Though there is a wealth of existing research that explores the incidence of disordered eating and hyper-thinness in western concert dance, there is little mention of what it means to actually have a fat body in the dance field. Overemphasizing dangerously thin stereotypes can create a rhetoric of silence about fat.

That fat so infrequently appears in texts, and yet figures so prominently in dancers’ experience of their bodies in practice, reveals an impulse to ignore, erase, or otherwise neglect the presence of fat in the bodies of dance practitioners. Including fat as a tissue worthy of study, alongside muscle, bone, fascia, and dense connective tissue, can create opportunities to encounter it with less aversion and more nuance.

In this presentation, I offer strategies for revising anatomical pedagogy that challenge the dominant (negative) associations of fat in dance education. I highlight the functions and uses of fat, connect fat aversion with other oppressive biases, provide examples of artists who directly engage fat in their performance and teaching, and introduce somatic exercises that may allow students to rehabilitate their relationships with their bodies.