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NHSDA Love Your Body Week
November 15-21, 2020
A week dedicated to creating body-positive dance environments

 

Discussion Prompts and Activities
During Love Your Body Week, we invite instructors to take time out of every class to intentionally foster body positivity with carefully planned activities using the prompts provided below.  NHSDA host dance programs are encouraged to allow each of these exercises to culminate with the drawing or writing of a positive statement to be posted on the mirror, so that by the end of the week the mirror is completely covered in messages of self-love. 

Introducing LYBW to your students

Take a moment to introduce this important event and explain why we are taking class time to focus on it. 
The following is an example of one way to frame it:

This week is love your body week! It’s a special week where we take time during class to talk about all of the awesome things that our bodies can do. Why do you think that LYBW is important? (Students can answer, teacher can answer, NHSDA members can answer). That’s right, there are lots of reasons why it’s good to love our bodies. When we love something, we treat it with respect and take care of it.

Preschool 

Book: I Like Me by Nancy Carlson (1988), Puffin Books

Read I Like Me, then have dancers draw pictures of parts of their bodies that they like, just like the piggy likes her body in the book!  We recommend using sheets that already read “I like my _______ because it helps me ________” to make this process run smoothly.  Help dancers by filling in the words of their statement about their body part(s).  

Preschool Prompt Sheets

5-7 year olds - Option 1

Book: Shapesville by Andy Mills & Becky Osborn (2003), Gürtze Books

Read Shapesville and ask the following questions to the whole group: 
• Do you think it's okay for kids to be different shapes, sizes, and colors?
• Do you think it's okay that kids tease each other about being different shapes, sizes, and colors?
• What special talents do you have that make you a star?
• What activities make you feel good about your body? 
 
Give each dancer a piece of paper/markers ask them to draw a picture of a part of their body, and write a statement about what it allows them to do.  “I like my _______ because it helps me to ________.”  We are looking for functional answers (i.e. a part that helps them to do something - I love my legs because they can jump high). Dancers in this age group may or may not need help writing their statements. 

5-7 year olds - Option 2: We Are All Wonders

Book: We’re All Wonders by R.J. Palacio (2017), Knopf Books for Young Readers

After reading the book, ask the following questions to the whole group: 

• Auggie says that he doesn’t look like other kids - do all the kids in the book look the same? 
• Is that a good thing or a bad thing?

• How does Auggie feel when other kids laugh at him or say mean things about how he looks? 
• Have you ever felt like that?
• At the end of the book, Auggie remembers that he is a wonder because he is unique!  What makes you a wonder? 
 
Pass out paper  and crayons or markers. Dancers in this age group that are more proficient writers can use blank paper, but it can be helpful to use preprinted sheets that read “I am a wonder because...”

We Are All Wonders Handout

Dancers choose something that makes you unique and wonderful, and draw a self-portrait on your paper.

Teachers and/or NHSDA members can help dancers by filling in the words of their statement about themselves and what they can do, and then dancers can hang their drawings on the mirrors.

7-9 year olds - Option 1: Loving Your Body and Being Kind

Pose the following questions:

• What are some of the things our bodies allow us to do?
• What can we do to keep our bodies healthy (discourage “dieting talk” - don’t discuss certain foods that shouldn’t be eaten, rather state that a wide variety of foods can help us stay healthy)
• Do we all look the same?  Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
• Do you think that it’s ever okay for kids to tease each other for being different?
• Why do you think it’s important to love and appreciate our bodies?
 
Give each dancer a piece of paper/markers ask them to draw a picture of a part of their body, and write a statement about what it allows them to do.  “I like my _______ because it helps me to ________.”  We are looking for functional answers (i.e. a part that helps them to do something - I love my legs because they can jump high).  The artwork prompt for this age is the same as the 5-7 year old age group, but it often inspires more complex answers. 

7-9 year olds - Option 2: Mirror Prompt

This prompt can easily be modified for older dancers by posing more in-depth questions regarding how mirrors can help or hurt us in dance class. 

Ask the following questions to the whole class:
• Here in our studio we have these great big mirrors up on the walls.  Now this week we are covering them up a little at a time for Love Your Body Week, but normally we face them and use them for class right?  What do the mirrors help us do in class?
• You probably have lots of mirrors in your house too.  What do we use those for?  
•Mirrors can be really useful.  But it’s important to remember to always think and say kind things to ourselves when we look in the mirror, like “I am strong” or “I am beautiful”.  Why do you think that’s important? 

Pass out the mirror template pages. Mirror Prompt Handout

We have some papers with pictures of mirrors on them for you today.  At the top of your mirror it says “I am...”, and we would like for you to write or draw some of the amazing things you are in the mirror part here.  We’ll post your mirror on our big mirror today.  When LYBW is over, you can take it home to put up on one of your own mirrors at home, to remind yourself of all of these wonderful things about you when you look into that mirror too!

Pre-teen - Option 1: Thank You Notes

Break into partners or small groups to discuss the following questions (read one question at a time):

• What are some things that your body helped you do today?
• Do you ever get frustrated with your body?  What are some things you should remember when that happens?
• What are some ways you can thank your body for everything it does?
 
Come back together to discuss as a group (allowing dancers to share with the whole class if they are comfortable).  Hand out papers and markers and ask dancers to write a thank you note to their body, e.g.
 
Dear body,
Thank you for helping me to dance my favorite part of ballet class, waltzing!
Love,
Mary

Pre-teen - Option 2: Hands

Break dancers out into pairs or small groups.

One of the things we do during Love Your Body Week  is celebrate all the things that make each of us unique.  We can use our hands as one little example of that idea. 
• Compare your hand to your partners - there are many things about them that are the same, and they function in the same way, but what looks different about them? What is unique about your hand? 
• List for your partner some of the things about you that are unique - these could be things about how you look or what your body can do, or about who you are as a person.
• After listening to your partner, you can add to their list!  What do you see that makes your partner unique? 
• Sometimes the things that make us unique can also make us feel like an outsider.  Have you experienced this?  Share an example with your partner if you are comfortable.
• What can we do to build a community in which it is safe to be different? 

Once each dancer has shared with their partner(s), come back together as a group. Allow time for sharing if they are comfortable. Ask dancers to trace their hand on their paper.  Have them write “I am...” in the palm, and then something that they like about themselves in each of the five fingers. Post hands on the mirror.


Teen - Option 1: Compliments

Start by breaking out into partners/small groups.
• Ask them to start by giving each other a compliment or affirmation. Ask them to focus on skills and capabilities, and to be specific (i.e. “I love the way you jump so powerfully” or “your battements have gotten really high this year” rather than “your hair is pretty”).
• Encourage them to take the compliment gracefully (i.e. don’t argue!)
• Now ask them each to give themselves a similar compliment (say it outloud to their partner), encourage them not to qualify it or make excuses, but simply to say something kind to themselves.

Ask them to discuss (read one at a time):
• Which part of that exercise was more difficult for you? Why?
• Think of some of the negative things you have thought or said about yourself. Would you say them about a friend? Why or why not?
• How can someone’s negative statements about themselves impact other people?

Come back together as a large group and ask each set of partners to share (whatever they are comfortable with). Hand out papers and markers and ask them to write a compliment to themselves (the one they told their partner, or a new one if they prefer) to post on the mirror.


Teen - Option 2: Evan Ruggiero

Begin with this introduction:
 As a 19 year old studying Musical Theatre at Montclair State University, Evan Ruggiero lost his leg to cancer in 2010.  After his amputation and a great deal of chemotherapy, Ruggiero is dancing again.  He graduated in 2013 with his BFA.  Regarding his transition back to dancing post-amputation Ruggiero has said “I am a more beautiful dancer now.  I dance for life”.
 
Video: LA Tap Fest 2012 - Evan Ruggiero
 
After watching the video, break out into partners/small groups to discuss the following questions (ask one question at a time):
 
• What strikes you most about Ruggiero as a dancer? 
• Reflect on Ruggiero’s statement that he is “a more beautiful dancer now”.  Do you agree? 
• What do you think he means by “I dance for life.” ?
• What can we learn from his story?  How can you apply it to your life as a dancer?
 
Come back together to discuss as a group (allowing dancers to share with the whole class if they are comfortable).  Hand out papers and markers and ask dancers to write a statement about what makes them unique as a dancers, i.e. “I am a beautiful dancer because...” Encourage them to speak positively about something that makes them different, e.g. “I am a beautiful dancer because I dance with my whole heart” or “I am a beautiful dancer because my strong legs give me power”. 


Teen - Option 3: Rachel McLaren
Rachel McLaren has been a member of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre in New York City since 2008.  

Video: Dancer Rachel McLaren: The Movement

Break dancers into partners or small groups and pose the following questions, one at a time:

• What strikes you about McLaren as a dancer?
• The video opens with her listing parts of her body she has seen as “not enough”.  If you had watched the dancing portion of the video first, do you think you would have noticed those things?  How does that relate to how you look at your own body?
• The choreography she performs is an excerpt from Ailey’s 1971 Cry, which he dedicated to his mother, inspired by her strength and ability to overcome hardship.  Of performing this work, McLaren has said “I was there to use my body to offer a story of inextricable struggle, triumph and freedom in the form of 17 intense minutes of dance. I was there to influence hearts and minds in a way that perhaps words can't.”  Do you see that perspective present in her dancing? 
• In the video McLaren says of herself as a dancer, “what matters most is the work that I do, and the kindness and honesty in my heart”.  What matters most about you as a dancer?

Bring the class back together, and ask them to share what came up with their partners if they are comfortable. Pass out papers and markers and ask dancers to write a statement about who they are as a dancer to post on the mirror. This statement could begin with “What matters most...”


Teen - Option 4: Amanda LaCount

Sometimes dancers feel like they have to look a certain way in order to be good at dancing. Today we are going to watch a video about Amanda LaCount, a hip hop dancer who is challenging stereotypes about what a professional dancer looks like.

Video: 
ANYBODY: Amanda LaCount Breaking The Body Stereotype | Dance Doc

Questions for discussion in partners or small groups:

• What did you notice about Amanda’s dancing?
• Amanda talks about body shaming on Instagram and Social Media. What was her response to that?
• What can you do if you encounter body shaming on Social Media? 
• Have you encountered stereotypes (in the media, from friends, etc.) about who can dance?
• Amanda uses her hashtag #BreakingTheStereotype to inspire and empower others (she posts lots of wonderful body-positive things on instagram). How can you challenge stereotypes and inspire others? Remember that the way we talk about ourselves can be a powerful way to impact our dance environment.

Come back together as a big group, allowing dancers to share if they feel comfortable. Pass out markers and paper. Pose the following question:

What message do you think dancers should receive about their body? Take a moment to reflect, and write down one positive empowering message to hang on the mirror for other dancers to see.


Teen - Option 5: Pretty Big Movement
Dancers face a lot of stereotypes about how their bodies “should” look. Today we are going to watch a video about Akira Armstrong, a hip hop dancer who was tired of being discriminated against because of her size. Akira now inspires and empowers others to dance.

Video: Pretty Big Movement" is Destroying Dancer Stereotypes | Iris

Break into partners or small groups and ask the following questions one at a time:

• What did you notice about Akira’s dancing?
• What was Akira’s experience when she went to auditions?
• What qualities does Akira have that prevented her from giving up?
• How can you build a body positive environment in your personal life?
Come back together as a group, allowing dancers to share with the whole class if they feel comfortable. Pass out paper and markers, and ask dancers:

Akira responded to stereotypes by starting her own dance company to empower others. What can you do to combat stereotypes and empower others? (It could be valuable to remind dancers that the way we talk about ourselves and others can impact our dance environment.)


Teen - Option 6: Erik Cavanaugh
Pass out copies of the following article from www.mic.com:

Meet the Plus-Size Dancer Who's Proving Body Positivity Knows No Gender

and watch the following video:

Video: Erik Cavanaugh Dance Reel

Break into partners or small groups to ask them to discuss the following questions one at a time:

• What did you notice about Erik’s dancing?
• Erik states “I want other children who look like me to pursue dance [even if] they don’t fit the image. But not just dance, any sport or any activity. I want them to see that they are capable of doing whatever their heart desires, no matter what they look like.” Do you feel like you have dance role models that look like you? How has that shaped your training experience? 
• Erik talks about a lack of size diversity in the media representation of the male body. How is this issue present in dance? Do you think it’s problematic?
• Erik states: “Dance can be beautiful - even with people’s ‘flaws’.” What resonates with you about this quote?

Come back together as a group, allowing dancers to share with the whole class if they feel comfortable. Pass out paper and markers, and ask dancers:

Erik has refused to give up despite feeling disheartened by a lack of representation of male dancers that look like him. Think of an encouraging message to help inspire someone to keep dancing in the face of obstacles, and post it on the mirror for other dancers to read.

Teen - Option 7: Shoes to Match Our Feet
Materials: device with video, paper, markers, tape

We’re going to start today with a video about Dance Theatre of Harlem. Who has heard of that company before? What do you know about it?  

From the Dance Theatre of Harlem website: “In 1969, at the height of the civil rights movement, Arthur Mitchell and Karel Shook founded Dance Theatre of Harlem. Their vision remains one of the most democratic in dance. In moments of extreme injustice and frustration the most impactful art is born. This is true of the inception of one of the most influential American ballet companies of the last five decades, Dance Theatre of Harlem.” Virgina Johnson was a founding member of the company, and now serves as Artistic Director.  You’ll see her speaking in the video. 

Video: Shoes to Match Our Feet

After watching the video, break dancers up into partners or small groups. Ask the following questions one at a time:

- We hear  several students and teachers speak in the video, as well as Virginia Johnson. What topics or statements resonate with you the most? Why? 
Historically many have argued that ballet’s traditional pink tights and shoes are intended to “unify the look” a full company.  Virginia Johnson states that actually wearing flesh colored tights and shoes unifies the look, in that “the color of our legs matches the color of our faces”. What is your reaction to that statement? 
- Virginia Johnson speaks of ballet requiring “an emotional and spiritual stamina”. What does she mean by that? How does it speak to DTH’s beginnings in the civil rights era?   
- Virginia Johnson says that Dance Theatre of Harlem is “trying to define what this beauty is.” What does she mean by that? What can that concept mean at ATD?

Come back together as a full group, and invite dancers to share what came up with their partners if they are comfortable. 

Pass out paper and markers.


On your paper today we would like for you to write an encouraging message for other dancers to read, to inspire them to keep dancing and to be resilient. It could speak to  the ideas we’re discussing of diversity and inclusion in dance, and in ballet specifically. You are welcome to pull something from the video or from your conversation with your partner, or to think of something new. When you’re finished we’ll post your messages on the mirror. 

Teen - Option 8: Ill Ability 
Materials: device with video, paper, markers, tape

Video: Lazylegz pushes the limits of breakdancing with his ‘ill-ability’

We want all dancers to feel valued and accepted, regardless of how they look or how they represent themselves. To celebrate LYBW we are going to watch a video of Luca, one of the founders of a dance company called “Ill-Ability.” Luca is a dancer, choreographer and activist.

After watching the video, break the class into small groups and ask the following questions:

- Luca reports: The “ill” in ILL-ABILITIES™ does not refer to “sick” or “unwell” but rather to incredible, amazing, intricate, talent. What do you think about his statement? How can we use language to empower others?

- Rather than seeing the negative limitations of “disability”, this crew focuses on their positive, or “ill” abilities. How can you celebrate other’s unique strengths and abilities?

- Luca’s favorite move, his elbow spin, was created when he made a “mistake” in practice. He refers to this as “crash and create.” -How can you embrace mistakes and use them to grow as a dancer?

Pass out paper and markers.

Luca says that “We are all unique and we all have something special to give to this world.” Take a minute to reflect on his statement. Write down one way that you can contribute to a positive, accepting environment at ATD. This can look like and “I can” statement, for example:

I can be a role model for openness and acceptance

I can grow from my “mistakes”

I can be a role model for positive body image

I can use inclusive language


Second video that can be played as dancers are writing their messages or leaving class: ILL-ABILITIES Crew

Movement Activities: 

A)   Choreographic Task (created by Karyn Bracilano)
 
Begin by having dancers choose one word that describes their body (e.g. strong, powerful, changing, mine),   and post their “my body is...” statement on the mirror. 
 
Next, ask dancers to craft a phrase inspired by that word and by their body.
 
Options for complexity vary based on age/level (share phrase work with class as it is, or could continue to develop with choreographic tools, put in combination with classmates’ work, etc.).
  
 B)  Improvisation Exercise - For Teens

This exercise asks for a great deal of vulnerability, and best serves advanced students that are comfortable with improvisation.  Mary has used this exercise yearly for nearly a decade, and has consistently seen it to be one of the most impactful LYBW experiences for many teens. 

Start with some reflective journaling - ask dancers to write about a favorite body part, as well as a least favorite. Two groups take turns improvising for one another.  For the first round, dancers initiate movement  from their favorite body part.  For the second, they initiate movement from their least favorite.  Finally, dancers initiate movement from both.

Allow time for reflection and conversation, facilitating support and community. Dancers are invited to share about their own experience, and/or about the experience of watching their classmates move through this exercise.  In the past, we have not included any mirror posting as a part of this activity.  We often use it at the end of the week when the mirrors are already very full of positive statements, so rather we use this experience to reflect on what it is like to dance without the mirror. During this discussion time, often what comes up is how much beauty dancers see in one another, even when watching their peers move from their least favorite body part.  

C) Reflections

This activity can be equally interesting and powerful with dancers that know each other well, or those that don’t. 

Have dancers partner up. One dancer improvises while the other observes. Then, the watching partner “reflects” back the beauty that they saw in their partner through movement. This may look like repeating specific steps or actions they saw, or may just embody tone or quality. Switch roles and repeat. This exercise could also be used to generate choreography. 




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NHSDA students are encouraged to take leadership roles in the planning and execution of Love Your Body Week activities under the supervision of a Chapter Sponsor. This is an excellent opportunity for those working towards induction to develop leadership and service learning skills and earn corresponding points.

NDEO would like to thank Mary Pisegna Gorder, Rachel Stewart, and All That Dance studio for preparing all NHSDA Love Your Body Week training materials and guidelines. 

For questions regarding Love Your Body Week or the National Honor Society for Dance Arts, please email nhsda@ndeo.org.