Your Body

Nine Ways to Love the Woman You're Becoming

It seemed like everything changed overnight. Suddenly, 14-year-old Karen Black’s* breasts didn’t fit into her favorite camisole leotard, her thighs rubbed together in weird places, and she couldn’t get through 10 fouettés without becoming winded.

What was going on?


Your body will change a lot from now until your twenties. You’ll start your period, develop breasts and grow pubic hair. You may also develop an insatiable appetite, put on weight, or grow so fast that some steps become more difficult than they used to be.

As a dancer, this process can be particularly difficult. Maybe you dread changing in the locker room, because you think that everyone is staring at you. Perhaps none of your friends have started to mature physically and you feel uncomfortable about your figure. Maybe you’re the only one (or you feel like the only one) who hasn’t started to develop yet. To make matters worse, not only do you have to wear tight clothes and stare at yourself in the mirror, but you also stand in the spotlight and perform in front of everyone you know—all while feeling like an alien has taken over your once-familiar body.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that you aren’t alone! Here are some other ways to make growing up a positive experience.

1. Don’t compare yourself to others.

Every dancer is different—you may covet your friend’s fabulous feet, but she might envy your long legs. Lamenting your own appearance because you don’t think it’s as great as someone else’s will only frustrate you, because it’s beyond your control. Remember that dancers have many body types, strengths and weaknesses.

2. Try other dance forms.

If you feel terrible about yourself after, say, a ballet class, add another kind of class, like jazz or hip hop, to your schedule that makes you feel great. It’s important to give yourself positive experiences with movement, even if that means just dancing around your living room to your favorite hip-hop artist.

3. Understand your own biology.

During puberty, it’s normal for some things that were once easy to become seemingly impossible. Maybe you could do triple pirouettes, and now you struggle to balance in passé. Don’t panic: You’ve probably just had a growth spurt, and you need time to adjust to your new body. With practice and time, you can get it back.

4. Accept yourself—and your peers.

You may be tempted to poke fun at your friends to soothe your own insecurities, but this won’t contribute to a supportive training atmosphere and may even backfire when people belittle you. Think of this phase of your life as something that you and your friends are in together! Focus on building each other up and on being the best dancers you can be.

5. Embrace your appetite.

Some girls put on a layer of fat prior to a growth period. In these instances, you may grow out before you grow up. If you aren’t eating enough of the right foods, you’ll interfere with this process and suffer health consequences down the road. “Usually with a growth spurt comes increased metabolism and increased appetite,” says Dr. Michelle New, clinical psychologist, reviewer for website KidsHealth and a former dancer. “You’re hungrier, and a lot of girls are afraid of that.”

Listen to your body. If you ignore your appetite and stop eating, you may actually stunt your vertical growth and end up heavier than you would otherwise. “Buy bigger jeans and keep being healthy and active,” says New. “It’s a normal part of growth and it won’t last forever.” If you really think you’re overweight—or a teacher tells you to slim down—see a licensed nutritionist before starting any diet.

6. Don’t hide.

If your school has a dress code, there isn’t much you can do to “cover up.” But even if you want to drown yourself in baggy sweats, hiding isn’t the best way to cope. “It gives the message that you should cover up when you start showing signs of womanhood,” New explains. If you’re really uncomfortable, ask your teacher if you can wear a fashionable shrug, a skirt or warm-up shorts, but be prepared to conform to the uniform. Find other ways to make yourself feel good—try out a new hairstyle or a new cut of leotard.

7. Talk to someone older.

You may feel like you’re suffering through something that no one has ever suffered before. “Whether you feel alone because you haven’t gone through it yet or your body is becoming a woman before you feel emotionally ready to be a woman, there is somebody who’s been through that,” says New. “One hundred percent of women go through this. No exceptions.” Talk to an older dancer, family member or teacher about how you feel. When you educate yourself, you’ll feel empowered.

8. Know that it’s OK to be modest.

If you dread the locker room, it’s perfectly acceptable to shower at home or change in a bathroom stall. Everybody has their own comfort level, and you shouldn’t feel pressure to put yourself on display if you don’t want to. You control your own body in and out of the dance studio. In fact, developing a sense of privacy can actually mean you have good self-esteem, because it shows that you’re taking ownership

of yourself.

9. Explore other areas of creativity.

Broadening your horizons to include other forms of expression can be helpful when you’re going through an “awkward” phase. Join your school’s art club, audition for a local musical-theater production, or learn to play an instrument. All of these activities will contribute to your artistic development as a dancer, while taking the focus away from your physical being for a while.

Dance News
Photo by Jayme Thornton

Harper Watters is a ballet dancer for today's generation. A social media maestro and a charismatic performer, the Houston Ballet soloist is equally at home in front of the camera hosting his hit YouTube series, "The Pre Show"; interacting with fans on his crazy-popular Instagram account; or showing off his beautiful classical technique onstage. It's a multifaceted identity that's proven to be invaluable to his career—and it's taking him to places he never even dreamed of.

Keep reading... Show less

Leap! National Dance Competition offers dancers of all skill levels an opportunity to showcase their talents in an event where the focus is on fun and competing is just a bonus!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer

Getting corrections from our dance instructors is how we grow, and as students, it's important that we do our best to apply every correction right away. But sometimes—whether it's because we're in physical pain, or have a lot on our minds, or are just not paying attention—those corrections don't sink in. And from a teacher's standpoint, giving the same corrections time and time again gets old very fast. Here are 10 important corrections dance teachers are tired of giving. Take them to heart!

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
The School at Jacob's Pillow's contemporary program auditions (photo by Karli Cadel, courtesy Jacob's Pillow)

Summer intensive auditions can be nerve-racking. A panel of directors is watching your every move, and you're not even sure if you can be seen among the hundreds of other dancers in the room. We asked five summer intensive directors for their input on how dancers can make a positive impression—and even be remembered next year.

Keep reading... Show less
Screenshot via YouTube

Look out, 'cause here they come!

Keep reading... Show less
Dance News

When we think of a dancer who's broken barriers, American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland tends to be the name that comes to mind. And though Copeland has been a crucial advocate for equality in the world of ballet, Raven Wilkinson—a mentor of Copeland's—is considered one of the original pioneers of the movement.

In 1955, Wilkinson became the first African American to dance with the renowned Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. Her fortitude in the face of bigotry and hate cemented her legacy. Now, with the release of the new children's book Trailblazer: The Story of Ballerina Raven Wilkinson, a new generation of dancers will be inspired by her tale of overcoming obstacles to achieve a dream.

The book details Wilkinson's life, from her experience as a young dancer training in Harlem, to her run-ins with the Ku Klux Klan while on tour with Ballet Russe, to her later ballet career in Europe. "There were times where my heart really hurt because of the situations I had to deal with," she says. "But I always had faith that I was made to be a dancer and that I was gonna dance."

Dance Spirit spoke with Wilkinson to discuss the new book and get her take on racial equality within the ballet world.

Keep reading... Show less
Dancer to Dancer
Leah Morrison in Trisha Brown's If You Couldn't See Me, in which the soloist never faces the audience (photo by Julia Cervantes, courtesy Trisha Brown Dance Company)

Postmodern pioneer Trisha Brown redefined how dance is seen and felt. A founding member of Judson Dance Theater, Brown frequently collaborated with other experimental artists like Yvonne Rainer, Merce Cunningham, Twyla Tharp, and Steve Paxton.

She embraced pedestrian movement, pairing everyday gesture with rhythm and fluidity. "It's liquid," says Wendy Perron, who danced with Brown in the '60s and '70s. "Like a river with many tributaries, water coming out of a faucet, or being on a raft and seeing the water move away in different directions." Brown also pushed beyond stages with choreography in fields, museums—even on the sides of buildings.

Keep reading... Show less
Blankenbuehler (far left) with the rest of the "Hamilton" creative team

So book your tickets to Tulsa already, people!

Keep reading... Show less
Your Body
Amanda LaCount showing off her skills (screenshot via YouTube)

There's a common misconception that a dancer's body has to be thin. But the truth is that talent knows no body type, and the number on the scale never determines an artist's capabilities. Here are some extraordinary dancers fighting the stereotype of what a dancer "should" look like.

Keep reading... Show less
Watch This
Angela Sterling, courtesy PNB

Mark your calendars, bunheads! On Monday, January 29th, at 2:45 PM (EST)/11:45 AM (PST), Pacific Northwest Ballet will be streaming a live rehearsal of Act II of Kent Stowell's Swan Lake.

Keep reading... Show less


Want to Be on Our Cover?





Get Dance Spirit in your inbox