Cathleen Meredith is a plus-size performer who's started her own talent agency for fellow plus-size dancers (photo by Elliott Ashby, courtesy Meredith)

Meet 5 Performers Who Are Tackling Dance's Body-Diversity Issue

For Decades, Thin has been very In in the dance world. The stereotype is especially prevalent in ballet, where young dancers can feel huge pressure to be as skinny as possible. But dance's body-diversity problem isn't limited to the realm of leotards and tights—it's an issue that dancers of all genres encounter. Those who don't fit the thin ideal often find themselves shut out of professional dance, sidelined not because of a lack of talent, but because of a body directors and choreographers deem "too big."

Thankfully, long-overdue change is—slowly but surely—coming. And we'd like you to meet five of the gifted, determined, stereotype-shattering performers leading the way. They're living proof that talent knows no size.


Allison Buczkowski

Allison Buczkowski (photo by Danny Dicesare, courtesy Buczkowski)

Growing up, commercial dancer Allison Buczkowski never faced body-image issues. At her studio, she was accepted and treated the same as everyone else—just as she should have been. "Nobody said anything about me looking different, nobody made me feel any type of way," she says. That supportive environment helped her develop a deep-seated confidence in her abilities.

But once Buczkowski entered the professional dance world, rejection became an everyday battle. In those times of frequently hearing "no," her strong sense of self served her well, reminding her that opportunities would come her way when the timing was right. And her perseverance paid off: She became a staple in choreographer Tricia Miranda's YouTube videos, performed with Ariana Grande, and is currently on tour with Janet Jackson. "There is no normal," she says. "We're all just people. I think there's actually a spot in the industry for every single person and every single dancer, believe it or not."

A version of this story appeared in the November 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Dance Is For Every Body."

Latest Posts


Project 21 dancers (from left) Selena Hamilton, Gracyn French, and Dyllan Blackburn (Photo by Quinn Wharton; hair and makeup throughout by Angela Huff for Mark Edward Inc.)

How Project 21 Is Shaping the Next Generation of Competition-Dance Standouts

"I wish I had a better story about the name," says Molly Long, founder of the Orange County, CA–based dance studio Project 21. In truth, it's a play on the fact that she was born on the twenty-first of August, and 21 is her favorite number. "I was away on a teaching tour, the audition announcement was going live on Instagram the next day, and I desperately needed a name. Project 21 was just the least cheesy of the options I thought of!"

The fact that fans might expect the name to have some profound meaning speaks to the near-mythic status Project 21 has achieved on the competition and convention scene since its founding in 2014. Long's dancers are all wholly individual, yet jell seamlessly as a group, and are consistently snagging top prizes everywhere on the circuit. Each season brings a slew of new accolades, high-caliber faculty, and legions of devoted followers.

The industry has taken notice of the studio's unique ethos. "Molly gets through to her dancers in a special way, and they have this incomparable level of commitment to their craft as a result," says dancer and choreographer Billy Bell, who's worked closely with Long and her dancers. "That's what sets them apart—it's like a little dose of magic."

Keep Reading SHOW LESS
Because this is stock art that exists in 2020. (Getty Images)

How to Dance in a Face Mask

There's a new must-have accessory for the dancers who've begun to venture back into the studio. Face masks are essential to protect your teachers and fellow dancers (not to mention their families) from coronavirus. But they definitely make dancing more complicated.

How can you prepare for—and adjust to—the new masked normal? Here's practical advice from Dr. Steven Karageanes, a primary care sports medicine specialist who's worked with the Rockettes and "So You Think You Can Dance," and Anna Dreslinski Cooke, a Chicago-based professional dancer who has experience dancing in cloth masks, disposable masks, N95 masks, and face shields.

Keep Reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks

contest
Enter the Cover Model Search