Esperanza: Choreographing Body Love

beth-braunBeth Braun is a woman who knows how to move. Beth is the Director of Dance at Rincon and University High Schools in Tucson, as well as the Artistic Director for the Esperanza Dance Project. The Esperanza Dance Project seeks to eradicate the stigma, secrecy and shame associated with childhood sexual violence. They also work to raise awareness about childhood sexual violence and deliver a message of hope, strength, and empowerment. I caught up with Ms. Braun to talk to her about the inspiration for her activism and what dance means to her.

Beth grew up in Long Island, New York. She started dancing when she was five years old. Beth started out learning ballet, tap, and jazz-style dancing. Her first dance teacher wanted to share his love of dance. Beth says that the dance studio had a very positive environment. She knew that she wanted to grow up and be a professional dancer because she felt like she had a sense of weightlessness and freedom when she was dancing.

Beth auditioned when she was ten years old to attend a ballet school that had a very competitive atmosphere. It didn’t have the same supportive environment that her first dance school did, but she still wanted to be a ballerina. The instructors told her that she couldn’t be a professional dancer because she didn’t have the right body type. Beth started dieting when she was just ten years old because of the pressure she felt from her dance instructors.

Braun eventually gave up dancing because she didn’t love it anymore. Beth explains that she realized it was more important to be alive than it was to dance, so she started to focus on other creative outlets. Beth took up visual arts in high school. After graduation, Beth moved from the East Coast to California because she could be “anonymous” and just do things for herself. She started taking dance classes again. Beth says that the classes were fun and that she started to feel like herself again. [Read more…]

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Hot and Heavy: An Interview with Virgie Tovar

virgie-tovar┬áMany people struggle to embrace and love their bodies. This is particularly true for women. Society has created a standard of beauty that most of us feel we can’t meet. Fortunately there are body love activists who are working to redefine beauty and help people love themselves.

One of those activists is Virgie Tovar, editor of the book Hot & Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love, & Fashion, a collection of essays dedicated to “all the fat girls who feel they must apologize, and to all of us who don’t.” Many of the authors explain why they believe that loving your body is a political act, and that fashion is a form of resistance. I caught up with Virgie to talk to her about her book, and some of the forms of activism that are described in the essays.

1. How were you able to recruit other women to share their stories with you?
Because body size is such a vulnerable topic and fatphobia is so rampant, often fat women are suspicious of people they don’t know asking to hear their story. I got to know many of the women in Hot & Heavy throughout 2010 and 2011 because I had been studying fat in graduate school and every week someone new would ask me, “have you heard of (insert somewhat secret fat positive event/pool party/conference/clothing swap/craft night)?” As I was doing the research I was going on my own personal journey as a fat woman, farther and farther into body positive politics and fat community – what I call the “Fat Underground,” a loose collective of activists and allies who have amazing politics and ambitions around ending fatphobia. I fell in love with these people. They became my friends, and I was able to ask them directly to contribute to the book and then they asked their friends. I really wanted to introduce the world to these women who had really changed – and saved – my life. [Read more…]

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