Are you at ease with your body?

Do you love how your body looks? Have you ever wished you were shorter, fatter, taller, leaner? I struggled with body image issues while growing up. At one point when I was in my early teens, I was even mildly bulimic. Thankfully, I outgrew that phase when I found my way into exercising and running every night when I was 13 to 14 years old.

All these years, I have been reflecting and wondering how I can prevent my future offspring(s) from going through what I had been through. If I was never confident about how I looked because of remarks made by my mum, relatives, and schoolmates, how can I ensure that my children can be cushioned from all the uninvited comments that people may sear them in their early lives?

Is there a way to help our children love their bodies?

I do not have the answer yet. However, what I have learned in the last 15 years (from 15 to 30 years old) about my body is that it really loves exercising. The more I exercise, the happier I feel and the more at ease I am with my body. I stopped thinking about going for plastic surgery, an idea that plagued me since my teenage years. I am really thankful that I found my respite and confidence through exercise. However, it pained me that there are still girls and women who struggled to accept and love their bodies and appearances. (1)

What if … I had dance classes when I was young?

Over the years, I wished my mum had listened to my pleas and enrolled me into a ballet class when I was 5 to 7 years old. I am not trying to blame my mum here. However, I sometimes wonder how things would have panned out if I had my way. I thought that I was not cut out for dancing. This negative self-belief was further reinforced by my mum’s notion that I was too fat and short to become a dancer. I would always look with envy at the girls who looked so slender, poise, and elegant. Only in my twenties did I realise that it was the dance practices that had helped to shape their lean physique and upright body posture.

Images Credit: DANSTUDIO

I languished at those years that slipped by which I could have learned how to improve my body posture. After 20 odd years of slouching, I am paying the price of having chronic backaches now.

Why are parents sending their children (as young as 3 years old) to dance classes?

When I became a tutor in my early twenties, I noticed that parents are sending their girls as young as 3 years old for ballet classes. That’s when it struck me that beyond mental acuity, parents want their children to develop social ease and grace. This struck close to my heart once again as I felt socially awkward and undesirable in my early adult life. Perhaps, if I had dance lessons when I was young, I might have learned to love my body more. I would not be perpetually slouching which I had no idea how to rectify all these years.

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DANSTUDIO and Contemporary Dance

I wished my cousin, Dan, had a dance school when I was young. I remembered how Dan used to do handstands against the wall when we were young. I was so awed. All these years, Dan has become a renowned dance instructor, coaching in varsity institutions [i.e. NUS2 and SMU3], public [i.e. NJC4, HCI5…], and private schools in Singapore.

 

Images Credit: DANSTUDIO

Dan was greatly admired for his talent in dance choreography as my schoolmates who were his dance students recounted. After accumulating more than 20 years of teaching experience, Dan had incepted a space that brings like-minded dancers as young as 8 years old together, to further their interests, techniques, and competency to compete in Contemporary Dance Competitions such as Get The Beat Asia and CSTD Regional Dance Competition.

Image Credit: TET photography

Why Contemporary Dance?

In Dan’s words, contemporary dance is a more inclusive art form that embraces all body shapes and types.

Image Credit: TET photography

In such an environment where the focus is not becoming skinny but stronger, we can learn to love our bodies and strengthen them in the process. What would you give in exchange for a journey in which your child will learn about self-love, build meaningful friendships and enjoy a free dosage of endorphins (the feel-good hormones) after every lesson?

Image Credit: TET photography

——> Find out what other parents have to say about how dance classes have changed their children. 

What can you do as a parent to help your child?

Instead of spending all the time behind the computer screen, your child will be under the stewardship of mentors who may go on to become their role models and lifelong friends. I have previously warned parents about the dangers of excessive screen time and you can read more about it here.

If your child is between the age of 3 to 8 years old and you would like to ascertain the interest of your child, you could sign up for a trial class here from the list of curated dance schools.

If your child is already learning dancing and keen on taking his or her interests further, you may want to find out more about The DANSTUDIO Performance Training Programme here. This programme is recommended for children in the age group of 9 – 12 and 13 – 18 years old. This programme is the FIRST STEP to help prepare your child for a full-fledge career and or a lifelong passion in performing arts. Your child will begin to understand the rigour of taking part in competitions and or becoming a professional dancer under the mentorships of outstanding dancers.

Image Credit: TET photography

When quizzed about the right age to start learning a skill (i.e. dancing, music, abacus…), the general consensus from the experts in each field is as young as possible. When pressed further for a definitive age, the magic number that I often hear from the field experts is 4 years old.

Afterthoughts

While I have extolled the virtues of a dance education above, dancing may not be the cup of tea of every child. Listen closely to the wants and pleas of your child. If your daughter wants to learn martial arts, swimming, tennis, basketball, coding…., why not? If your son wants to learn dancing, singing, painting….why not? It would be the greatest mistake for parents to impose a gender stereotype on the kind of interests or hobbies that a child should cultivate.

Having closely observed more than twenty students ranging from the age of 4 to 18 years old, I have learned that every individual is uniquely different. Every child exhibits different temperament, inclinations, and interests from as young as 4 years old. I had a student who could focus so intensely at the age of 4 and was oblivious to anything around him when he was trying to fix a problem with his toys. I also have students who love drawings and there would always be new sketches lying on the table every week when I visit.

As an adult, I wish I could have more time to learn everything under the sun. The desire to learn and improve is the impetus for me to wake up every day, ready to dive into my work. Because of my own desire, I think that childhood is an excellent period when children have ample time to explore their interests, strengths, and weaknesses. These experiences would certainly come in handy when they embark on their career choice.

You may beg to differ but at least this is what I hope I can provide for my children in the future.

References

1. https://mothership.sg/2020/10/coco-siew-liposuction-dies/

2. National University of Singapore

3. Singapore Management University

4. National Junior College

5. Hwa Chong International

6. https://www.instagram.com/danstudio_sg/

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