In September 2016 Preston Youth Dance Company, led and managed by Blue Moose Dance Company, embarked on a project, funded by Comic Relief through the Community Foundation for Lancashire, which aimed to explore the negative impact of body image in the media on young people. Over several months the company, aged 11 -19 years, developed a performance piece, raising awareness of body image and highlighting some of the issues that they had come across. The company toured the performance to three secondary schools in Lancashire, delivering a practical workshop alongside their performance to allow other young people to consider the issue and develop their view on the matter. The company then toured the work to three performance platforms across the region reaching a total audience of 800.
This is Amy’s account of her experience and learning during the project…
Before I did this project, my thoughts on body image, like many others, were that there is a lot of pressure to look a certain way for boys and girls. Boys are supposed to have a six-pack, tanned skin and are supposed to have lots of muscles. Girls have to be skinny and have a toned stomach but not too toned or else it's manly. But it's also better if they have a big bum and have a thigh gap at the same time, which is nearly impossible. And for people to find you attractive or pretty you have to look like this with no faults. In my own experience with body image I always felt my body would hold me back because I don't have the perfect body and people don't want to work with people who don't have a good image especially in the dance world.
During the creative process of the project I have realised that people see themselves differently to how other people see them; it seems most people are a lot harsher on themselves than they need to be. A lot of people struggle with their body image and many develop different eating disorders due to all of this pressure and due to the media. It also showed me how stupid society is as we found articles and quizzes on what body shape you are and what you shouldn't wear if you're that body shape. For example I am apparently skittle shaped. Not once have I seen a human shaped like a skittle... or a brick... or a bell. This project has made me realise that we aren’t always living in reality and these images that we see in the media are an impossible goal for people to aim for because the people in the picture don't even look that way! It’s all Photoshop and lies.
Whilst teaching sections from the piece and performing them to a variety of schools it came to my attention that most teenagers feel they need to change their body to fit what society sees as a perfect body. Some admitted this during the short interviews we did after they watched the piece. Other pupils went on to say:
"The piece highlights the important parts of teenage life but in a fun and not to serious way" " The piece shows you not to worry about your looks and what other people think of you" "It shows you that you can be different and just be you"
The piece made them all think about how they see body image it impacted on them in a positive light. The need for this piece is major, it has already impacted many young, including myself and even made people of all ages more aware of the issues. With technology improving and social media expanding, who knows how many other ridiculous, unrealistic pictures we will see. This can help other teenagers like me see that this sort of thing isn't a reality and that being perfect and pretty isn't just a one-size thing.
By Amy Dullenty, 17, Preston Youth Dance Company Member
This project was made possible through funding from Comic Relief through Community Foundation for Lancashire, which additional on-going support from Newman College, Preston and the University of Central Lancashire. Photo Credit: Brian Slater 2017