On Stocky Bodies, and on being a fat dancer

Almost a year ago, a handful of Aussie fat bloggers and I agreed to be part of a fat embodiment research project led by Dr Lauren Gurrieri of the Griffith Business School. The purpose was to document the everyday lived experience of fat people, and the end result of our discussions was Stocky Bodies.

Stocky Bodies is a stock image library that aims to provide positive and diverse representations of life as a fat person. It stands in opposition and as an alternative to the typical ‘headless fatty‘ photo that accompanies most stories on fatness and obesity. Photos were taken by Lauren and by Isaac Brown of the Queensland College of Art.

When organising the photo shoot, Lauren and Isaac explained that the images should show my life and what I do with this fat body of mine. For me, that meant eating out…

going to the beach…

and dancing.


Let me tell you, rocking up to dance class with a couple of photographers in tow was by far the most confronting part of this whole process.

Fat is pretty taboo in the dance world. The ideal dancer is seen to be long, lean, and muscular. In the dance community, there’s a lot of discussion of weight loss, the relative goodness and badness of different foods, and negative self-talk about certain body parts. The negativity surrounding fat in dance is so well-known that I think a lot of fat people are discouraged; even though I’m only a size 16, I am frequently the fattest person in my classes.

This feeling of exclusion is not helped by the fact that dance attire is not made for fat bodies. Workout gear is notoriously hard to find in plus sizes (though Cult of California is doing their best to change that). Costumes for performances are another obstacle. I am a samba and Afro-Brazilian dancer; when we perform samba no , we wear tiny bikinis and feather headdresses like this:

(John MacDougall/AFP/Getty Images)

Perhaps unsurprisingly, these bikinis are very hard to find in plus sizes. I have had to pull out of a performance because I couldn’t find a bikini in time that fit. There are also very few fat samba no dancers, which makes the idea of jiggling (and, lord, do I jiggle) in a g-string bikini all the more intimidating.

So, with all this knowledge and baggage, I was pretty uneasy about bringing Lauren and Isaac to class. Not because I’d find them intrusive, or that they’d see me at my most red-faced and sweaty, but because I’d have to explain why they were there. I knew that I had to come out to my fellow students as fat. As proudly fat.

Being a fat dancer is challenging and definitely tests my comfort zones, though I am finding my way. I’m lucky enough to have found a dance group that is reasonably body positive. I found a company in the UK that makes samba bikinis for any size (though plus size bikinis have a 25% surcharge); I finally have one to call my own and it is a beauty. I will be wearing it onstage for the first time in a week and a half, and to be honest, I’m a bit nervous about it. But that apprehension is why I feel almost obligated to go through with it. If I want to see a diverse range of bodies in dance, I should be up there showing some diversity. I should, and will, be showing people what this fat body can do.


19 Responses to “On Stocky Bodies, and on being a fat dancer”

  1. 1 ~M 27 September, 2012 at 12:14 am

    So happy to read that you’ve found costuming and will be getting up on stage! As a fat belly dancer I very much understand the difficulties with finding costuming and work out wear in your size – Can’t wait to see pics of you all dressed up and dancing your heart out!

  2. 3 Kirk Jones 27 September, 2012 at 12:28 am

    I think “fat” women are simply beautiful. ‘Nuff said!

  3. 4 Piper Alexander 27 September, 2012 at 4:03 am

    Awesome. I am a larger dancer myself, about a size 14 and I am in ballet, which I think is even more anti-fat (not sure how to word this) as ballet dancers are typically smaller than the average dancer of any other types of dance. I’m normally the largest person in my classes, but NOT the worst dancer (yay!), so I love showing people what my larger body can do.

  4. 5 Selvinas 27 September, 2012 at 6:44 am

    Just saw your samba costume and it looks very pretty! Cheerful!
    Don’t be afraid of the jiggling. Maybe to get some confidence you could give a show to people you feel comfortable with?
    Might help you get comfortable in your costume.
    Good luck!

  5. 6 dreamhouse 27 September, 2012 at 7:34 am

    I’m also a fat dancer. I do various styles of Polynesian dancing. Mostly the costumes are quite modest, however I’ve yet to be brave and wear a Tahitian costume (small skirt, coconut bra). I like being a fat dancer, and pushing my body to move. I also like telling people that I’m a dancer as it surprises them that a fat woman could actually dance (and look good doing it). Despite this, I’m still quite nervous about shaking my uncovered fat bits in public. All the best for your performance! Put up some photos please – that costume look incredible!

  6. 10 Big Red Dress 27 September, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    I’m a fat dancer (Balboa) but I find that being larger isn’t so much of an impediment or so unusual. If you look in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bfSynAkQWI couple 82 are good friends of mine and I think they came third at nationals a couple of years ago.

    Congrats on getting out there in that outfit. I think it will look awesome.

  7. 11 bloomie 28 September, 2012 at 11:35 am

    I have seen photos of you in your costume and can attest to how AWESOME you look.

    I also wanted to affirm your feelings of apprehension and why that makes you feel like you have to do it. When I feel that way about an article of clothing (happened to me with crop tops) it made it all the more important for me to go through with it. So proud of you!


    • 12 Frances 28 September, 2012 at 12:47 pm

      Yeah, I bought a couple of crop tees about a year ago and they have gone unworn because I didn’t feel ‘ready’. Maybe/hopefully this summer will be different. 🙂

  8. 13 JGRuddock 1 October, 2012 at 11:36 am

    1. You are a legend.
    2. Thanks for sharing.
    3. Can’t wait to see more photos of you rockin’ your life.
    4. That necklace in the first shot is *amaze*
    5. You are a legend (it bears repeating)
    xo xo

    • 14 Frances 6 October, 2012 at 3:50 pm

      1. Takes one to know one!
      2. You’re welcome
      3. There will be photos post-performance!
      4. I got it from Holy Kitsch; there’s one shop on Crown St and one on the Newtown end of Enmore Rd.
      5. See #1.


  9. 15 Veronica 3 October, 2012 at 8:31 pm

    Oh, I am *such* a fan of the Stocky Bodies project!

  10. 16 Susan 5 October, 2012 at 3:57 am

    You look like you’re having such a wonderful time dancing and enjoying life, with or without photographers following you around! Dance on! 🙂

  11. 17 thecrassceiling 5 October, 2012 at 5:10 am

    Wow! Thank you so, so much for writing this. I have looked around during dance classes and been more aware that I am bigger than the other girls, when I *should* have been dancing and having fun. Belly dancing has played a major role in shifting my image of myself and how I perceive my body. I haven’t magically dropped 30 pounds or anything, but I really don’t even care because my body feels amazing and that is not what dance is about. Samba is such a beautiful, joyful dance and it would be a shame to worry about some jiggle.

  12. 18 deannetheresa 9 October, 2012 at 8:34 am

    Love this post! I’m a size 18 dancer (belly dance and burlesque) and am often the fattest person in class/on stage. I may feel apprehensive sometimes, but I’ve never been given a hard time about my size from anyone when I’m dancing. It’s a wonderful way to get in touch with and learn to love one’s body!

  1. 1 53rd Down Under Feminist Carnival Trackback on 3 October, 2012 at 11:19 pm
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