Finding Freedom in a Body Positive Dance Class
We couldn’t think of a better way to round out Knix’s first ever Week of Movement than with an amazingly fun and cathartic dance class by Jessie Diaz. The one and only founder of the Body Positive Dance Class, we are so excited to dance and celebrate alongside her on Friday, October 9th at 12PM EST over on Knix’s Instagram Live. But before you hit play, read on to learn about what a body positive dance class is and why is this type of movement is so, so liberating. Meet Jessie.
Hi Jessie! Tell us about yourself!
I'm a Latina New Yorker (born and raised), body-positive dance instructor, educational consultant, mom, and wife.
What inspired you to start Body Positive Dance Classes?
I've always been told I needed to lose weight by dance teachers, school teachers, friends and family. I would get backwards compliments like "Jessie, you're such a great dancer for your weight!" and that would always rub me the wrong way. Even going to different dance or dance fitness classes in New York, I was often the only person of color or the only plus-size body there. I could see that diversity was really lacking.
I wanted to create a space where all different types of people could come and have fun without any negativity or competition. My class is about feeling the rhythm in your body while releasing any negative connotations about your body, releasing the feeling of competing with yourself in the mirror, and releasing any assumption that you can't do certain things because of the way you look.
What can people expect from one of your classes?
We start unlike any dance class— with the power of discussion. We start in a circle (virtual 'circle' now online), and introduce ourselves and answer the topic question, which is usually revolved around our bodies and/or emotions. Questions like, What's your favorite body part and why? or What affirmations resonate with you the most and why?
After this we sing and stretch to our Body Love Song which is a song I made to affirm our bodies while we stretch. It's a fun call and repeat song that gets us moving and ready to dance! We then go into some follow along dance warmups, learn choreography and then perform for each other. Expect lots of cheering, lots of encouragement, and lots of dancing.
Why do you think classes like these are important?
Self love is so important and once we find what we truly love about ourselves, it's worth sharing with the world. For me dance has allowed me to love myself and my body. It has also kept my mind healthy and has done wonders for my confidence. I knew I wasn't the only one who needed this outlet. Once I began sharing this self love dance journey with others, it became bigger than me, it became my life's mission— to help womxn how to love their bodies through dance.
What’s the biggest thing you’ve learned while teaching?
I've learned the power of joy through movement. We recently added a new class to our virtual offerings called Free The Jiggle, where we PURPOSELY try and jiggle our whole bodies at certain parts of each class. We work to actively fight the urges that keep us self conscious, and rather embrace all that our bodies can do. Have you ever wiggled your whole body for even 1 minute straight? It's invigorating— try it!
Dance and Movement is liberation, it's a political act, it's a movement that says "I don't care what society says, I chose to be happy in the skin I'm in and I'm going to celebrate me!"
Brag about yourself! What are you the proudest of?
During the height of quarantine in NY, I offered free classes on Instagram to help those coping with being stuck inside, needing an outlet to move or just needing a reason to smile. And I really needed it to! With a preschooler, you can’t do virtual learning yet, so I’m home-schooling, while working for a school that is doing remote learning, playing nurse because my husband is in quarantine (yes, he actually had COVID-19 at one point), and worrying at night.
It was intense for a while and took a lot of resilience both emotionally and physically. Dance is that zen moment for me. It’s my moment of calm, so for me during this time, I still loved teaching dance because that was the one normal thing for me. I’ve cried during live dance classes, I’ve shouted, I’ve laughed, I’ve gotten upset— but those raw moments felt good and being able to share that with other people was powerful. I feel proud that I was able to be an outlet for others at this time while also giving me a sense of community and space to be as well.