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Pretty Big Movement : Dance, Culture Shift and Beyond

Posted By: Nneka Opene | Filed under: General | Mar 21, 2017

What do you think of when you picture a dancer? The typical image that comes to mind for so many is a long, lean body with svelte, elongated limbs to match. This is not only what non-dancers tend to imagine, but many casting agents, choreographers and others within the industry also tend to picture a slender frame to represent an ideal that has long been pushed as a standard of beauty both in and outside of the dance world. While some ballerinas, for example, worry about not gaining weight or minimally maintaining their weight, imagine what it must be like to be a plus sized dancer who has repeatedly been told that they will never be a dancer simply because they are too large. This is what happened to Akira Armstrong. Even after having danced in two Beyonce videos, she found herself unable to find an agent willing to represent her as a dancer simply because of her size. She moved from New York to California to pursue her dreams of dancing professionally full time, but found door after door slammed in her face just because she wasn’t slim enough. She recalls occasions when she was denied auditions or told no before being given the chance to show what she could do. Rather than fuss about it or simply give up, Armstrong decided to take matters into her own hands and do something about her frustrating situation. She started her own dance company for plus sized dancers and called it Pretty Big Movement. The name symbolized not only the movement in dance itself, but also the cultural movement and shift in attitudes towards changing standards of beauty that the group hoped to ignite. Pretty Big Movement is referred to as a no judgement safe space for women of all body types to display their talents while feeling supported and confident in whatever skin they are in. Armstrong recalls painful memories like never being able to fit into dance costumes and always having to wear something different from the rest of her troupes, to being riddled with self-doubt and alienation; Armstrong founded her company so that up and coming young dancers like herself would have somewhere to turn and not have to go through all of the same struggles that she did. Some believe that when one door closes, another opens in its place. This is the attitude that Akira had towards all the rejection she had been experiencing; by taking the initiative to create a platform and open doors for other plus size dancers like herself. When describing her group she said, “It’s about uplifting and empowering women, to feel like they can be confident to do anything, not just dance.” Check out their big, bold moves and story in this video clip by The Scene.

About the author:

Having fearlessly explored every continent, Nneka is multi-lingual and passionate about travel, culture and life. A SDSU alumni, she has worked in KTVU Fox's newsroom, interviewed notable figures and hosted programs for various media outlets. She has also written features for The San Leandro Times and Also a seasoned performer and fitness professional, Nneka holds several fitness certifications, has shared the stage with entertainment icons, and has appeared on various TV Shows.

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