Five girls stand, their silhouettes stark against a blue backdrop. Trembling, they desperately claw their dresses off their skin and raise them slowly in the air. As the light drops upon them with the last lyrics of the song, they let their dresses fall at their feet. And then they stand, hands clasped, clothed only in nude garments, staring out into the audience.
At the Student Choreography Showcase this winter, these five girls made their mark on the Deerfield community with the piece “Body Love,” choreographed by Nick Ortega ‘19 to the song by Mary Lambert, which shares the same name. The song includes lines such as “Love your body the way your mother loved your baby feet,” “Our bodies deserve more than to be war-torn and collateral,” and “My body is home.”
Ortega began choreographing the piece last spring, with the intention of shedding light on issues of body image and self-harm that he believed were pertinent to everyone in the community.
“I have a younger sister who dances and she’s very self-conscious of her body,” Ortega explained in regards to his inspiration for the piece. “It’s the same with most of us dancers because we always want to create the illusion of perfection on stage. That can be a very physically and mentally draining aspiration to have.”
He continued, “I wanted to create a piece where, finally, dancers could be comfortable in their own skin, and not worry about societal pressures to be perfect.”
However, Ortega and many others involved, voiced concerns about how the piece could be interpreted in a way that differed from its original intention.
“One thing that was brought up was that when the girls took off their dresses and they were ‘nude’ on stage, it could’ve been read as ‘sexual,’” Ortega expressed. “It wasn’t the idea that I was going for.”
To rebut these misinformed interpretations, Director of Dance Jennifer Whitcomb said, “The dance was a statement about the vulnerability of the human body rather than its sensuality, and there is power in that vulnerability.”
She added, “I love it when I see different sizes and shapes and ethnicities and genders dancing together in unison, and that is the most beautiful thing, because there is no such thing as the right body type for dance.“
The overarching message is that our bodies aren’t sexual objects,” Quinn Soucy ’19 added. “They’re a part of us, not anything for anyone else to judge. And we need to become more comfortable with that as well.”
Through Mary Lambert’s bold lyrics and powerful message, this piece also highlighted more serious issues of self-love and body image relating to eating disorders and self-harm.
Izzy Hamlen ‘20, an audience member who had written an opinion article about disordered eating in the January issue of the Scroll, expressed the impact of the piece in starting a previously disregarded dialogue. “We don’t talk about body image enough at DA because everybody is walking on eggshells around each other,” she said.
Catalina Llorente ‘19, who was also in the audience, described how, as a peer counselor, the piece resonated with her. She mentioned that, throughout her years as a peer counselor, many people had come to her with similar issues.
“A lot of times, the people that come to me are concerned friends who don’t know how to help their friends, mostly because we don’t talk about it a lot,” Llorente explained. Statistics further prove the prevalence of such issues at Deerfield. According to a recent student-body survey conducted by the Scroll, approximately 1 in 5 girls at Deerfield are struggling or have struggled with an eating disorder. Gigi Deinard ‘20, one of the dancers in the piece, reflected, “‘Body Love’ was the scariest yet most exhilarating piece I’ve performed. It left me possibly the most vulnerable I have ever felt on stage but I was also so proud to be able to convey such a powerful and positive message, one that I know really impacted a lot of people.” “I’d like to think that this piece has put us one step closer to a more inclusive community,” Hamlen continued. “I hope there will be more performances like this so that we can ingrain the idea of loving yourself into the minds of every student at Deerfield.”