Meet KT & Heather: dancers, teachers, creators of Fat-Centric Dance. KT teaches Body Home Fat Dance, a contemporary & jazz class. Heather teaches Zaftig Dance in Plus size, a modern ballet class. Together, they are creating inclusive fat positive, body positive dance spaces.
What’s your dance experience/background?
KT: Childhood was full of dance recitals and ballet. I recently uncovered a shoe box full of the neon and spandex photographic and Beta Max video evidence. I did the Nutcracker every year and played everything from a soldier and angel to Clara, and finally I even played the Nutcracker Prince (I think this was my root for later becoming a drag king). In high school, I transitioned to Modern Dance and Choreography. Then in my adult years I have done queer underground performance art, where I have gotten to choreograph, teach and perform all sort of dance with amazing friends and performers. But teaching classes? That is my newest adventure!
Heather: I’ve been taking dance classes since I was six and continued studying at the American Musical and Dramatic Academy in NY and Pacific University. I also have worked as a teaching artist working with teens and college students, as well as performing in various theater, music and dance projects.
Why did you start Fat-Centric Dance?
Heather: It has always been my dream to start a body positive dance organization with a performing group, events and classes. I’ve been dancing since I was a kid and had always wanted to study more professionally but had trouble finding support in the Dance Community. For me dancing has always been part art and part spiritual practice. It is incomprehensible to me that dancing, even professional dancing should be only for a small percentage of body types. When I finally found teachers who accepted me, I found strength and self-love that I had never known before. That’s when I truly to began to embrace myself as an artist and dancer. I created Zaftig in the summer of 2016 to offer a safe space and empower others to be their true selves.
KT: I started Body Home in April 2016 with a small, invited group to sort of beta-test the class. I got to try things out and brainstorm with the community about what they wanted from the class. A few weeks later, I launched to a weekly drop in class and we have been going strong ever since. Starting the class was partly for selfish reasons because I want to dance in a community where I feel safe, connected to each other and connected to our bodies. Also, I wanted to introduce people to the opportunity to dance, regardless of experience.
What’s your mission?
KT: I want to empower people to have more opportunities to connect with their bodies, explore creativity, and connect with community. Our focus is on joyful movement, creative expression, and honoring our unique abilities and challenges with self-compassion in a fat-positive space. I hope people attending my class can feel good in their bodies, have fun, lift their spirits, connect with each other, and break down any notions that they aren’t a dancer.
Heather: Our mission statement is to support and promote dance training and performance for plus size dancers while also giving presence and value to diversity in dance through classes, workshops and festivals. I hope next year to offer more classes and to start a performance dance team. I hope my class gives people the ability to embrace the beautiful dancer within themselves and gain strength and comfort in their bodies. Most of all I hope my class is a place where they can relax and have fun in a nurturing and empowering environment.
What would you say to someone who is afraid to try dancing because they think it’s not for them?
KT: Many people in this class started out with similar hesitations but after they try it they so often approach me to let me know how much they enjoy it. I think coming the first time to anything can be intimidating, but after you have come once I think you will be glad you did.
Heather: My students often tell me that it had been a childhood dream to take ballet classes. Their fears of bullies, leotards and feeling unwelcome stopped them from pursuing their interest in dance. Our low impact class is designed for beginners and focuses on technique, strengthening, fun and community building.
What’s your favorite music to dance to?
KT: I had so much fun choreographing and teaching a dance we did a couple of months back to the song “Soy Yo” by Bomba Estereo, a song about being empowered to be yourself and has a fun beat. I also really like warming up to Alicia Keys, Adele and Beth Ditto.
Heather: I’m really into Black Violin, the Westworld Soundtrack and Bruno Mars 24K Magic.
Body Home Fat Dance Winter Series starts January 10 and runs for 8 weeks, to get on the waitlist & to keep updated on future drop-in classes, head to facebook.com/bodyhomefatdance.
Zaftig Dance in Plus Size modern ballet drop-in dance classes are every other Thursday from 6-7:30pm at New Expressive Works in SE Portland. For more information & to keep up to date on classes, head to facebook.com/zaftigdancefest.