A week or so ago, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed and stumbled upon a video that my dear friend and fellow dancer, Brigitte Butler, had posted. In the video, she was experimenting with some freestyle contemporary dancing, just in the open space of her bedroom. I've seen Brigitte and other dance friends post videos like these dozens of times, but what caught my attention about this video was the caption. She wrote that she was "trying to use all [her] limbs to their full capacity and not be so small".
Brigitte is 5' 10" and has gorgeous, long limbs for dancing... But I still knew exactly what she meant. Whether you are 5' 1" like me, or 5' 10" like Brigitte, the world tells us (as women, especially) that being big and taking up space is a bad thing.
Whether it's crossing our legs while sitting, or speaking with soft voices, we are unconsciously conditioned to take up as little space as possible.
Even the phrase "taking up space" has a negative connotation - like we are in the way or imposing ourselves on the people around us.
BUT, in dance and other art forms, that's not the case! We in fact spend years training ourselves out of being small and are encouraged to love our bodies and use those limbs and voices to their full extent. In art, taking up space is a good thing. Whether it's a singer's / actor's voice, or a dancer's body, taking up space is a beautiful and freeing and expressive way to communicate the message behind the art. Sadly, most people walk around afraid to take up space because society teaches us that we're not supposed to - but as artists, it's quite literally our job to take up as much space as possible!
As I sat there, no longer paying any attention to my Instagram feed, I gradually came to realize how transformative this idea of taking up space has been for me as an artist and a person. Growing up, I went through typical adolescent phases of feeling insignificant - of feeling small and like I wasn't good enough or pretty enough or tall enough or skinny enough or whatever enough. (Let's be real, these thoughts still creep in today.) But, no matter how much I was drowning in self-doubt or self-hate, I always had dance and theatre to shake me out of it.
When I was in a dance class or on stage, I was encouraged to be the biggest, most full, and confident version of myself. I was free to take up as much space as possible.
It made me feel like a rockstar! And to this day, I use my art to re-center myself when I'm feeling out of sorts - usually a "when in doubt, dance it out" kinda thing.
Even if you don't consider yourself to be an "artist", I want to challenge you to try taking advantage of any and all opportunities to take up space with art.
And if there are no opportunities available to you, create them.
Anytime, anyplace. Seriously, go for it! Sing your heart out in the shower, share a crazy story with a friend, or make up a dance to a Hozier song in your backyard (see video below) - exercise the gift of taking up space with art every day! I promise, you won't regret it.
Taleen Shrikian is a Southern California native who recently graduated from Boston College with a BA in Theatre Arts and a minor in General Education. While at Boston College, Taleen was lucky enough to pursue her love of theatre and dance through performing and choreographing with the BC Theatre Department and the BC Dance Ensemble. Since moving back to California, Taleen has been getting involved with as much as she can in the LA arts scene. Between a professional acting internship with A Noise Within classical theatre company, a recent ten-minute play series with The Underground Theatre, an upcoming performance as Tracy Turnblad in "Hairspray" at The Orpheum Theatre, and becoming a member of LA based theatre company, The Vagrancy - Taleen is thrilled to be following her dreams, living and working as an artist in Southern California.
Follow Taleen's journey here:
YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCNURc9GsE9oUYlPpIjH0mdg