You walk into a large room with high ceilings and walls made of massive mirrors. You are dressed in tights and a form-fitting leo, perhaps a pair of garbage bag shorts for the sake of menial comfort, and the floor has a slight spring beneath you. Every day that you walk into this place to hone your craft -- to dance and jump and bend and bound -- your teachers tell you how far from perfect you are, how wrong you and your body are. All of this gets wrapped in a skin of reflections on all four sides of the studio. More often than not, the sense of self that gets bounced back to you is a far less empowered, less complimentary image than you started off with.
There are few art forms, sports, or professions in general for that matter, that involve as much emotional and physical wear and tear as dance.
It's a side of the art that most audience members never seriously consider. But if you spend a significant amount of time around professional dancers, it's impossible not to be affected by what they put themselves through for their passion. And while many people on both sides of the barre would say that that's simply the nature of the beast, others are not content to accept that idea of a subjugated self-image being an occupational hazard of doing what they love.
Hattie Mae Williams is one such dancer.