Friday, November 7, 2014

Dancer, Blogger and Activist Ragen Chastain Speaks at Step Out, Cleveland This Weekend

When Ragen Chastain became a competitive ballroom dancer in 2004, she thought she’d be judged on her skill.

Instead, a judge told her it was a waste to be so talented at her size.

A judge at one competition told Chastain she couldn’t stand to look at her because of the spaghetti straps she wore. Chastain told the judge she wouldn’t change her dress.

“I kind of realized in that moment that I wanted to be a fat dancer,” Chastain says, “but I was going to have to be a fat activist to get that done.”

Now, Chastain writes on her blog Dances with Fat about her journey as a dancer. She also speaks publicly, as she’s doing at Step Out, Cleveland, a free community event exploring the culture of dance through discussion, workshops and a party. The event starts at 11 a.m. at the Global Center for Health Innovation on Saturday and continues through Sunday. Chastain will hold a workshop session entitled, “Taking up Space: Dance for Every Body” at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Being thin is part of dance culture, which encourages women to have poor relationships with their bodies, says Chastain.

“I think it leaves out people who are amazing dancers, but they don’t have a ‘dancer’s body,’” Chastain says. “I think that the dance world ultimately suffers because it doesn’t see all of the amazing dancers who exist.”

Her workshop will explore dancers’ relationships with their bodies and dance.

“I think if you want to dance and you have a dancer’s body that you love, and respect your body that you have,” Chastain says. “And that you’re going to dance with that body and you’re going to find avenues to do that.”
By Alyssa Flynn

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