At Fort Mill’s Center Stage, girls learned to Love Your Body

Special to the Fort Mill TimesDecember 17, 2013 

— Young dancers learned the true meaning of beauty thanks to a week of inspiration at the Center Stage Dance Academy in Fort Mill.

The Academy held a Love Your Body Week in late November as a way to encourage dancers to share positive messages about themselves.

“It’s about promoting a healthy lifestyle and being thankful for what our bodies allow us to do,” said Center Stage owner Maegan Kitrell.

Kitrell was inspired by the Love Your Body Week promoted in Dance Teacher Magazine as a way to teach positive body image.

During the week, each dance class ages 5 and older were told to write what they loved most about their bodies. The messages focused on what their bodies allowed them to do, such as dance, walk and feel strong, rather than on outward appearances.

“Our media promotes that everyone needs to be a size zero,” Kitrell said. “It’s a great thing for (the dancers) to learn it’s not about what we look like, but what we feel.”

The classes posted the messages on the classroom mirrors so they could not see themselves while they danced, but would learn what their bodies feel like and what they can do. By the end of the week, each dancer felt better about herself and learned an important lesson, said Melissa Morette, a dance instructor at Center Stage.

“We all come in different shapes and sizes,” she said. “We want kids to know everybody’s bodies are different and teach them lessons they can take in life, not just dance.”

Morette, whose daughter Gianna is a dancer at Center Stage, said the week brought all the age groups together.

“The dancers started to realize what they mean to one another,” she said. “You are a role model every day.”

Fort Mill resident Julie Stanton said her daughter Lilly, 8, enjoyed the week and took home a positive message.

“It doesn’t matter what size your body it, what matters is what type of person you are,” Stanton said.

Lilly has been attending Center Stage since she was 3 and said she enjoyed the week and loves the Academy.

“It makes me feel good about myself,” she said. “I learned we should love our bodies just the way they are.”

Stanton said Center Stage and Kitrell do a lot for every dancer that attends.

“Maegan is incredible,” she said. “She pours her heart and soul into our kids and the studio and you can tell.”

Center Stage hopes to make the Love Your Body Week an annual activity, Kitrell said.

“It’s a fun thing to do to show that we are thankful,” she said.

Helping the hungry

The academy also held a canned food drive during November and collected more than 500 cans for the Fort Mill Care Center as a way to thank others.

The academy also held a spirit week to show thanks for their studio.

“We’re a tight family here,” Kitrell said. “It’s great to see (the dancers) grow up together.”

Vanessa Bergvist, whose daughters Caroline, 14, and Kaylee, 16 have attended Center Stage since they were three, said the Academy has always been a big part of their lives.

“(Caroline) couldn’t wait to get in there and dance with the big kids,” she said. “It’s like our own family, everyone knows everybody there.”

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