We are excited to introduce our next participant in the Body Love Now photo project: Celeste Snowber, Ph.D. She is a dancer, writer and educator, who is an Associate Professor in Arts Education in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University, outside Vancouver, B.C., Canada. Celeste continues to create/perform site-specific work in connection to the natural world and is passionate about creating from experiences of daily life. Celeste is an Interplay leader and has led workshops throughout North America and continues to focus her work in the areas of spirituality, the body, arts-based research, embodied forms of inquiry, curriculum studies, holistic education, and ecological education.
My time with Celeste was lovely and I left feeling so inspired and moved by her wisdom and her beauty, both inside and out. As she moved, I moved with her, with my camera and my fixed 50mm lens. Nothing scripted, just the two of us down at the Pier Park in New Westminster, freezing, but warmed with movement and great conversation! I loved how she moved freely in an open space, in fact my favourite moment was when she was moving and then said to me: “why aren’t more people moving like this?” I thought about that after, what a great point! Why don’t we all start to explore our surroundings with creative movement. I think I just might have to try it! Thank you Celeste for sharing your time with me and our project!
We asked Celeste about the words she choose for this project and about her experiences with your body. Here is what she had to say.
What challenges have you faced in your relationship with your body?
One of the challenges I have faced in relationship to my body is truly embracing and celebrating my full body, particularly in my younger years as a dancer and performance artist. I have never been one of those thin dancers, and am designed with curves to accentuate my muscles and intensity of energy flowing through me. The paradigm has been one that has emphasized what it means to be from the “outside in” rather than the “inside out.” Too much emphasis was placed during my twenties studying dance on the outside form as the primary criteria of excellence. It took me growing into my forties to truly honour, celebrate and live into that I could be outrageously sensuous, strong, artistic and skilled in the body I inhabited. I could be a dancer that didn’t look like the expected norm. My other challenge has been the difficulties with having several knee surgeries and more recently a knee replacement. This has caused limits in my ability to jump, leap, and execute certain kinds of movement. Dealing with physical pain has broken open a relationship between limits and possibility and informed and transformed my relationship to my body.
How has your relationship with your body changed because of those challenges? What have you learned?
I have said and written many times; we do not have bodies, we are bodies. My experiences have informed the shift in understanding on a visceral level to celebrate, honour and create through my body from the inside out. My body and all bodies are a deep place of knowledge and wisdom; a free GPS system within to listen to its subtle sensations and bold proclamations. Through honouring my own body, I have been catapulted over the last thirty years to explore the body as a place of inquiry and pioneer ways of writing through the body and teaching embodiment to undergrad and graduate students on the university level. I do the work I love and need and open up places for the body to be central to the process of living, being, writing and creating. Through my difficulties with my knee I have come to know limits as a place of grace and possibility. For example, I have created many dances on chairs, and the chair as a support opened up all kinds of movement language that had never been in my movement vocabulary. My objects now have become the opportunity to create and dance in site-specific performances in the natural world at the edge of sea and land, where the earth, stones, trees are a literal support to dance from.
What words did you choose to describe how you want to feel in your body, and why did you choose them?
I chose sensuous and poetic for that is what my body has been teaching me in such beautiful and bold ways. Sensuality is not from the outside, but ripples through my flesh, breathing into the sinews and cells, tissues and sways of movement. My body is a living poem, in its capacity to express joy and lament, sorrow and the ecstatic and each season is a territory of wonder. My invitation, and I extend to all, is to embrace both the ordinary and the holy through our bodies. I feel deeply alive; the breath of life flows through me in ways that I must dance. Dance is not from the outside, but is initiated from the eros surging through my response to the life energy within me and in the natural world. The body invokes me to honour each moment. I also choose these words because it has been somewhat of a passion and calling for me to take back the sensuous, poetic body for my own. For too long sensuality and sexuality has been dictated by image, and I finally understood that there is a reality of being sensuous from the inside out and all of life is sensuous; both creatures and creation. It is not about the outer, but experiencing the life force through the body and letting the breath animate all one does. I am beckoned into living with freedom, joy, paradox and wonder through being a sensuous, poetic body.
What advice would you give to your younger self about body image?
This is what I would tell my younger body ~
Be both fierce and gentle. Fierce by not letting anyone or anything else dictate what is beautiful or wise. Embrace uncertainty and welcome tears. Listen to your body as a place of deep knowing. Let the joy you feel in your belly be a place of discernment. Listen to your joy. Listen to what rises within you and how your body asks the questions. Know your body is much more than how your hips or nose look or what size your torso is or if you have a flat belly. What is within you is your deepest treasure ~ each swirling pulse and breath rising and falling in the crevices of your flesh. Honour your body’s wisdom, for here is the key to locating your voice, passion, and life’s work on the planet. Know your artist and heart dwell in the hearth of your body. Celebrate all your uniqueness and dance, write, dwell, live through your body. For here will be your joy and here will be your entrance to magnificence and celebrating from the inside out. Tread boldy and beautifully with fierceness and gentleness.