Elizabeth King
May 06, 2015 6:00 am

Body-shamers beware, there’s a new self-loving force to be reckoned with: The Dance Free Movement. The glorious movement is pretty self explanatory: Dance(!) and feel no shame in the process. The amazing women behind the movement describe their mission on their site as, “encouraging the world to join us by dancing in public, without fear of shame. By dancing in solidarity with the movement, our hope is to empower everyone to be comfortable in their own bodies.”

The movement was created somewhat spontaneously in response to a story of online bullying that went totally viral. In early March, anonymous 4chan users posted a photo of a man who was dancing solo at a party. They followed that up with another photo of his forlorn expression after he heard them mocking him because of his size. After hearing their laughter, he stopped dancing. It was cruel and utterly heartbreaking, and fortunately many good people on the Internet wanted to do nothing more than to help this man and show those body-shamers that cruelty cannot keep people down. Thus the #FindDancingMan hashtag was born, and Internet users searched high and low for the man pictured below.

Several amazing body-positive women based in LA were able to track down the man using Twitter and #FindDancingMan, and invited him out to California to have a dance party together. And thus the wonderful Dance Free Movement was born.

Many of us can relate to those feelings of shame and embarrassment that made this awesome man stop dancing, and Dance Free wants to do away with those feelings forever by encouraging everyone (regardless of size or weight) to shake their groove thing. They are also doing their part to raise money for anti-bullying organizations, and have so far gathered over $40,000.

The first official Dance Free dance party, the #IAmDancingMan party will be held in Hollywood, California, on May 23. All are invited and, yes, the man who inspired this movement will be there. We cannot wait (and, details in the vid). If you’re not in Hollywood, we encourage you to host your own dance party on that day.

The movement has ambition that goes well beyond dancing freely — they are out to change the world. In their mission statement they describe a culture of love and acceptance that they plan to build in partnership with established non-profits: “Our dream is a world with a strong infrastructure of acceptance within each other and ourselves. If we can help to inspire a stronger sense of self-worth, we can all dance with a little more joy in our step, and will do so by partnering with established non-profit organizations that are in alignment with our vision.” The organizations they work with range from the Trevor Project to the Cybersmile Foundation.

Groups like Dance Free are showing us that there is a clear need to end bullying among adults as well as young people, both online, and during in-person interactions. We’ve seen so many people step up to the plate to encourage others not to let bullies get them down, and to encourage people to claim their deserved confidence in their own bodies. Thanks to the support, encouragement, and outspokenness of pro self-love groups and individuals, we are getting closer and closer to replacing shame and hate with celebrations of love.

So, dance party anyone?

 [Image via]

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