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Belly dancing gives Penticton woman unshakable confidence

PENTICTON — She’s called Tree Kennedy, a fitting name for the Penticton woman who stands at 6 feet tall. She has a commanding presence, but when she was younger, standing out made her the subject of ridicule.

“I’ve always been kind of the tall girl, and carrying extra weight, being told [I’m] too big, [I’m] not worthy. Unfortunately, it was a running theme in my life,” says Kennedy.

One of Kennedy’s most vivid memories: a jazz dance instructor told her that she wasn’t made to dance when she was seven years old.

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“After the first class, (she) told me I was too big, and dance was not for big people, not for big girls, and that I shouldn’t waste any more time with it.”

Kennedy let that negative comment hold her back for 20 years, until one day, after going through a traumatic break-up, she decided to turn over a new leaf and try belly dancing.

Her next dance instructor changed her life.

“When I first met her, she said, ‘You’re graceful, you’re beautiful, I wish I could find more dancers like you…you have it in you.'”

From there, she went from weighing 420 pounds to 300 pounds, and she gained greater self worth.

Now she performs with other dancers at Get Bent Bollywood Bellydancing. She entertains people at performances and teaches at the dance studio, where she spreads her message of self-love and positivity.

“She’ll get up there and she’s not shameful for not having a societally perfect body. So many people who aren’t societally perfect see that and think: oh, it’s okay, I can do it,” says Wendy Goudie, Kennedy’s instructor and colleague.

If Kennedy could turn back time, she’d tell her former self this:

“Dont listen to those people. You can do anything. I mean that for everybody,” she says. “It is going to be okay and you will get over it and you are stronger. No matter what anybody says, you are capable.”

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