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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Weigh in - at ballet school! Need advice!

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At one pre professional school that I did costumes at when we measured the students they were not allowed to see their measurements as we took them. We showed them to the writer and then went onto the next measurement. This kept the kids from either overhearing or being pressured into telling their measurements since no one knew. I thought this was a great approach. I hope, at least, this was the approach with the weight in. Chris

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Most day or by-the-class ballet schools don't really have a need for this, as I mentioned before, but they might have a need for measurements, especially around costuming time, if they have a performing function, as a civic ballet. This is quite another matter, and taking weight records ought not to be a part of it. Over the years, I've seen several ballet dads who were doctors make themselves available, "of counsel" for referrals from local ballet schools. This might be the way to go, if having a "doctor in the house" is needed for a local ballet school. (And think, IS such a service often needed? I rather think not. It may be nice to have, but not necessary.)

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My daughter attended NBS and is now attending RWB . Both of these residential schools required a medical which included the dancer's height and weight. Other than that, no one has ever asked her how much she weighed or to weigh her. She did have assessments done at NBS during two of her summer schools as an auditioning student, this was to assess turnout, feet, flexibility, look for an muscle imbalances and structural limitations. This was not done once the students was accepted into the full time program.


Sadly ballet students with their tenedencies towards perfectionism are often painfully aware of their physique and absolutely should not be subjected to this at their dance school.


It is just not necessary for a ballet school to have weigh ins. As a parent I would have serious concerns with this. Do not overlook this, speak out! If necessary print off this thread and give it to the school.

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There was, however, one time, years ago, at a ballet school far, far away, when physical characteristics came in handy for a summer program. A dancer had sent in a basic description saying that she was 5' 3" tall, and weighed 114 lbs. Who showed up was 90 lbs. and 5' 1". Seems that the successful applicant had decided to go to another program and "legacy" her acceptance to her younger sister! The parents had signed off, saying that this was the elder sister, and provided HER medical history. Coulda got ugly if she had been injured during her time with the school!


(It wasn't the weight, it was the height that tipped them off. That and sometimes not responding to her "name".)

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What a step back in progress towards having a healthy self-concept during adolescence.


:D Speaking of hts and wts in public schools...we have been directed to send ht/wt with BMI notices to parents by the community's School Health Advisory Committee. I fought it all I could...but lost. The first "general" letter went out last week...just info about BMI and the plan to send the results in Feb. A parental refusal form was sent as well. You can imagine the backlash we've received...many angry responses from parents. I just explain that I'm following a directive and then I give them the names of the members of the committee. :) The letters were condescending and almost scolding...if the idea of sending BMI results home didn't irritate...the letter did.


I had to go to a meeting yesterday (Saturday) to discuss a "response" plan. I wanted to shout "I told you so" but I didn't.

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What about a studio that denies students roles because of their weight? We had a guest artist that stipulated that he would not lift anyone over a certain weight. The partner that had been chosen was heavier than that (but a beautiful dancer.) The part was taken away and she actually quit dancing. This was at 16 years old. There are rumors that the same thing may be happening again at our studio this spring. Is this kind of "request" by a guest artist normal?

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The director's response should have been, "You want to dance with a particular size or shape, bring your own partner! YOU, however, will be responsible for paying her."

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At my dds year round school, they do have health checks every term. Naturally, this includes a "weigh in". I don't think the school is concerned with kids who might be overweight, rather they are on the look out for dancers who might be susceptible to eds. such as bulemia and anorexia. I have not heard of any dancers who have been told that they needed to lose weight, but I have heard of dancers who have been told to gain weight. With my dd so far away from home, I am happy that the school takes an active role in watching out for possible eating disorders. I don't think this sort of thing is necessary for a dancer who lives and trains at home, but in a year round situation it can be helpful.

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Weigh ins at schools are not the only source of weight angst. Look in one of the ballet bibles "Classical Ballet Technique" by Gretchen Ward Warren. In the chapter about the "ideal female dancer's body" it states heights between 5'2" and 5'8" with weights ranging from 85 - 115 lbs. If a 5'2" female weighs 85 lbs, and a 5'8" female weighs 115 lbs, according to current charts, these females would be 25 pounds below normal. Guess who pointed this out to me? Yup, my DD. You can bet I kept en eye on things after that.

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Guest Hattie

Hello- I'm not a parent but I just wanted to say that it's not just ballet schools that weigh students! At most of the public schools in England (public schools are the really posh private schools, just to make it confusing for people in America) they weigh the girls every term. At some schools they do it every six weeks. It's very unhealthy. A friend of mine told me that out of the 50 girls in her year, 5 were in rehab or hospital due to anorexia or bulimia, 5 were at home recovering, at least 20 were ill but still at school, and about 10 were overweight. That leaves 10 "normal" girls.... aged 15....


In my opinion, it's a completely outdated way of "looking after" the students. It does far more harm than good.

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I guess this is why the board here makes it so clear that discussing weight is not helpful unless you can see the child. My little over 5'5" DD would not fit that weight category unless maybe she cut an arm off. However she does not carry extra fat. At 13 her body is still shaping and reshaping itself as she increases her dancing. In the end she may not have an 'ideal ballet' body but it would be very difficult for her to be healthy and under 115 given her bone and muscle structure.

As for weighing in, back in the darker ages I was a competitive college gymnast and we were weighed in twice a week (Monday and Friday). What we learned from this, I am not sure. But I guess the school could justify it by saying they had made an investment (although tiny) in us via financial support.

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Such a slippery slope! I would thank the ballet teacher/AD who cared enough to alert me to a possible ED developing, but I would vilify the same teacher/AD who decreed "she's too heavy", even though she looks/is healthy and within appropriate BMI ranges.


The 5'8", 115 lbs dancer alluded to in the Gretchen Ward book may or may not be healthy. At 5'9", there is no way I would ever have been healthy at even close to that weight. There were times in college and grad-school when my weight dropped "just because"; I could tell when it didn't look healthy. But I have had friends of my same heighth that weighed much less than me and they were healthy.


Some dancers are just naturally low-weight---even for their heights. My non-dd borders on underweight based upon BMI. That's just her physical make-up. But if she were to slip over an edge into an ED . . . how would someone know the slipping had begun if they didn't know her usual weight?


The extremes of this issue are obvious, but as we get closer to the edge (center ?), it becomes more and more blurred, but more and more critical. Such judgment balancing---something zero tolerance and carte blanc approaches are incapable of doing.

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I no longer often post, but this one was impossible to ignore.


1) There is no reason EVER for a local school - even if it has prepro aspriations to weigh all students. It's stupid, and if god forbid any of those students ever develop eating disorders, and moderately intelligent lawyer will destroy that school.

2) It is FOOLISH in the extreme to suggest that even residential schools should have "weighings" for a baseline. Children are weighed durning physical examinations and any residential school will require PARENTS to arrange regular (yearly) physicals. PHYSICIANS should gather this information - not dance teachers. People should rest assured that regular accurate weighings are not needed to diagnose an eating disorder - regular weighings simply focus young people in a deeply unhealthy way on this topic. A young woman's weight can easily vary by 5% or more simply due to position in the menstrual cycle. If one happens to be weighed at the wrong time of the month, should one be assumed to be gaining weight or losing weight - nonsense.


The beauty of a dancer should not be judged by the number associated with her weight - if she is overweight, she will not be a beautiful graceful dancer, and I would hope a dance teacher would be able to see this and appropriately counsel her parents.


As for the original poster - I would either have a long and serious talk with this school or find another.

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I've been watching this thread for the last day or so and I have to add my two cents.


As a serious ballet student in the 1970's at a very well known pre-pro school I and my class were the victims of regular weigh-ins on and off for many years. Usually they would be a surprise, but sometimes we would be given a week's notice (which was even worse since it gave us time to do some serious and dangerous preparation). Several eating disorders were created and/or nurtured as a result. It was a different time and our parents never even thought to question or speak out against the weigh-ins. We all just kind of did what the school wanted us to do.


Weigh-ins are nothing short of physical and emotional abuse (not to mention just plain stupid). As a parent I would definitely not let this pass and would speak to the director and in the meantime find another school for my child.

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Thank you everyone for all of your input here. It is with a heavier and heavier heart that I read each and every one. We have not yet been back to the studio since the afore mentioned incident. I have , however gleened some additional information from DD. The weight given for ANY pas de deux is 115, regardless of height or body type. Period. They were also told that if they were too heavy---no number given here-- they would not be cast in the upcoming Spring performance. The story will unfold soon, casting is expected shortly. :shrug::(:(

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