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Ballet Talk for Dancers

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Mel Johnson

It's all right here. "Dying to be Thin" should be considered standard viewing for everybody who feels constrained by weight considerations. And everybody around them.

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dance4life56

Those movies (I think) should be a must see for EVERYONE. They were so moving, and yet at the same time horrifying. Today people are fortunate to see and recognize this problem, but years ago people had to strugle alone. I found the most interesting part to be in the second film, where they compare the bone mass of an average young women, to that of one who has not had a period in a year (due to anorexia). IMO not only should NYCB and ABT dancer be educated on this, but all serious ballet schools should be teaching their students the dangers of such a disorder. Especially if the school is promoting presional dancers.

Thank you dwcgirl for posting this.

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thedancingj

Yeah, I've seen those quite a few times. They are very good. I really appreciate the fact that Kevin McKenzie told that beautiful eating-disordered dancer to take some time off to deal with her illness, just the same way he would tell a dancer with tendonitis to take a break and take care of it. I think that's a really wonderful approach for a director to take - "you're just sick, go take care of yourself and get better, I'll save a place for you." Considering all the horror stories about how the ballet world can encourage and intensify eating disordered behavior, I thought that this was really lovely to hear.

 

Pretty much everything else in those videos is just sad sad sad. :)

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  • 4 weeks later...
Pirouette30808

I just finished watching these videos and I was utterly horrified by what I saw. :o There is so much pressure to be thin in the ballet world and girls are really risking their health just to be successful.

 

I find it sad that companies are pressuring girls to do whatever it takes to lose a few pounds when they are in no means 'fat'. :D Eating disorders are very serious problems and dancers that have them should be supported and be able to recieve help for them.

 

I think that girls should be taught that they are beautiful no matter how much they weigh and that they are all beautiful dancers. :D Also, I think that companies should accept people of all different sizes and weights as long as they are good dancers.

 

The ballet world is a beautiful and lovely place, it just frightens me to know that there is a dark side to it. :shrug:

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nashville baby

Thank you for posting this link. I watched this several years ago when my mom called my attention to it. It did not make an impact on me then--but it does now. In my final year of high school I lost a significant amount of weight and suddenly became the center of attention. The teacher comments were, "Are you alright? You look too thin. Are you eating?", etc. This said to me: You look good--now we can do something with you--keep it up! I'm now at a professional program--same story. I just bought a scale. I weigh daily. I am ever conscious of the slightest change in my weight and continue to try to drop a pound when possible. I do not consider myself as having an eating disorder--I'm well aware of the symptoms, my mom treats people with eating disorders. However, I'm also well aware of how close I am to the edge of that cliff....

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Nashville baby-

You are in denial. It is time to seek out help. A dancer must be physically and mentally healthy in order to undergo the rigors of this career. A dancer with an ED cannot withstand it. Time for you to see a doctor.

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Momof3darlings

I agree nashville baby, it's time to see a doctor and if your mom is dismissing you, then see another doctor. I think you might be closer to the cliff than you think.

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nashville baby

I am trying to view your comments as concern, and if that is the prompt for them then I thank you. No, my mom is not "dismissing me". She is my strongest source of support and wholeness is this rather fickle, judgemental world of ballet. She would not treat me--as she would view that as unethical, her ability to see me unemotionally I suppose would be impossible. I am seen yearly by another physician, have had a bone density test (March, 2006) and regular blood tests, etc. I have never missed a menstrual cycle which is classic with eating disorders. I apoligize if my post was taken as a plea for help. My comments were made simply because I find this all such a game--on the one hand those in authority decry the increase in eating disorders and support the healthy weight of dancers and in reality, dancers in fast tracks all know there is a continual assessment of our bodies and our weight. I suppose I could stand on principle and refuse to play, but I dance. It's all I've ever wanted to do and I've sacrificed much more than cake and ice cream to get to this point. If thin is what it takes to dance professionally, then thin is what I will be. I have been told consistently that my technique, expression and line are excellent. I was told last month by a person in authority here that "tall dancers have to do everything to excess to be noticed--that includes being extra careful about weight". I do not restrict excessively but I remain about 15% below my ideal weight. My doctor is cautious but not panicked.

Bottom line: It's very politically correct to stand on the side of "healthy weight" for dancers. Instructors, artistic directors, ballet masters/mistresses, I'm sure are proponents of this in public. It's simply not reality when you're the dancer wanting that role and being rewarded for every pound lost--whether you're healthy or not. Perhaps there is a minority of companies whose leadership is truly in favor of health over excessively thin--in my experience and the experience of the dancers I know, this is truly a minority. Sorry for the long post.

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I hear you, nash, and I would like to address this head on:

 

First of all, our comments are definitely because we are concerned about you.

 

Now, on to your other observation- the simple truth is, growing bodies should not be focused on the scale, counting calories, or any other weight-loss technique; the growing body should be concerned with eating healthful, nutrient-rich foods. Organic, fresh, simply prepared good-for-the-body food. If a person does this all their life, they will be healthy and most likely, fit enough for ballet.

 

We have to remember that growing bodies are a very different thing from an adult professional dancer. Sometimes I'm around and I see what some pros eat, and it is always healthy food, healthfully prepared, and these women and men are not heavy.

 

Because of the intense physical nature of this career, professional dancers must maintain a healthy physique; children (under 18) need to research and make healthy choices as well, but until a body has completed its natural growth progression, no weight-loss should be considered as long as the person has been eating properly.

 

That may be politically correct, but it's also just common sense.

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Momof3darlings

NB-everything said here was said with concern. We can only respond to you using the things you've said in your posts. And neither of your recent posts sounds to me like healthy thinking. I understand what you are meaning. There is definitely an oxymoron to this dance thing. However, that aside, there is never anything more important that YOU.

 

These are the things I see frightening in your post:

-you know the percentage over or under you are

-you are being monitored to be sure you're okay

-you're equating the medical things that are okay as meaning there is no problem.

-you say if you must be thin to dance then thin is what you will be

-you weigh daily

-I am conscious of every slight change in weight

 

We are concerned for you. If that means nothing then great. But if that means something then we cannot sit here and say nothing.

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balletbooster

Nashville Baby,

I think we all acknowledge the hypocrisy that exists between what is said by a company or school and what make actually be practiced by some teachers or an AD. It is extremely frustrating and there are no good answers to this common situation in the ballet world.

 

Having said that, I must also concur with Clara76 and momof3 and encourage you to stay within YOUR healthy weight range and to do so by making healthy choices. NO CAREER GOAL IS WORTH RISKING YOUR HEALTH OR WELL BEING. EDs can be lifelong burdens to carry and the aftermath of poor eating in the teen years can mean brittle bones and more injuries. It takes a very strong young woman to resist the subtle and sometimes not so subtle encouragement to drop your weight below healthy limits in order to gain favor. I hope that you will be realistic, wise and continue to consult with your physician, as much that you have said causes us to worry about the regimen you have adopted and the affects it may be having on you both mentally and physically.

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  • 3 weeks later...

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