Jump to content
Ballet Talk for Dancers

Body image and teacher’s words

Recommended Posts


My 14 y.o. DD has been a dancer since she was 4 years old and, after doing many different forms of dance, has been doing ballet solely for the past 4 years and us currently in a pre-professional program where she (pre-COVID) dances 4 days/week.

She is talented and enjoys the art form although her body is not the “ideal” (she is about 5’5,  ______ pounds). She has always been “all in” with her dancing but I have noticed that (since her body has developed) she is holding back. She is constantly comparing herself to thinner girls and has voiced that she hates her body and would love to have a breast reduction.

Hearing your child speak so negatively of herself is really painful. The world is so hard on girls and their body images and I’m finding that ballet class is no different.

My child comes home and regularly tells me that her teacher always focuses on one girl in particular and tells her (out loud, in class) that she has such beautiful long legs and gorgeous feet. While it is true that this child is “Balanchine material” and should be encouraged, I find it very distasteful that a teacher is focusing on physical attributes rather than skill/ability-ESPECIALLY in front of impressionable pre-teens/teens. It has really left a bad taste in my DD’s mouth (and mine) and I’m finding that she is no longer enthused about dancing. I have offered to talk to the teacher but she says that I’m over-reacting and that “that’s the ballet world!”.

I’m at a loss. Is this something that is a typical experience for pre-professional programs? Do I dare say anything about this to the teacher? OR Do I find another studio? 

Any advice would be helpful.


Edited by dancemaven
Removed weight per BT4D Rules and Policies.

Share this post

Link to post

I would find another studio.  This one is not conducive to your DD’s emotional health.  And no, it is not typical for a pre-professional program.  Yes, there are those like this one, but it does not have to be that way and there are plenty that are not.

Although it is true that at some point your DD will need to come to terms with her “dancing body”, it is not at age 14.  The teen years are just beginning and the body has a LOT of changes it will go through.  My DD’s body at age 14 was much different that her “dancing body” at age 19-23 when she was on the cusp of professional contract time.  By then, she knew her body, her preferences, her place in the dance world, and she was committed, accepted, and happy.  Your DD will get there, too.  But not if she stays at studio that talks to her the way this one is.  We moved DD from just such an environment because it was unhealthy and destructive for her.

The studio is not going to change, so just change studios.  Find a pre-professional program that is nurturing, understanding of teen years, body development, celebrates the dancer within, and encourages her to find her voice and her strength.

Share this post

Link to post

I agree. As has been said in other threads here, go where you are celebrated. My 20-year-old does not look like she did when she was 13/14 and puberty was hitting hard. She'll never have a waif-like figure but she's strong and she plays to her strengths. Early teen years are hard enough as they stare at the mirror so often and compare themselves with other dancers. They don't need adults in authority giving them even more to obsess over. 

Share this post

Link to post

Agree completely with dancemaven and dancingjet.

Take care and hang in there.


Share this post

Link to post

I have to agree with you.  We came from a studio where not one but three girls were hospitalized for issues related to undernourishment (2 for their hearts, 1 for bones that kept breaking), plus 3 other cases of anorexia that I am aware of in same time short period.  I never understood why my 12 year would cry every Saturday morning before class because she thought she was fat, which she wasn't.  It was small "well meaning" comments from beloved teachers that did the trick.  Eventually I to would stupidly follow studio guidelines of no sandwiches or juices or dairy because I didn't know any better, thus making it worse.  We found a new studio the following year where no one talks about weight, except in one case someone was sent home for being undernourished.  In fact, cupcakes are encouraged during birthdays.

If it helps, this is what I did for my DD: I sent her to a pediatrician and she pointed out how my DD was actually underweight AND at risk for missing her growth spurt.  She also found her heart was beginning to slow and she refused to sign her waiver for her SI until she put on weight.  They also required us to go to counseling for eating disorder.  So you see, even though it did not appear my daughter had an issue to my ignorant eyes, she did.  The comments she heard from people she loved cut more deeply than I knew.  She also had this idea that if she looked more like "so and so", a peer,  she would be better.  Well, 2 years later "so and so" and my DD look a lot more alike.  DD got taller and naturally leaner, whilst drinking Frappaccino's quite regularly, and "so and so" has filled out and is gorgeous as ever.

I advise you to go to a caring pediatrician who can help you as we were helped. 

Share this post

Link to post

I agree with everyone here that you need to seriously consider changing studios.

I agree specifically with Nynydancer that -- as a parent -- it can be difficult to "see" when your DD is suffering and truly understand the extent of the "damage" being done.  I believe that is for 2 main reasons.  First, it's a slow process.  Second, it's a bit "hidden."  

As a slow process: I am not a psychologist, but the psychological development of children and teens is fascinating to me, and I've done a ton of research, just to help me raise my kids and be a better parent.  Teens, in particular, are peculiarly fascinating and interesting humans.  In trying to improve my parenting skills, I've come to the conclusion that the teenage years are much more important than I originally assumed, particularly as it relates to their sense of self, including their body image, and how their "self" fits into society.  And they are particularly vulnerable during this time period and require extra care by the parent to be vigilant with the environmental exposure to "negative" influence - as much as you are able.  You cannot wrap them in cotton and prevent any harm from occurring.  That goal is not possible, nor helpful, honestly.  But you can look at their environment and try to make sure that -- to the best of your ability -- their exposure to negative elements is as limited as possible, for as long as possible.  Again, it's a slow process, but 14yo is on the young and beginning side, so more careful analysis and potential protection is necessary than say for a 17-18 yo.

As to the "hidden" nature: This relates a bit to the teen development phase in general, but after raising 2, and now on my 3rd teen, teenage years, (as a time period), seem to require an increase in privacy on their part, as the relationship with the parent changes.  As a parent who talked a lot (perhaps too much) with all my children about all sorts of topics (including those that others deem "uncomfortable"), I was surprised at some of the mental health issues that can sneak up on you, especially if your DD is skilled at being "reasonable" in all other areas of life (peer relationships, dating, gender/sex, drugs, etc).  You only need to read the book "A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy" by Sue Klebold to grasp this concept in a visceral, heart-breaking and tragic way.  

For me, it was helpful to see "dance" for my DD as an entirely different category than ANY other aspect of her life, and discussions around it and her self image related to it, required very specialized treatment and analysis (on my part). I found that my DD would not treat comments about her dancing in the same way as she treated everything else.  Negative comments that could be dismissed or rationalized in other areas of my DD's life were NOT treated in the same coldly rational or logical way when they happened in dance (especially if they came from a place of authority or respect from a trusted and admired teacher).  As Nynydancer pointed out, even small "well meaning" or otherwise innocuous comments from teachers directed toward OTHERS would niggle their way into her brain in a negative way, and all the "talk" from or with me in the world could not uproot them.  Therefore, I am a strong proponent of getting professional assistance (from a pediatrician, from mental health professional, from a nutritionist) to help you parent through this time.  Their expertise and third party neutrality is invaluable, in my opinion.  

Share this post

Link to post

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

  • Create New...