Eating Disorders and Ballet - Anorexia Nervosa is Eating the Soul of Young Dancers

Eating Disorders and Ballet - Anorexia Nervosa is Eating the Soul of Young Dancers

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Eating Disorders and Ballet - Anorexia Nervosa is Eating the Soul of Young Dancers


The applauding audience, the lights, sequins and feathers, the colorful, elaborate tutus, and satin pointe shoes capture the hearts of young girls. Where else can a young girl dream of becoming a princess, a swan, a dancing snowflake or flower, or a sugarplum fairy? Where else can she be a fairy tale character like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty? Where else can she be rescued by her handsome prince and collapse into his arms? Ballet is the magical world where these dreams can come true. Young girls and women can be all of these things, symbolizing femininity in a culture that teaches young girls to be and want everything pink and pretty. However, in the shadow of the spotlight lurks an abusive world of eating disorders and malnourished dancers.

When the performance ends, the dancers return to their regular routine of dancing five to seven hours a day, including both classes and rehearsal. During auditions, performances, and sometimes at random, it is not uncommon for a dancer to walk into what she thinks will be her daily ballet class and find a scale set up in the center of the dance studio instead (S. Gordon 42). These “weigh-ins” are arranged ahead of time but kept a secret from the dancers. A director from American Ballet Theatre explained that warning the dancers of the “weigh-in” to come would defeat the purpose. “A fore-warned dancer is a fore-starved dancer” (S. Gordon 43). Not only are the dancer’s weights recorded and compared but many times they are read aloud to the entire class. Famous choreographer George Balanchine was known to comment to his dancers, “Eat nothing!” and “I must see bones!” as he poked t...


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Something Fishy. “The Incidence rate of Anorexia in ballet dancers”. Oct. 2003. 17, Oct. 2003. http://www.something-fishy.org/cultural/ballet.php .

SouthCoast Today. “Eating Disorder Blamed in Dancer’s Death”. 17, Oct. 2003. 17, Oct. 2003. http://www.s-t.com/daily/07-97/07-11-97/a03sr019.htm

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