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Eating Disorders in the Dance World

By Becca Nano: Empowered Intern and Social Media Manager

Dancers in general have a high risk from suffering from an eating disorder. There is a stigma in dance that you have to look a certain way to be a talented dancer. This is NOT true!! Your weight does not determine your worth. This is such a serious issue, disordered eating and then training that hard for hours a week is a very dangerous thing and can wreak havoc on your mind and body.

Many things need to change in the dance world. It is up to us to break the patterns in the culture. First think about how you speak about food around other dancers. Saying negative things about your body or food intake can trigger others. It can make them think their healthy relationship with food is wrong.

If someone talks to you about their own disordered eating I would encourage you to respectfully offer them your help and different resources. If you yourself notice things wrong with your own eating habits please reach out for help. You don't have to live in that hell.

The next thing that needs to change is the way teachers give certain corrections or remarks. The first step is taking accountability and realizing the comments made could be harmful to others. Telling a dancer to, “Suck in their lunch”, Is SO extremely harmful. Try using different vocabulary like pulling your ribs in or using your core. Nothing will change if we don't own our own mistakes.

Another big issue contributing to this is dress code. The reason for the dress code is so you can see your placement and nothing is distracting from your dancing. Although this is a reasonable thing it can be very harmful to people with body dysmorphia or disordered eating. I encourage every studio to lighten up a little bit on dress code. Let dancers who are struggling to wear warm ups or even just a light ballet sweater or skirt. Try being more flexible about it, it could really help a lot of students.

Personally for me I think the biggest struggle is the mirrors. Depending on how much you train you will be in the mirror for hours on end. Staring and picking apart your body for 5 whole hours can be so mentally draining. I myself am still trying to figure out how to navigate my way through this, but trying to focus all your attention on either your teacher or the technique itself has helped me a bit. I think teachers incorporating a change of direction during class is a great idea. Turning away from the mirror is good for your mind and can be good practice for being on stage.

This is such a hard scenario to be in but I hope we can make a change in the industry. It is going to take everyone growing, learning, and changing for this to happen. Take accountability for the role you play in it.

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