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 Post subject: Anorexia/Body Image - A Silent Conspiracy?
PostPosted: Sat Jun 07, 2003 3:33 am 
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So , logging on the other day, I saw the new picture on the CD home page and my first thought was - " Wow, now they are beautiful ". At second and third glance however I tried to ask myself why they look beautiful, and i just can't get around the fact I relate beauty to slimness, at least when it comes to dancers.
Now, my question is this. Who discusses these tradeoffs between weight and body image with dancers? Who discusses things like osteoporosis risks/anorexia/bulimia/smoking/diet with dancers, particularily the younger ones?
First, I can say it isn't usually their doctors. My experience is that a young dancer sees a doctor for two reasons only. One is an overuse injury where they are trying to get back dancing as fast as possible. The other is regarding birth control. Although a discussion about birth control can be a natural in to discussions about weight and body image, believe me, this is very very difficult to do with a teenager.
Second, I suspect it isn't with there Artisitic Directors/teachers. Somehow I suspect that most ADs don't say, hey Joe, i think you need to put on a few more pounds.
Parents? Hmm - I just don't see most 16 y/o girls trying to get into the summmer program for a top ballet program talking to their parents about their concerns that they haven't menstruated for the past year. And i am not sure most parents know how to address this.
I think that the most common approach that dancers take to questions about diet/body image etc is with thier peers, and i am not sure that most teenagers really understand these issues.
Unfortunately, I think there is a huge amount of pressure placed on dancers to be thin this pressure comes from the audience, the AD, the other dancers, perhaps the parents, and even themselves, and I think that part of the solution to this is not to keep silent about it but to put the subject of weight and body image and eating disorders out there on the table.
Any suggestions for this? Well three come to mind. First if you are in your twenties, I would specifically ask your doctor - " Am I at risk for osteoporosis" ( ( by the way, men do get osteoporosis also ).
Two, if you have a teenager, specifically ask the doctor discuss weight/menstration issues, and to screen for eating disorders.
Third - ask ourselves if we are putting dancers under too much pressure to be thin.
Any thoughts?


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 Post subject: Re: Anorexia/Body Image - A Silent Conspiracy?
PostPosted: Sat Jun 07, 2003 6:21 am 
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Location: Italy and UK
Matthew,

this is a very delicate a important subject for dance and not only dance...a friend of a friend of mine is a nutricionist who had to carry on some researches with dancers' diet...he was saying that most of them are just unaware of how to eat properly also in relation to their job as dancers.

It is incredible that so many things are done in terms of body education and excercise to improve performances and the like and nearly nothing is done to educate dancers to eat properly.

I do also agree about the pressure Western society puts on dancers in terms of weight.
There is an interesting book by scholar Susan Bordo...it is called "Unbearable weight" and it considers the wider range of pressure on women not specifically as dancers but as objectified creatures constructed around the ideal of beautiful and slim bodies. She draws the example of ads about food where women are rarely seen eating and this reinforces the cultural imposition for them to have a slim shape and, as a consequence, to be unable to enjoy food...(which is a real shame to me!)

Things are maybe changing a bit, at least in Italian ads, even if women on tv are too often presented as slim semi-naked (ungraciously)moving bodies without brain...

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 Post subject: Re: Anorexia/Body Image - A Silent Conspiracy?
PostPosted: Sat Jun 07, 2003 10:46 am 
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well, i am happy to say that some companies and schools are taking this problem very seriously. Tulsa Ballet, for example, is including nutrition classes taught by a licensed nutritionist as part of its curriculum.
It takes a little bit more attention and thought, but one can have a thin and healthy body at the same time.


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 Post subject: Re: Anorexia/Body Image - A Silent Conspiracy?
PostPosted: Sat Jun 07, 2003 12:14 pm 
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Location: San Francisco
I do think there's too much pressure on dancers to be thin. For women, it's pressure to have thighs and hips that are as lean as men's. Since that's the area of the greatest fat deposits for most women, achieving boy-like leanness in that area can mean being scarily thin in the rest of the body. Someone I know who used to be anorexic told me she got down to 75 pounds and still had dimples on the backs of her thighs.

I don't know whether male dancers are pressured to have similarly lean waistlines. Judging by the ballet companies I've seen, I'd say there's not quite as much pressure, although I've seen a few male dancers who I think are unattractively thin.

I saw a performance of a "leotard ballet" by the San Francisco Ballet, in which all four women were excellent dancers. Three of them had some fat on their upper thighs. This did not bother me in the least, and their bodies overall looked much more pleasing to me than that of the fourth dancer. But I know there are people in the audience who rhapsodize over the bodies of female dancers who I think look skeletal.

There are some dancers who are naturally lean and healthy, but judging from the reports of weight loss-related problems, it seems many dancers should be carrying more weight than they do. Maybe if health becomes more of a priority, we'll see more dancers who are not so thin, audiences will become accustomed to the look (as they were years ago), and there won't be as much pressure on the dancers to risk their health to achieve the fat-free look.


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 Post subject: Re: Anorexia/Body Image - A Silent Conspiracy?
PostPosted: Sat Jun 07, 2003 12:59 pm 
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Location: Italy and UK
I agree with you djb, and I think the health priority should be carried on in conjunction with a cultural one where this presssure gets decontructed and turned into a different aesthetic perception (and consequent appreciation) of dance, dancers and (women's)bodies...

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 Post subject: Re: Anorexia/Body Image - A Silent Conspiracy?
PostPosted: Sat Jun 07, 2003 2:35 pm 
You can eat like a horse on 800 calories a day if you do the math right. These days, with all the nutritional help out there - virtually on every street corner - there's no excuse for eating disorders. Plus, you cannot do a dancer's job stamina-wise without the right fuel. All the local schools and studios that I know of pull the students (particularly the younger ones) out of class... There are visible tell-tale signs of eating disorder, you have to know what to look for...


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 Post subject: Re: Anorexia/Body Image - A Silent Conspiracy?
PostPosted: Sat Jun 07, 2003 4:46 pm 
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Quote:
You can eat like a horse on 800 calories a day if you do the math right. These days, with all the nutritional help out there - virtually on every street corner - there's no excuse for eating disorders.
Of course, but eating disorders aren't really about being thin; they're about insecurity and self-image.

...And that's an area where dance companies haven't improved their attitudes.

<small>[ 07 June 2003, 06:47 PM: Message edited by: salzberg ]</small>

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 Post subject: Re: Anorexia/Body Image - A Silent Conspiracy?
PostPosted: Sat Jun 07, 2003 5:41 pm 
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I would point out that 800 calories a day is the recomended nutritional intake for a one year old child - not an eighteen year old dancer!
But really I don't feel that the issue here is diet or calories, I think it is a combination of biological/social and pyschological factors, and I would point out that many dancers are not just fit, but quite healthy. My concern though, is when a dancer is pushing the envelope who is helping him/her to make tradeoffs that may affect their health for the next 40 years? I am glad that some companies seem to have a solid built in program ( I know that PNB has nuttionists on staff, and I would say that most of PNBs dancers look quite healthy ), and at what age are these tradeoffs made?`
I have scanned the DAnser thread of the discussions about the Paris Opera Ballet School, and I think that it is safe to say that there are 10 year olds out there already on diets! :eek: I would like to blame the Media, but the Media generally gives us what we want ( or perhaps it is shaping what we want ).


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 Post subject: Re: Anorexia/Body Image - A Silent Conspiracy?
PostPosted: Tue Dec 28, 2004 10:06 am 
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Location: Estonia
Quote:
Anorexia linked to child dancers

by BBC News

Children who dance are more at risk of having eating disorders like anorexia when they grow up, research has found.
more


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 Post subject: Re: Anorexia/Body Image - A Silent Conspiracy?
PostPosted: Fri Dec 31, 2004 2:07 pm 
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Location: Seattle, WA,USA
This article needs to be interpreted caefully and critically. It is based on a very small sample number, it is retrospective, and it does NOT necessarily mean that dancing causes eating disorders. What it seems to suggest is that people that danced as a child are more focused on their body image.
I think the bigger question is are children who dance now more likely to be healthier as a adult. Health could encompass thigs such as hypertension, diabetes, coronary artery disease, osteoporosis, etc. My generally feeling is yes, they are, but I am unaware of any evidece to support that statement. There is however, fairly strong evidence that the amount of time watching TV in childhhod is proportionally related to problems with obesity.
I would suggest, that with todays current epidemic of obesity, any physical activity which gets kids away from the TV set is good!
How bad is the obesity epidemic? CDC 2000 states that 64% of US adults are either overweight or obese. More worrisome is the rise in obesity in children over the last 20 years. 15.3 % of children aged 6-12 are currently obese, compared to 6.5% in 1980 ! :eek:
Intrestingly decreasing sedentary activity may be more important than excercise in childhood.


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