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 Post subject: Food for Anorexic Thought
PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2001 1:34 pm 
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Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2000 12:01 am
Posts: 498
Location: neworleans, louisiana
A 20-year-old college student, who has been anorexic since the age of 8, has sued Stonehill College for refusing to allow her readmission last fall (she had completed the previous spring semester's coursework there), because she had suffered cardiac arrest while at home and they "don't have the ability to support her in the way she needs to be supported." The lawyer representing the college has cited the risk of the student (5'6" and 97-100 lbs.) dropping dead on campus. The student, who since her attack, has had a defibrillator implanted in her heart, argues that she has been feeling fine and believes she can handle the challenges. She believes she is protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act.<P>U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel has said she will rule quickly on the matter.<P>In light of the number of ballet dancers whose height and weight are proportionate to this young woman's (or who are actively striving in this direction), the question arises: Wouldn't it be interesting indeed if ballet companies actually warned of suspensions or firings if their dancers were TOO THIN? <P>I was rereading Allegra Kent's "The Dancer's Body Book" last night, and reviewing the heights and weights of the female dancers, certainly not far removed from the above-described student. (Of note, all of the men mentioned in the book weighed in at or even above the recommended weight for American men). <p>[This message has been edited by Christina (edited January 05, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: Food for Anorexic Thought
PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2001 2:35 pm 
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Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2000 11:01 pm
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
I think that one of the things that might be considered when speaking of the men is - that weight is affected by bone mass and muscle. Men have thicker bones and muscle weighs more than fat, therefore it may not be fair to compare male ballet dancers with the general male population. I don't believe I have ever seen any overweight male ballet dancers.<P>As to the women, while I deplore the current vogue of over emphasis on thinness, is it the job of the employer to tell the employee that they must be a certain weight - either plus or minus?


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 Post subject: Re: Food for Anorexic Thought
PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2001 2:56 pm 
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Location: neworleans, louisiana
I wasn't focusing so much on what the employer's duty is or isn't but the legal ramifications for a ballet company having suit brought against it in the event that one of its dancers meets her demise in the course of her work for the company, due to her unchecked weight loss. How might this affect the company's finances -- e.g., increased insurance premiums, funding and support from the private and public sector, etc. If a company can reject a dancer for being overweight, would it not also behoove the management to be just a bit more concerned in the current litigious environment to be equally vigilant about the other side of the coin?<P>I'm actually not speaking to ethics at all in this regard, but purely to legalities and finances, and, ultimately, the survival of a particular company. <P>One particular lawsuit, although not weight related, but rather to do with injury, ultimately caused the closure of a school that had a longstanding tradition in this community.


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 Post subject: Re: Food for Anorexic Thought
PostPosted: Fri Jan 05, 2001 3:26 pm 
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Joined: Sun Jun 11, 2000 11:01 pm
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Location: Montreal, QC, Canada
Christina, the Boston Ballet is currently dealing with this very loaded issue, you can find the details in this thread: Breaking News: Guenther's Mother Sues Boston Ballet

[This message has been edited by Marie (edited January 05, 2001).]

<font size = -2><center>(Edited by salzberg to fix link)</center></font>

<small>[ 08-11-2002, 11:16: Message edited by: salzberg ]</small>


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 Post subject: Re: Food for Anorexic Thought
PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2001 10:54 am 
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Joined: Sun Jul 23, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 40
Location: New York, NY, USA
Christina wrote: If a company can reject a dancer for being overweight, would it not also behoove the management to be just a bit more concerned in the current litigious environment to be equally vigilant about the other side of the coin?<P>Re: the Boston Ballet case, Heidi Guenther was, indeed, noted to have lost too much weight. Her annual review, a document THAT SHE SIGNED, stated that she should gain about 5 lbs. The Boston Ballet has a nutritionist on its staff, and all the dancers are encouraged to consult with her on a regular basis. Dancers are adults and resent not being treated as such. It is not the responsibility of a company to monitor everything they eat. If you feel that a company DOES need to do this, then the only answer is for professional ballet schools to seek not only those individuals with a good body shape (not just thinness, but good proportions), good, natural flexibility, good feet, etc. but also with a naturally high metabolism, so she can eat whatever she wants and still remain slim. (My husband should bottle and sell his metabolism - he needs 6 fattening meals/day in order not to lose weight, while I can gain weight just watching him eat!) The poor Keefer girl just doesn't have the body type - she is poorly proportioned and turned in. Now no one is saying that she shouldn't study ballet if she so wishes - only that she does not appear to be a good candidate for a career as a ballet dancer and so is not acceptable for a slot in a professional training program AT THIS TIME. It is POSSIBLE that in 10 years she will have slimmed down and her proportions improved. It is unlikely that, if she does not have natural flexibility in her hips now that she will develop this as she ages - one LOSES flexibilty with aging. Flexibility and musicality and good body proportions are the things that the Russians look at the most when choosing children for their programs. With reference to the SAB site - Balanchine said that he wanted his female dancers to be "bird boned" and with very long legs in proportion to the body.<P><BR>


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 Post subject: Re: Food for Anorexic Thought
PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2001 12:03 pm 
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Location: neworleans, louisiana
I hope everyone understands that, rather than taking a definitive stance as to what a company should or shouldn't do from an ethics standpoint, I am <P>1) Merely pointing out the lawsuits waiting to happen, and;<BR>2) Questioning why a company wouldn't -- in the interest of its own survival -- treat the issue of weight from both ends, so to speak.<P>There are numerous athletic activities where participants are ordered to make weight -- either under or over. Ballet certainly hasn't cornered the market on this one. Professional and collegiate teams routinely reject players for lacking requisite body type, skill and proportionate weight. In most instances -- e.g., ballet or wrestling -- the emphasis is on being lighter. <P>Even in football, the focus is increasingly on weight loss. Players, such as the "Refrigerator," are more a novelty, good for publicity or special plays. I remember when the Univerity of Notre Dame (long a producer of top draft picks no matter where they place in the standings) revolutionized the look of a team in the 1980s almost as much as decades earlier when they came up with the forward pass. They turned their team into leaner, faster players and, with the slogan "Speed Kills," ran away with the National Championship. <P>And it is not uncommon to read about even college players suffering cardiac arrests when training for the coming season at their heaviest weight during the hottest months. It would seem that no one is in dispute that too much weight doesn't do much for anyone's 'game.' And coaches and artistic directors alike are plenty vocal about letting athletes and dancers know when they are too heavy, via suspension, firing, refusing to hire, etc. <P>The question remains: why not equal time for the other side of the coin? Having someone sign a document that says she understands her employer is recommending a weight gain of 5 pounds actually sounds like a rather anemic effort on the part of the company to exonerate itself in the event that a tragedy occurs, which, in this case, sadly happened.


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 Post subject: Re: Food for Anorexic Thought
PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2001 1:38 pm 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
I think that another issue here may be not only "what is" but also "what is perceived". <P>As almost any ballet teacher can attest (and perhaps other dance teachers as well) the "message" is out. Little girls, as young as ten, are consumed with the thought that they have to be thin. It is not just ballet - it is everywhere in our society. <P>My E-mail box is filled everyday with questions from young girls asking me questions about weight and their worries about weight. It seems to be pervasive. <P>If you visit almost any message boards online - it is one of the predominant questions from really young girls - <P>"how thin do I have to be?"<P>"tell me about a diet to get thin" (this from 9 yr. olds.<P>"the girls in my class tell me I need to lose weight."<P>"I think I am fat, but I am not sure - how do I tell?"<P>and so on......for whatever reason - whoever started it....it's the vogue/curse of our time. <P>I don't ever remember this being a concern when I was a child - with me or any of my friends. There was natural competitiveness in many areas, school grades, etc., but I don't ever remember comparing weights or even discussing it.


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 Post subject: Re: Food for Anorexic Thought
PostPosted: Mon Jan 08, 2001 2:35 pm 
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Joined: Wed Jun 28, 2000 11:01 pm
Posts: 73
Location: Canberra, Australia
I don't really want to get into the legal implications here - I could go on all day and I don't have time! But - what would be important in terms of any maw suit, is proof of risk. On that note, I would like to point out though that there is not necessarily a correlation between the health risk to this university student at x weight and height and the risk to an otherwise (ie: other than being underweight) healthy dancer of the same weight and height. There are a lot of other variables. For example, long term eating disorders and prior cardiac incidents will damage the heart making the sufferer far more susceptible to cardiac arrest than someone who has been somewhat, but not severly, underweight for some time. In addition, some eating disordered people engage in behaviour which is particularly life threatening such as purging and abusing laxatives and diuretics - and some don't. <P>Just making the point that weight alone (unless very low indeed) is not necessarily the only indicator of whether a person's life is in imminent danger or not.<P>Cheers, Danni


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 Post subject: Re: Food for Anorexic Thought
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2001 2:11 am 
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Location: Australia
an interesting thread taking various tacks....thanks danni, for that legal info. <P>karen, you are quite right when you say that "Dancers are adults and resent not being treated as such."<P>christina, i find your introduction of quite a bit of sporting info - here and in another thread - very appropriate and enlightening. i'm afraid i pay little attention to sport - so i tend not to realise these similarity with ballet, but then i DO recognise what you are saying when you point it out to me - after all, we can't actually avoid HEARING about sport in our society (australia, at least) but i DO try to avoid taking too much of it in! Image

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 Post subject: Re: Food for Anorexic Thought
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2001 2:45 pm 
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Joined: Fri Dec 15, 2000 12:01 am
Posts: 498
Location: neworleans, louisiana
Interestingly, although I, personally, am confronting at this stage in my life, the challenge (that's how I like to view it) of maintaining a more lean physique, I am also keenly aware of the balance I must strive for in this quest. In other words, I want to be at my HEALTHIEST weight. <P>On one hand, I am disturbed by the growing obesity epidemic in this country and its concomitant dangers. My fiance -- a very fit and lean young man, recently underwent hernia surgery and is also undergoing treatment for back injury after having to lift a morbidly obese patient. Just last night, he again had to lift a 300 pound patient. I am angry that such a giving, caring person who is also careful about his own fitness has to suffer so much from his occupation of helping others. So, I am more than little fed up with the incessant whining that goes in this country with -- "please feel sorry for me, i'm fortunate enough to have too much to eat and i can't control my hands from stuffing the food in my mouth." It's pretty incongruous to me.<P>But why can't we achieve a sane, balanced solution to this? Why then, must the flip side be equally unhealthy? "Titanic" co-star, Kate Winslet, just announced today that she will go on her first diet, because she feels the less there is of her, the more parts she will play -- this from someone who, not too long ago, was critical of Hollywood's obsession with skeletal actresses. <P>Now I know why I admire Meryl Streep so much -- not only a phenomenal actress, but able to stay above the fray all these years, looking like -- well, a "normal" woman -- whatever that is anymore. <p>[This message has been edited by Christina (edited January 09, 2001).]


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 Post subject: Re: Food for Anorexic Thought
PostPosted: Tue Jan 09, 2001 4:55 pm 
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Location: San Diego, California, USA
Sophia Loren was another who stayed above the fray. She is probably the most perennially beautiful woman I can think of - and she has never been skinny.


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