I was browsing this site and came across this thread. I know it is several years old. I have to second what bunhead wrote here. I too trained at SFB school in the early 90s, and I saw it all. Bulimia, anorexia, girls taking ipecec to induce vomiting, eating kleenex to feel "full," and yes, the thinner girls were rewarded, and any girl with "extra" as some of the russian teachers called it, were embarrassed in class. Its a shame that such a high caliber school would reward such dangerous behavior with scholarships and roles in performances. Bunhead I hope you are doing well.
As a dancer who was trained at SFB school I have been very interested in the Keefer case and the debate it has inspired. The administration of the school is different now than it was 10 years ago when I was a student there, but the attitude seems not to have changed much. The prevalance of eating disorders in that shcool was overwhelming when I was a student there, and having an eating disorder was consistantly rewarded by the administration. When I was a student there I often felt guilty that I wasn't anorexic or bulimic, I felt that I must not be dedicated enough if I wasn't able to make that ultimate sacrifice for ballet. The students who were very underweight were awarded special scholarships and were the obvious favorites of the administration. I can't tell you how many girls in that school were bulimic, I would say maybe 40%, and I know of 4 in my age group, (out of maybe 30 girls within 5 years of myself) who were sick enough to be hospitalized multiple times, one girl who died, and others who were never able to maintain a professional career because companies later decided they were too skinny (!) or becuase of injuries related to an eating disorder, usualy stress fractures that would not heal. And I'm not counting all the girls who suffered from low self esteem and body image problems related to wanting to be super skinny. The funny thing was, the teachers at that school seemed to genuinely love their students and not want them to get too skinny, I remember one teacher who would call a girl's home telling her and her mother that she had to eat more that she was worried the student was becomming to skinny. But that girl was still awarded a prestigious scholarship that same year. A few years later, the company got rid of that same girl saying she was too skinny. The girl was hospitalized a few times because she became too malnourished to function, and eventualy had to give up dancing all together. The teacher herself was later fired. Other schools seem to have a different attitude, and are still able to turn out many professional dancers. The Ruth Page Foundation School in Chicago, for example, has graduated many dancers who now dance professionaly around the world. Taking class there you are surrounded by beautiful, healthy girls who seem happy in thier bodies and filled with the joy of dance. Maybe not having a company directly affiliated with the school helps somehow, and Larry Long, the director of the school and a treasure of a teacher, seems to be as proud of a student of his who goes on to get a master's degree in art history as he is of one who is an apprentice at Boston Ballet. I'm not sure what the merits of Keefer's case really are, but SFB school has churned out a lot of very sick girls, and if anything could be done to change that, I would be all for that. It seems to me that something has to be done to focus on eating disorders in ballet schools, and that girls who are suspected or known to have such disorders should be watched and disciplined as stringently as those with "weight problems." Dancers are often told they need to lose a few pounds, but are rarely called to task for looking obsurdly thin. I'm not talking about simply slender girls, I'm talking about the ones that are walking skeletons with big bloody calouses on the knuckles of their index fingers that develop from rubbing against their teeth while puking. Girls like that are dancing all over the country, and nobody seems to care! In my own company there are a handful of girls who are so obviously sick I can't believe that the various physical therapists and doctors who see them regularly haven't perscribed some sort of helpful program for them. I guess that for these girls, it seems to be too late, as their habits are so well established, but for young girls in school it seems like something should be done.