“I started dancing when I was about 5 years old. I did it recreationally until about high school when I decided that I wanted to be serious about it. This is when I started noticing that my classmates were receiving comments about weight, like “Make sure you don’t gain too much more weight” or “You might want to lose a few pounds.” I was very skinny at the time and didn’t receive any of these comments personally, but I started to fear one day hearing one of these things said to me. So I started eating less and less to preemptively avoid being told I weighed too much. I developed an eating disorder that lasted for about 6 years and still affects my thinking today. I never received treatment or therapy for this.
Another large part of my story involves emotional abuse from my childhood teacher who I took class from for 10 years. He would very clearly show who his favorite student was in classes and rehearsals and it wasn’t me in the beginning. He could be very mean to the students who weren’t his favorites at the time. He once screamed at me in front of my peers in rehearsal for talking when I was standing alone away from everyone else in the room and not actually speaking at all. Eventually, I became a favorite, but it was a double edged sword because he could change the way he felt about you on a dime. And falling from grace felt worse than not having been a favorite in the first place. He would either yell obscenities at you or he would stop speaking to and acknowledging you entirely. I felt like I was nothing if he didn’t approve of me. Even once I graduated from high school and left for college I never stopped hoping that he was proud of me. He crossed my mind daily in college.
While I loved dance and will always love it, the emotional abuse and encouraged weight loss definitely affected me deeply and still do. Even as I was typing this, I thought to myself, “This is dumb to say. No one wants to hear your story or how dance negatively affected you.” But I decided that these thoughts are probably a side effect of what I experienced and they’re why so many injustices continue to happen to all of us in the dance world. If we all shared our stories, maybe we could change the way things are done.”