Anonymous Story 36

“I have had many ups and downs throughout my dancing journey so far, and some experiences have had negative impacts on my physical and mental health. It has taken me a long time to process some of the experiences I have had. From being told I didn’t have the “right” body for ballet and needed to lose weight, to struggling with stress and anxiety due to the pressure of the industry – there have been times when dancing has made me very unhappy.

It was when I was dancing as an apprentice with a ballet company that I hit rock bottom with my mental health. But I was told by the artistic staff I needed to “just get on with it” and “toughen up because the industry is tough” … Even though they are the ones that make the industry so tough. They made me feel weak for admitting I was struggling, even though asking for help is one of the bravest things you can do.

In the end, I decided to leave the company because I wasn’t getting any help and support, and I wasn’t going to get better by staying in that toxic environment where they pushed us to keep going through physical and mental pain. I had to put my health and happiness first, no matter what other people thought. I’m glad I made that decision and realised that no contract was worth suffering for.

Far too often so many dancers want this career so badly, they are willing to do anything for it. They also feel that they are “replaceable” so are scared to speak up if they are struggling. Directors know this and exploit dancers’ wellbeing to get a result on stage. How much better would performances be if they put dancers and their health first?”

-Anonymous

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