Anonymous Story 4

I’ve been dancing since I was three years old, at serious pre-pro schools the entire time, so I have been pretty steeped in the culture from a very early age. One thing that I noticed that is very harmful is the amount that weight impacts the way that people view not only you, but also your dancing ability. I was skinny until I was a teenager, and then (as for so many of us) I began to struggle with my weight. This lead to years and years of disordered eating, at first becoming very fixated on calories and restricting and then developing into a full blown eating disorder of bingeing and restricting in the later years. Because of this, (and natural body changes) my weight has fluctuated wildly over the last decade. I have both the experience of being the “don’t lose any more weight” dancer and the “overweight for a dancer” dancer (yes, a director did call me that to my face). One thing I have learned from this experience is how invisible being “overweight” makes you. I have had auditions or other moments where I knew I was dancing much better than I had at my thinnest, but was being ignored by the same people who might have paid me attention when I was skinny, but my dancing was not as good. I have experienced first hand the amount the kind of attention you get shifts depending on how much you weigh, because I have experienced both sides of it as the same dancer. We need to stop making assumptions about a dancer’s talent based on their body– just because someone is skinny they are not automatically more talented than someone who is not, and this kind of thinking is extremely pervasive throughout the industry even in more “progressive” companies who would claim that they are open to a more diverse range of body types. It also is a problem in our culture the way that weight is viewed as so important, and yet we hardly ever have candid conversations about it, let alone conversations where input from the dancer whose weight is being discussed is welcome. My weight fluctuations were a sign of my mental health struggles, but I was hardly ever given the space to discuss that, rather it seemed to be assumed that if I was skinny, everything must be fine, and if I was heavier I must just not be disciplined. We need to rethink our ways of thinking about weight and eating disorders and stop basing our assumptions of mental health based on someone’s appearance. When I first began struggling with bingeing I was still very thin, so it was always assumed that I was fine because my body was still in acceptable ballet dancer range, when that was far from the case.

-Anonymous

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