“I feel a great sense of shame surrounding my experience of developing mental health problems whilst in vocational dance training. Since the age of eleven, I internalized the notion of there being strength in silence, that to visibly or audibly disclose a struggle was a sign of weakness and a sure sign that you would not ‘make it’ in the profession. My coping mechanisms for managing my emotions and the pressures of training were poor. For several years, I wore two pairs of ballet tights to cover self inflicted injuries.
I had bulimia for seven years. I maintained my behaviors largely due to observing similar ones in my peers, and because of the pressure I felt to maintain the ‘ideal ballet body’ I was deemed blessed to have been born with. I expected an abnormal relationship with food to be something I would have to deal with; it wasn’t until I left ballet that I realized that this sense of expectation is a very large part of the problem.
Disordered eating in dance CANNOT continue to be normalized, and I am so tired of hearing the denial and ignorance that is so often present in the statements of those with positions of influence within the dance world. Fellow dancers will rally round the individual who has spoken out or shared their story, but the call to arms never quite extends to those with the ability to instigate change. Collectively, we need to hold the culture and those who influence it to account, and commit unreservedly to its reform.”