It’s news to no one that the fitness industry loves to sell us looks. The Barre/Ballerina body has long been an ideal held up by the fitness world as something to aspire to, and there’s no shortage of dvds, gym classes and Instagram accounts that will promise to make you long, lean, and graceful looking.
A few weeks ago I noticed a new phrase that I hadn’t seen before: ‘Broadway Bodies’, and I’m not quite sure why, but seeing that just made me sigh and think ‘another one bites the dust’. I’m just real tired of dancers/dance serving as the next trend for #fitnessgoals. It’s not that I’m against using dance to become fit, and I certainly know that dance in any form is great exercise, and super for your body, mind, and spirit. THAT I’m all behind. What I can’t get behind is the exploitation of an art to serve our culture’s obsession dictating a woman’s ‘ideal body’.
Let me be perfectly honest: your typical dancer looks the way she looks because her industry demands it. There is nothing normal about how most professional ballerinas look. Dancers in the 17th and 18th century abided by the same technique we have today (granted, with less flexibility, lower lines, and fewer ‘tricks’, but that’s a whole different blog post), and they did not look like what many dancers today look like. Dancers today look the way they do firstly because that’s what is expected of them, and secondly, because they adhere to grueling schedules that keep them on their feet most of the day. When they do refuel with food, they’re expected to eat a certain way, (try and pick up a dance magazine and find an article that DOESN'T highlight what a dancer eats in a day, or headline a ballerina's 'power' foods), but even if they don’t, who cares? They can pretty much eat anything they want at that point. I saw an interview with a dancer in a magazine recently where she was quoted as saying “I eat a lot of steak and potatoes for a ballerina”. It made me angry and sad all at once.
To add fuel to my fiery opinion on this topic, I read this article from Huffington Post that discusses how exactly the fitness industry is capitalizing on the population’s obsession with getting the ‘dancer’s body’. It pointed to several socio-economic factors that I’d also felt, and been uncomfortable with, but hadn’t been able to articulate.
I will totally admit that I’m feisty and sensitive about this subject since I am someone who has never had a typical ‘dancer’s body’, and has struggled to achieve one; it lead to anorexic behaviors and unhealthy eating habits that I still struggle with today. I don’t want that for the next generation of dancers. We know better. We have to do better to call this bull shit out for what it is. I have to heal my own wounds around food, self-love, and appearance and expectations if I want my students to experience dance in a self-loving and accepting environment, which is why I think it's important to give these 'dancer diets' the boot, and ask some honest questions about what these diets and belief systems are really asking us to do, and if we can really get behind that. What do you say, are you in it with me, or do you see it a different way? Food for thought yo, food for thought...