Dancers have enviable bodies. They are long, lean, and toned. Even dancers who want to loose a few pounds or feel they have a few trouble spots have physiques more desirable than the average person. This isn’t difficult - as time goes on Americans eat more and move less, increasing their weight, causing severe health problems, and decreasing their enjoyment of life. This isn’t new information.
I’ve spent the last six years struggling with my weight. Until recently a day wouldn’t go by without food consuming my thoughts. The struggle between what I wanted to eat, what I should’ve eaten, and what I did eat plagued me with frustration and guilt. It took a lot of trial and error to figure out how to eat to have energy, enjoy the food, stop obsessing, and look great (all at the same time!).
There was a good amount of time when I thought that it just wasn’t possible to eat what I wanted to eat and be in the shape I wanted to be in. I am a foodie. Anyone who knows me can tell you that I am a food snob. I cook, I bake, dining out is one of my favorite things to do, and I will always find that unusual item to titillate my tongue. I love food too much to have ever considered becoming anorexic or bulimic. When I tried to diet in the past, I’d become irritable and tired. I wondered why so many dancers could be in such great shape, be so thin, and still have energy.
Sure, eating disorders do exist in the dance world but as consciousness and body awareness improves dancers are eating RIGHT - and they are eating. Some ballerinas still swear by the “coffee & cigarette diet”, but I also promise that their careers are shorter, they’re more prone to injury, and they’re unhappy. I also know dancers who can eat McDonalds at every meal and still be thin â€“ but most of us aren’t that lucky.
In society today very few people are fortunate enough to discover, explore, and nurture the relationship they have with their bodies. Americans have been taught to be goal oriented, not experience oriented. I say this because few people are able to listen to and trust their bodies as dancers can. Your body will tell you what it needs, and what you need to do to optimize its function. The problem is most of us don’t listen.
Dancers are both artists and athletes. They use their body as a tool of expression; therefore it needs to be both beautiful and functional. We study our bodies the way botanists study plants â€“ we are the body experts.
This is the first in what will be a new series of articles about the dancer body. I will include information I wish I had had 5 years ago. Dance students will benefit from the knowledge I share but so will laymen. We each only have one body to carry us through life, and we need to learn how to understand and respect our vessel.
Thanks for sharing this, Lauren. I'm not a dancer myself but I never really considered how difficult body image issues can be among people who literally use their bodies as their art and expression. I think it's especially hard when there's the idea that there is one "dancer" body, which I know from having met a lot of dancers simply isn't true.