What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stranger

The Weight of the Legend April 15, 2015

And now for the grand conclusion of the sad tale of the department encouraged body dysmorphia!

For parts one, two, and three, please click the appropriate number.

As though it wasn’t bad enough to teach students who are going to owe student loans for the next ten years that their worth is based on their weight, the department also liked to ignore the problems it encouraged. Now, I understand that weight is important in dance. You have to be small to be lifted, and a certain look is generally more desirable to producers. But if you tell a dancer that weight equals worth in an extremely competitive atmosphere, you’re going to end up with eating disorders.

There was one girl who was an amazing tap dancer. She was truly gifted, but the department wanted to weigh her like she was a ballerina. She lost more and more weight, and eventually became truly anorexic.

The legend goes that this tap dancer went into her full faculty advisement meeting. They were all telling her how great she looked and how well she was progressing.

And she tried to stop them, flat out telling them she had stopped eating.

The head of the department continued, “Your pirouettes have gotten much better.”

“But I don’t eat.”

“You still need to work on your extensions.”

Finally, the girl left the advisement in tears.

One of the tap faculty followed her out. He, out of everyone, had really listened to what the girl was saying and cared about her enough to be worried about her health.

He asked her what she wanted to be: a ballet dancer or the next Debbie Reynolds. The girl said Debbie Reynolds. So, he told her that it didn’t matter how much she weighed and took her out for a steak. By listening to her and taking her out for a real meal, he could have saved her life.

The problems of weight pressure is real in the dance world and worse in academic environments. These dancers are trusting their teachers to mold them into professionals, and instead, they’re being molded into unhealthy and unsustainable habits.

I survived unscathed. I made it as a professional performer. But to this day, if you ask me to get on a scale, I’m likely to scratch out your eyes.

We are all more than a number on a scale.


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