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Elmhurst Ballet School helping dancers with body image

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Taken them long enough to say they are proactive. They tried to be blind to eating disorders during my Dd time and even removed the guidelines from the parent portal. I hope the staff have been educated as their comments tend to be the route of the problem. 

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I too hope artistic staff have been educated as it is often those comments that lead to issues. There's some crossover here between the thread about 'how to change the shape of thighs' and I hope that people will hear those students talking on the video, repeatedly about being strong athletes. Great work from @Nico Kolokythas and the health team.

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I’ve been thinking about this all day since watching the clip earlier. 
 

Why if they are promoting body image are they still weighing the students 6 times a year? And why are they still doing it as a class group ‘quickly’ unless the student has anxieties about their weight when they then get the special treatment of a private weigh in? 


They see these young adults day in day out in leotards they can surely judge if they are a suitable weight without putting them on scales? 
 

For the last decade they’ve been doing the six weights per year so maybe nothing has changed after all. 

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It is possible that they are monitoring weight to make sure it’s not going down. 
 

Artistic staff see the students in a leotard and tights, but they aren’t always “switched on” enough to identify if someone has an issue. 

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I liked the use of the term Eating Distress and talking, then intervening, as early as possible rather than going straight to talking in terms of an Eating Disorder.

 

The students communicated the situation very well.  On one hand they understand that there are many different body types and that they are athletes as well as artists. On the other hand there is still so much pressure, in the industry and from the selections made by future employers , to look slim and 'balletic'.

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If the students were in a closed room with only one teacher seeing them day in day out maybe the six times per year weigh in would make more sense. The very nature of Elmhurst means most studios have large windows, during every class there are other dance staff, pastoral and medical centre staff milling around and watching. 
 

And does it matter what the staff decide to call it or the students to that matter. An eating disorder is an eating disorder and needs professional help. 

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The fact that at year 7 auditions this year several of their Young Dancers were told they were not going to be taken through to finals because they showed signs of

puberty is also worrying! 

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Few years since we received a dance report from them so this may have changed 🤞 The first assessment on the list was ‘physique/proportion’ marked out of 5. Further down the list you find musicality, artistry, use of turnout etc 
 

@Alwaysdriving that is very sad and worrying to hear. 

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Being weighed causes much anxiety. I also remember them stating a nutritionist attends all meals to let the children know what they are eating and calorie intake. It was one of the reasons we decided against Elmhurst.

It was meant to discourage eating issues but as a teen I remember being obsessed with my physique and counting every calorie I ate. This type of obsession leads to eating issues rather than dissuades them.

 

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1 hour ago, Jane said:

Few years since we received a dance report from them so this may have changed 🤞 The first assessment on the list was ‘physique/proportion’ marked out of 5. Further down the list you find musicality, artistry, use of turnout etc 
 

@Alwaysdriving that is very sad and worrying to hear. 


I attended a parent's focus meeting late last year where we discussed eating and body image with the Principal and other staff members. The physique/proportion item is coming off the list as they see this can be very damaging to young dancers no matter the mark given. Unfortunately COVID has meant no full reports this summer so I can’t confirm that it’s definitely happened but the school  are trying to address the problem. But I think they have a long way to go still and it’s not helped by the students themselves not trusting the adults in charge will really help plus students are good at hiding things to begin with until it becomes too obvious. But I think the fact Elmhurst are talking more openly about it and trying to put measures in place is a good starting point. 

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11 hours ago, Jane said:

I’ve been thinking about this all day since watching the clip earlier. 
 

Why if they are promoting body image are they still weighing the students 6 times a year? And why are they still doing it as a class group ‘quickly’ unless the student has anxieties about their weight when they then get the special treatment of a private weigh in? 


They see these young adults day in day out in leotards they can surely judge if they are a suitable weight without putting them on scales? 
 

For the last decade they’ve been doing the six weights per year so maybe nothing has changed after all. 

 

I do feel that six times a year is very excessive.

 

I know that my daughter was weighed at another school but it was done once a year in a private room as part of the annual physio assessment by the physio. 

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1 hour ago, Alwaysdriving said:

The fact that at year 7 auditions this year several of their Young Dancers were told they were not going to be taken through to finals because they showed signs of

puberty is also worrying! 


Gosh that is worrying! All girls have to go through puberty at some point - according to the NHS website the average age to begin puberty is 11 which for some is the start of year 6. So unfair to penalise on that basis IMO.

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They have the most in depth eating disorder policy of any dance school I have seen which suggests they have had a need to have this maybe? I agree that weighing 6 times a year will generate problems in and of itself. 

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5 hours ago, Alwaysdriving said:

The fact that at year 7 auditions this year several of their Young Dancers were told they were not going to be taken through to finals because they showed signs of

puberty is also worrying! 

Perhaps it was more that the changes taking place at puberty were an indication that the body was growing into a shape that was not suited to ballet? One of DD’s RBS JA friends was told pretty much this when she didn’t reach WL finals. When DD started Year 7 the girls were all at different stages of development and several showed signs of puberty at that age. It wasn’t a problem for any of them. The Health and Wellbeing team treat the absence of periods beyond a certain age as an indicator that something may not be right. The weigh-ins are conducted in a way that is very low-key and the children don’t seem phased by them. Such frequent checks mean that any signs of eating distress are picked up on quickly and dealt with before they become serious, and having had DD home for an extended time the only worry about her eating is that she will eat us out of house and home! They get through huge amounts of energy each day, and are always reminded to fuel their body appropriately. The focus is on being strong as well as balletic, and you can’t achieve this on a minimal diet. I teach in a secondary school, and often see teenagers with signs of eating distress but I have no worries about how the matter is dealt with at Elmhurst.

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1 hour ago, SissonneDoublee said:

Perhaps it was more that the changes taking place at puberty were an indication that the body was growing into a shape that was not suited to ballet? One of DD’s RBS JA friends was told pretty much this when she didn’t reach WL finals. When DD started Year 7 the girls were all at different stages of development and several showed signs of puberty at that age. It wasn’t a problem for any of them. The Health and Wellbeing team treat the absence of periods beyond a certain age as an indicator that something may not be right. The weigh-ins are conducted in a way that is very low-key and the children don’t seem phased by them. Such frequent checks mean that any signs of eating distress are picked up on quickly and dealt with before they become serious, and having had DD home for an extended time the only worry about her eating is that she will eat us out of house and home! They get through huge amounts of energy each day, and are always reminded to fuel their body appropriately. The focus is on being strong as well as balletic, and you can’t achieve this on a minimal diet. I teach in a secondary school, and often see teenagers with signs of eating distress but I have no worries about how the matter is dealt with at Elmhurst.


I agree. They normalise growth and maturity and the changes that it brings. The nutritionist talks to them about the fuel that they need and making sure they eat enough of the right foods,  not what not to eat! The range of shapes across the school is a good indicator that they’re looking for the ballet facility, not an ideal ‘ballet body’. 

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My DD is starting Elmhurst in September and I showed her the video. She seems fine with the weighing taking place, and thinks it's cool to describe herself as an athlete. I think it's a good thing it is being addressed so publicly. 

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Body image is something that concerns me with my DD branching into associate's programme territory. She is 10 and will start year 6 in September, however she is well developed into the stages of puberty. I really hope this isn't something that goes against her as there's nothing anyone can do about body development. I really do hope them being considered as athletes is the way the ballet world progresses xx

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Is this desire for athletes being fed through to companies? Because that’s where the demand comes from so those attitudes also need to change. 
 

and FWIW I see no need to weigh anyone. Numbers on a scale are often meaningless and just cause concern and obsession. Losing weight to a worrying extent is obvious visually and those with other issues (eg bulimia) won’t necessarily lose weight.  

Edited by Whiteduvet
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11 hours ago, Jane said:

And does it matter what the staff decide to call it or the students to that matter. An eating disorder is an eating disorder and needs professional help. 

 

I suspect it probably matters quite a lot, in terms of perception - internally and externally.  Remember the days when we used to refer to the "mentally handicapped" and other similar things?

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This is not in relation to any specific training establishment. 

 

It seems to me that vocational schools all take it upon themselves to put as much psychological pressure on their students as they possibly can, so that they 'weed out' all those who are not mentally resilient enough to survive the rigours of a professional dance career. They keep being told that 'it's tough out there' and how pressured it is, the constant rejections and negativity and how tough they have to be.

 

What other industry would treat its employees like that? The unions would have a fit. What other industry would put its trainees through both physical and mental torture, so that only the strongest survive and the rest are cast by the wayside? This is particularly appalling when you consider that these trainees are children.

 

 

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1 hour ago, taxi4ballet said:

This is not in relation to any specific training establishment. 

 

It seems to me that vocational schools all take it upon themselves to put as much psychological pressure on their students as they possibly can, so that they 'weed out' all those who are not mentally resilient enough to survive the rigours of a professional dance career. They keep being told that 'it's tough out there' and how pressured it is, the constant rejections and negativity and how tough they have to be.

 

What other industry would treat its employees like that? The unions would have a fit. What other industry would put its trainees through both physical and mental torture, so that only the strongest survive and the rest are cast by the wayside? This is particularly appalling when you consider that these trainees are children.

 

 

While this may be the experience for some, it is really not our experience or that of any of DD’s classmates as far as I know. We have found her school to be very nurturing, and an environment where she and her friends are thriving. Perhaps things have really changed for the better in recent years, but I felt that with so many parents nervous about sending their child off for the first time in a matter of weeks I wanted to reassure them that our experience so far has been wholly positive, and this certainly seems to be the case for DD’s friends too.

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27 minutes ago, SissonneDoublee said:

While this may be the experience for some, it is really not our experience or that of any of DD’s classmates as far as I know. We have found her school to be very nurturing, and an environment where she and her friends are thriving. Perhaps things have really changed for the better in recent years, but I felt that with so many parents nervous about sending their child off for the first time in a matter of weeks I wanted to reassure them that our experience so far has been wholly positive, and this certainly seems to be the case for DD’s friends too.

I don't know what year your dd is in, but I'm glad to hear that there have been no issues.

 

My dd left upper school training only 3 years ago, so I don't think there could have been a complete about-turn in that short a time.

 

Of the 20 or so friends and other people we personally knew who started upper school training (and at various schools) either the same year as my dd or a year or two either side, almost all of them (including my dd) suffered from either emotional/mental health difficulties, eating disorders or a career-ending injury in one way or another during their training. Very few of them got the support they needed at this critical time. The families of at least two that I know of had to resort to legal action.

 

With the greatest respect, and although I know (as you say) that many parents will be nervous about sending their youngsters off in a few weeks' time, that should not be a reason for others to keep quiet about their negative experiences. I'm afraid to say that there have been too many occasions in the past of things being swept under the carpet or hushed up. Too many people in the past have been afraid to speak up lest their child's funding is taken away, or they are assessed out or marked as a troublemaker. Very few people are prepared to stick their head above the parapet for those reasons. The ones who do, tend to wait until it is all over, or their now young adult dc decides to share their experience themselves.

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7 minutes ago, taxi4ballet said:

I don't know what year your dd is in, but I'm glad to hear that there have been no issues.

 

My dd left upper school training only 3 years ago, so I don't think there could have been a complete about-turn in that short a time.

 

Of the 20 or so friends and other people we personally knew who started upper school training (and at various schools) either the same year as my dd or a year or two either side, almost all of them (including my dd) suffered from either emotional/mental health difficulties, eating disorders or a career-ending injury in one way or another during their training. Very few of them got the support they needed at this critical time. The families of at least two that I know of had to resort to legal action.

 

With the greatest respect, and although I know (as you say) that many parents will be nervous about sending their youngsters off in a few weeks' time, that should not be a reason for others to keep quiet about their negative experiences. I'm afraid to say that there have been too many occasions in the past of things being swept under the carpet or hushed up. Too many people in the past have been afraid to speak up lest their child's funding is taken away, or they are assessed out or marked as a troublemaker. Very few people are prepared to stick their head above the parapet for those reasons. The ones who do, tend to wait until it is all over, or their now young adult dc decides to share their experience themselves.

I do agree that it is important to speak up, and I am sorry to hear that your DD’s experience has not been a good one. I hope she is now accessing the help that she needs, and her friends too.

 

I also think it is important, in the interests of balance and clarity, to say that this is not the case for everyone, and that some schools are really nurturing the children and many children are thriving at vocational school. To say this is not to deny or excuse any poor treatment that has happened in other institutions or to other children. Ongoing, frank conversation is essential with all our children, and even more so when we are entrusting them to a school that may be far from home.

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1 hour ago, taxi4ballet said:

I don't know what year your dd is in, but I'm glad to hear that there have been no issues.

 

My dd left upper school training only 3 years ago, so I don't think there could have been a complete about-turn in that short a time.

 

Of the 20 or so friends and other people we personally knew who started upper school training (and at various schools) either the same year as my dd or a year or two either side, almost all of them (including my dd) suffered from either emotional/mental health difficulties, eating disorders or a career-ending injury in one way or another during their training. Very few of them got the support they needed at this critical time. The families of at least two that I know of had to resort to legal action.

 

With the greatest respect, and although I know (as you say) that many parents will be nervous about sending their youngsters off in a few weeks' time, that should not be a reason for others to keep quiet about their negative experiences. I'm afraid to say that there have been too many occasions in the past of things being swept under the carpet or hushed up. Too many people in the past have been afraid to speak up lest their child's funding is taken away, or they are assessed out or marked as a troublemaker. Very few people are prepared to stick their head above the parapet for those reasons. The ones who do, tend to wait until it is all over, or their now young adult dc decides to share their experience themselves.

 

This thread is a very good example of that.  Parents are not able to comply with the forum rules when talking about negative experiences at these schools because to do so would identify themselves and their child.  So the positive experiences remain and the negative ones are hidden.

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4 hours ago, taxi4ballet said:

This is not in relation to any specific training establishment. 

 

It seems to me that vocational schools all take it upon themselves to put as much psychological pressure on their students as they possibly can, so that they 'weed out' all those who are not mentally resilient enough to survive the rigours of a professional dance career. They keep being told that 'it's tough out there' and how pressured it is, the constant rejections and negativity and how tough they have to be.

 

What other industry would treat its employees like that? The unions would have a fit. What other industry would put its trainees through both physical and mental torture, so that only the strongest survive and the rest are cast by the wayside? This is particularly appalling when you consider that these trainees are children.

 

 

And as my Dd says actors have Equity, musicians have a union. In fact most workers have a body to protect their rights in some way. Dancers are out there alone with no support. 

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4 minutes ago, Jane said:

And as my Dd says actors have Equity, musicians have a union. In fact most workers have a body to protect their rights in some way. Dancers are out there alone with no support. 

 I think the Dancers  who are part of Equity  etc and the  Union reps in the  Companies might have something to say on that subject ...  

https://www.equity.org.uk/getting-involved/committees/dance-committee/
 

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