Jump to content

Dancing, training and issues with body image, resilience, etc.


Recommended Posts

MODERATOR'S NOTE: This thread has been split off from an earlier thread here:

and some quotes may be from that original thread (click on the arrow at the top right of any quote to go back to the original post).

If you spot any post which is obviously in the "wrong" thread, please point it out.  Thank you.

 

 

 

On 31/07/2020 at 18:38, Pups_mum said:

Protecting young people from the reality of highly competitive and demanding professions does them no favours. If someone doesn't have the necessary attributes for any given profession and is not likely to be able to develop them, or indeed if the job isn't actually as appealing to them as they thought, then it is surely better to realise that soon enough to hopefully be able to change direction relatively easily.

 

@Pups_mumI think this is such an important point. We need a balance, and a society which doesn't pathologise normal ordinary feelings of stress, anxiety etc and particularly the normal ordinary confusions of puberty!

 

I had a young student of mine take me aside at the start of a 3 hour studio session to tell me that they thought I ought to know that they'd not slept well because they'd been having lots of anxious thoughts. My spoken response was to smile be reassuring and say  "It's OK. You know what you have to do. Do the breathing, be in the present here in the studio, focus on that. You don't have to think about anything else."

 

What I was thinking to myself was, however, "Welcome to the adult world."

 

Lovely hard-working student - but I can't help feeling that they were not served well by not being taught that anxious thoughts are normal ... and being taught how to deal with them. And insomnia from them! Resilience is so important.

 

Edited to add: So I"m interested in what can be done to train young people in realistic ways in areas where standards are exceptionally high, and competition for places is tough, and some aspects of the high standards are perhaps beyond the individual's control?

 

Given classical ballet aesthetics as they currently are, there are going to be some bodies which are just not suited. And before we get to aesthetics, the rigours of the physical training also mean that some bodies are just not suited. And the work ethic is necessarily tough, and aesthetic & technical standards necessarily exceptional.

 

What are the ways of preparing young people for these aspects of the world they aspire to enter, which offer realistic assessment to pupils, but don't become abusive?

Edited by alison
To add explanation
  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • Replies 109
  • Created
  • Last Reply

Top Posters In This Topic

Top Posters In This Topic

10 hours ago, Kate_N said:

Lovely hard-working student - but I can't help feeling that they were not served well by not being taught that anxious thoughts are normal ... and being taught how to deal with them. And insomnia from them! Resilience is so important.

 

I've frequently thought that our 21st-century society does our young people no favours by not instilling in them ways of coping with adversity, or perhaps by trying to remove any situation in which they might have to face it.

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, alison said:

 

I've frequently thought that our 21st-century society does our young people no favours by not instilling in them ways of coping with adversity, or perhaps by trying to remove any situation in which they might have to face it.

 

Yes - Building Resilience through graded exposure i.e. face the feared situation, in incremental steps,  experiencing small successes along the way

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
10 hours ago, DD Driver said:

 

Yes - Building Resilience through graded exposure i.e. face the feared situation, in incremental steps,  experiencing small successes along the way

 however for all too many people this means the 'graded exposure' they themselves recieved as young people - i.e. thrown in the deep end but without the  constantly analysis  and  ability  for even the simplest mistake to be replayed  again and again in glorious technicolour 

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, NJH said:

 however for all too many people this means the 'graded exposure' they themselves recieved as young people - i.e. thrown in the deep end but without the  constantly analysis  and  ability  for even the simplest mistake to be replayed  again and again in glorious technicolour 


Exactly this. The world our children are growing up in is a million miles from our childhood. They see images of perfection all around them 24 hours a day. I absolutely believe that they can’t learn to cope with anxiety without being exposed to it; however some understanding from the adults around them that they are constantly bombarded with reminders of what they are anxious about, would go a long way to helping them. 

  • Like 5
Link to post
Share on other sites
22 hours ago, Kate_N said:

Edited to add: So I"m interested in what can be done to train young people in realistic ways in areas where standards are exceptionally high, and competition for places is tough, and some aspects of the high standards are perhaps beyond the individual's control?

 

Given classical ballet aesthetics as they currently are, there are going to be some bodies which are just not suited. And before we get to aesthetics, the rigours of the physical training also mean that some bodies are just not suited. And the work ethic is necessarily tough, and aesthetic & technical standards necessarily exceptional.

 

What are the ways of preparing young people for these aspects of the world they aspire to enter, which offer realistic assessment to pupils, but don't become abusive?

 

I think there's a difference between helping children and young adults to understand barriers in the career they want, and building those barriers up for no apparent reason. In the ballet world, children learn about failure and favouritism and not being right for this particular part through the process of auditioning and exams and other things like that. They get to experience the rejection, or the joy of success, and they learn resilience on a small, child-size scale. That is a normal and healthy way to prepare children for the life they want and the obstacles they will face.

 

What is not normal is creating an artificial environment with extra stress and pressure heaped on for no reason other than to make things tougher and to see who can handle it. I mean, you wouldn't crank up the heat and make kids do three hours of allegro in 50 degree heat purely because 'it's a tough profession and if you can't handle it you should quit'. Ballet schools enforcing archaic rules, making students weigh themselves multiple times a year, forcing kids to repeat the same moves over and over without correction and expecting them to magically fix themselves - that is the mental equivalent of cranking up the heat. It's unnecessary and it serves no purpose. It doesn't prepare students for the real world because those situations are unlikely to happen in the real world. And if they do, we need to question why they're happening. Should we really be preparing students for the tough so-called 'realities' of the ballet profession, instead of encouraging the profession to change and holding it to a higher standard?

 

If a child wants to be a ballerina because they enjoy the pretty costumes and being on stage, but they aren't prepared for the hours of hard work and sacrifice, they'll drop out pretty quickly when the latter starts to outweigh the former. I don't think there's any need to force kids out of a career that they might be unsuited for. If they are unsuited, they'll naturally start to move away from it if given enough time. And perhaps, if given the opportunity, they may rise to the occasion and surprise you! I hear a lot of talk about kids today being special snowflakes and parents not allowing their kids to fail, which breeds entitlement. I'm sure there are some kids and parents like that (I've even met some of them) but I think the idea that as a generation kids today are bratty snots who are sheltered from ever failing is a bit of a straw man. I think there's a very clear line between never allowing a child to fail, and deliberately setting them up for failure. 

  • Like 15
Link to post
Share on other sites

"  forcing kids to repeat the same moves over and over without correction and expecting them to magically fix themselves"  ... 

 the ability to self correct  is an important part of  developing  physical skills , but the  basics have to be in place   for the self correction to be effective 

 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
57 minutes ago, NJH said:

"  forcing kids to repeat the same moves over and over without correction and expecting them to magically fix themselves"  ... 

 the ability to self correct  is an important part of  developing  physical skills , but the  basics have to be in place   for the self correction to be effective 

 


As someone whose ds has been on the end of this particular torture, expecting someone to fix something but not being told what the something is, is extremely difficult for an 11/12yr old!! They’re at school to be taught, ballet isn’t a voyage of self-discovery.  You can’t self-correct if you don’t know what you’re aiming for.  And in this particular context, not being given corrections was definitely used by the teacher as a way of bullying and excluding. 

Edited by Farawaydancer
Spelling mistake!
  • Like 7
Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Farawaydancer said:


As someone whose ds has been on the end of this particular torture, expecting someone to fix something but not being told what the something is, is extremely difficult for an 11/12yr old!! They’re at school to be taught, ballet isn’t a voyage of self-discovery.  You can’t self-correct if you don’t know what you’re aiming for.  And in this particular context, not being given corrections was definitely used by the teacher as a way of bullying and excluding. 

in the whole  ' the only  thing  worse than  being talked about, is not being   talked about '   sense i agree entirely  

i've recently put some  (pretty shoddy) pointe work of mine on facebook  -   i'd actually originally  recorded it  to see if the shoes  i;ve got  at the minute  were broken in properly ... 

and  it may be crass  but  the tellings off i;ve got and more importantly  who i got them from  for  technique  are  gifts ...   ( not going name drop ) 

 

Link to post
Share on other sites
On 02/08/2020 at 03:06, Coffeemum said:

Thecatsmother, so much of your post rings true. An eating disorder is a symptom of one or many issues and it is indeed, a silent way of expressing distress. An understanding of the child's distress is key to helping them. My dd had an unhappy two years at her school and the eating disorder (and I call it this as even though it was mild in comparison to others, I feel a mental illness shouldn't be difficult to talk about) was most definitely a symptom of the way things were handled over those two years. And I totally agree with you over a school needing to be careful about who and more importantly how, they visibly promote.  A few months after leaving her school she is healthier and happier than I've seen her in a long time. It's enormously difficult for schools to get their handling of eating disorders right for everyone though, but a kind, caring and nurturing environment surely helps. Also, good and non combative communication with parents is key, too. 

I also believe that in order to become resilient in the arts, or indeed anywhere, the right encouragement and support is needed or confidence will always suffer, no matter how one seems to be 'dealing' with it on the outside. I say this as someone who's been at a vocational school (not ballet) and works in the arts. 

My daughter was at a uk ballet school and has since graduated and quit ballet. The idea of resilience and being “ stoic “ despite the situation around the student and whatever issues they are dealing with was always called “ professionalism” and it was expected of the students at the school. They are told to make it in the industry you need to exhibit professionalism.   Also the feeling that troublemakers or complaints would be held against the student. Especially if parents complain and seek clarification of the treatment experienced by the student. Also the weighing of students was regular and constant. The passing of a note to a student in class to attend the nurse or nutritionist- openly done and everyone in the class knew it meant issues with body.  The whole body image was marked on the assessment form each year. You did get a number ranking. You are spoken to about being “ audition ready”. Students were removed at the last rehearsals as being too big in the eye of the guest choreographer. Costumes were sometimes sent from Japan and girls who couldn’t fit the costumes were told they couldn’t dance in the performances. Praise was openly made in class when a student had lost weight. Weight and size are a constant for girls - even the audition applications around the world ask height and weight as the first questions. Some company applications restrict height to even apply. The image of the girls is paramount to this industry and seems to be if they have the right look but lack the technique etc. They still get offered a job or place. I’m sure nothing has changed - but the  schools need to appear to have changed their process to protect children and their management. It should be remembered and enforced (by relevant authorities) that these are schools and they have a duty of care to the students first. And this should be in co-ordination with the parents and with full disclosure to the parents at all times. 

  • Like 8
Link to post
Share on other sites

Teaching resilience is important but certain basic things need to be in place in order to be able to reach this point. If a dancer feels threatened or is unable to trust the system (understandably in many cases) then I very much doubt they would ever get near looking a issues such as resilience. When anyone is in a great state of fear as a result of a systemic dynamics or past experiences then it is clear in the hierarchy of emotions that fear will top anything else as a young person is trying to keep themselves physically and emotionally protected.   
 

The problem is that this really needs to be addressed at a systemic level amongst staff in schools as so many teachers are actually re-enacting what was done to them even if on an unconscious level. Perhaps if we could start to help the teachers, directors etc to heal emotionally then they can be in a better place to hep dancers. There is a culture of ‘we had if much tougher than you’ that still exists and reinforces the problem. 
 

 

 

  • Like 12
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 1 month later...

Inspiring words from Steven McRae on his Instagram.  He talks about  how some people comment that they liked his body 5 years ago when he was skinnier and less fit!  Living his life in a 'calorie deficit'

 

 

 

  • Like 8
Link to post
Share on other sites
2 hours ago, Dancing unicorn said:

Absolutely love Steven McRea and he’s absolutely fine as he is 💗

 

Definitely.  Not wild about the moustache personally but he's an amazing dancer and I'm so glad he's recovering as I would love to see him perform again.  

 

Glad he's speaking out about body shaming.  

 

 

 

  • Like 5
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 2 weeks later...

This has been such an interesting discussion to read! Why should having boobs mean you are the "wrong shape for ballet"? I've seen girls who were beautiful dancers, in terms of artistry, performance quality and technique, who were overlooked for selection into schools in favour of other dancers who were far less enjoyable to watch but who had the "right" body. I know of one girl who came back to the studio after a few weeks of a really serious illness, the first comment from the teacher was "omg you look amazing!" - the poor thing was skeletal. It seems as though certain characteristics (thinness, banana feet) are increasingly almost fetishised at the expense of actual talent in movement or performance. 

  • Like 11
Link to post
Share on other sites

I couldn’t agree more with your comments Kanamgra! 

Including this odd obsession with ‘’banana feet’..... there is frankly a hideous picture being used in latest ENB round of marketing where dancer in centre  is pushing so far over her ?(too soft?) pointe shoes and then with knees that sway back to such an extreme that her legs are like the shape of a violin....it’s actualky quite ugly.... what has happened to the appreciation of ‘pure classical libe’??  A straight leg line with the pointed food merely being an extension to the length of those limbs? I’m not decrying that there is naturally a various in shapes & dimensions & angles & vice la difference! But I have seen over years an ever increasing worrying trend for young dancers  to think ‘the infustry’ favours the more extremes in sway backs,banana feet, over splits, extreme back bendiness..... & they (& more worryingly their parents & teachers) are ‘adjusting’ their training to try to achieve these extremes......at risk of damaging young bodies & perpetuating this nonsense. 

Ballet is sadly becoming more like watching circus arts..... makes me very sad & angry. Why are we such lemmings? Yes, an amazing dancer may naturally exhibit one or more of these ‘‘extremes’. Well, that may be their personal unique ‘skill’ or appeal.... why does that then mean we just want clones of that person? I want to see real bodies, real people, real minds, real emotion..... real ART!! 

Edited by Peanut68
Added
  • Like 10
Link to post
Share on other sites

This has been a really interesting read. I have a child on the verge of vocational auditions for September 2021 and it terrifies me. Yes we will support her along the way as well as trying to inject some realism. She's already noticed the banana feet thing and that hers aren't, she has very strong feet, long achilies and an instep but not really high arches. She dances beautifully with something I can't put my finger on and passion beyond her years but does she have "the ballet body" who knows and it just concerns me. We want to support her but most importantly we want to keep her mental health in check...we had no idea she would go in this direction and we aren't a dancing family, so it's all an eye opener to us.

  • Like 7
Link to post
Share on other sites
11 hours ago, Kanangra said:

This has been such an interesting discussion to read! Why should having boobs mean you are the "wrong shape for ballet"? I've seen girls who were beautiful dancers, in terms of artistry, performance quality and technique, who were overlooked for selection into schools in favour of other dancers who were far less enjoyable to watch but who had the "right" body. I know of one girl who came back to the studio after a few weeks of a really serious illness, the first comment from the teacher was "omg you look amazing!" - the poor thing was skeletal. It seems as though certain characteristics (thinness, banana feet) are increasingly almost fetishised at the expense of actual talent in movement or performance. 

My dd has recently lost some weight as a result of being put back on Concerta for ADHD. She works in a medical field and is sick of comments such as “Oh, you’ve lost weight! You look amazing!” They have a member of staff battling anorexia and it is thoughtless and harmful to her mental health.  

  • Like 6
Link to post
Share on other sites
21 hours ago, Peanut68 said:

I couldn’t agree more with your comments Kanamgra! 

Including this odd obsession with ‘’banana feet’..... there is frankly a hideous picture being used in latest ENB round of marketing where dancer in centre  is pushing so far over her ?(too soft?) pointe shoes and then with knees that sway back to such an extreme that her legs are like the shape of a violin....it’s actualky quite ugly.... what has happened to the appreciation of ‘pure classical libe’??  A straight leg line with the pointed food merely being an extension to the length of those limbs? I’m not decrying that there is naturally a various in shapes & dimensions & angles & vice la difference! But I have seen over years an ever increasing worrying trend for young dancers  to think ‘the infustry’ favours the more extremes in sway backs,banana feet, over splits, extreme back bendiness..... & they (& more worryingly their parents & teachers) are ‘adjusting’ their training to try to achieve these extremes......at risk of damaging young bodies & perpetuating this nonsense. 

Ballet is sadly becoming more like watching circus arts..... makes me very sad & angry. Why are we such lemmings? Yes, an amazing dancer may naturally exhibit one or more of these ‘‘extremes’. Well, that may be their personal unique ‘skill’ or appeal.... why does that then mean we just want clones of that person? I want to see real bodies, real people, real minds, real emotion..... real ART!! 

I agree.  I’ve seen students so thin they don’t even fit the child’s size leotards. They are skin and bone. Praised by the teachers for beautiful line  but over be t feet and sway back legs. No muscle or tone - just like a very skinny child not a young woman. The downside is numerous examples in those classes at the top level are starving for that shape and over exercising. Many cases of told to sit out and watch until a few kilos return - but as soon as teacher leaves - excessive training again. And the message it sends to the class is loose weight to that level and you will be praised. The opposite is the dietician appears at the class door and hands you a note for a visit. The message is lose weight to become as the one teacher says “ audition ready”. Very negative cycle. All get to the lowest point to achieve success or be left out of casting.  The top schools say it’s not happening anymore. Yes it is. Yet they hide behind fancy statements of pastoral and nutritionist and equipment. 

  • Like 6
Link to post
Share on other sites

I was so delighted to see that Ivana Bueno was named as ENB's Emerging Dancer recently. She looks so healthy and actually has curves! Stunning to watch from what I've seen online. 

  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites
18 hours ago, Thecatsmother said:

Yes. The medical info and help is readily available and everyone knows. But - the industry is at fault. Look at the winners of prix etc. Skin and bone for the winners. My daughter and I have seen girls for years eating just nuts. Carrots and orange juice for a main meal. And that includes in the boarding houses. Girls with bone density degradation at 19. No periods for years. Hair falling out and excess hair fuzz growing on arms and back. All the signs of eating disorders. And teachers in class that praise weight loss. They must think that the dancer is not healthy. The measuring for costumes on the largest girl and making comment if it fits so and so it will fit everyone. Measuring for students to do an exchange with an over seas school. It’s subtle but the dancers know the language- the whole industry does. The comments. She’s a strong dancer. She’s tall. Needs to tone up. Lengthen the body. All language about size. If schools produce healthy dancers then the coys have to take that shape. It shouldn’t be governed by a beauty parade first and if they can dance second. Otherwise why are we paying to train these kids. If it’s a skinny beauty contest. Then admit it is. Don’t pretend to the parents paying the fees and stop taking the tax payers money. Even the summer schools are a beauty parade based on a photo. This industry is toxic to kids and I know as my daughter been all the way through to the very top and walked away. Happy she’s now judged on all her personal attributes including her brain in her new career. 

  • Like 13
Link to post
Share on other sites

Nama - the phrase 'it's a skinny contest' often comes out of my mouth.  Especially in relation to auditions.

The best opportunities for my DD are when an AD sees her in action for 3 or more days.  That is, sees the dancers doing classwork, learning choreography and showing musicality and artistry. Sigh...

  • Like 6
Link to post
Share on other sites
15 minutes ago, DD Driver said:

Nama - the phrase 'it's a skinny contest' often comes out of my mouth.  Especially in relation to auditions.

The best opportunities for my DD are when an AD sees her in action for 3 or more days.  That is, sees the dancers doing classwork, learning choreography and showing musicality and artistry. Sigh...

Totally agree. We’ve all experienced it. In auditions kids get cut and sent out after the first exercise on the barre. That is certainly a size issue. Also the size maximum listed on coy audition criteria. That’s ok - we all know what they want. But be honest - don’t waste people’s money and time and the damage done to the candidates confidence who are rejected and don’t know why. The kids watch the candidates and know who is a better dancer. They see the technical faults and know that size is a key factor. Many of the students in my daughters graduate class were constantly injured and unwell. They had no stamina and fitness. That’s why the healthy strong kids danced more filling in endlessly for the favoured student as they were too ill to dance. Vulnerable to damaged legs and to diseases. Just too unhealthy to maintain the demands of daily dancing. It’s ironic that seeing those same super skinny weak dancers have bulked up to almost normal levels when in coys and the daily requirements have necessitated healthy habits in regards to food. So why chose the skinny weak ones then require them to eat properly and get muscle tone when they’ve got the job in the coys. This is particularly evident in the famous coys 

  • Like 4
Link to post
Share on other sites
12 hours ago, Nama said:

Yes. The medical info and help is readily available and everyone knows. But - the industry is at fault. Look at the winners of prix etc. Skin and bone for the winners. My daughter and I have seen girls for years eating just nuts. Carrots and orange juice for a main meal. And that includes in the boarding houses. Girls with bone density degradation at 19. No periods for years. Hair falling out and excess hair fuzz growing on arms and back. All the signs of eating disorders. And teachers in class that praise weight loss. They must think that the dancer is not healthy. The measuring for costumes on the largest girl and making comment if it fits so and so it will fit everyone. Measuring for students to do an exchange with an over seas school. It’s subtle but the dancers know the language- the whole industry does. The comments. She’s a strong dancer. She’s tall. Needs to tone up. Lengthen the body. All language about size. If schools produce healthy dancers then the coys have to take that shape. It shouldn’t be governed by a beauty parade first and if they can dance second. Otherwise why are we paying to train these kids. If it’s a skinny beauty contest. Then admit it is. Don’t pretend to the parents paying the fees and stop taking the tax payers money. Even the summer schools are a beauty parade based on a photo. This industry is toxic to kids and I know as my daughter been all the way through to the very top and walked away. Happy she’s now judged on all her personal attributes including her brain in her new career. 

I think you've hit the nail on the head here! Reminds me of when my daughter was in our state RAD competition - there were of course a few other girls she knew there - she was floored when one of the girls got through to the finals "mum, you should have seen how many mistakes she made" and others hadn't. Of course the girl who made all the mistakes was super skinny and had the ballet-ideal figure, while other girls who were better at the actual dancing got cut. But you are right - it was a skinny competition.

  • Like 6
Link to post
Share on other sites
13 hours ago, Nama said:

It’s ironic that seeing those same super skinny weak dancers have bulked up to almost normal levels when in coys and the daily requirements have necessitated healthy habits in regards to food. So why chose the skinny weak ones then require them to eat properly and get muscle tone when they’ve got the job in the coys. This is particularly evident in the famous coys 

 

So true!  In Australia, people often observe how dancers in one of our top company do not look like the students in their associated school.  Of course some did not go to that school or joined in the last few years.   

 

As a parent, you can only say to your child: I don't understand this.  Isn't the job to be beautiful and talented 'in motion'?  All you can do and control is: aim to be the best dancer that you can be.

 

I always remember how normal Torvel & Dean looked in interviews.  On the ice they were sublime.

Edited by DD Driver
  • Like 5
Link to post
Share on other sites
On 07/10/2020 at 08:10, DD Driver said:

 

So true!  In Australia, people often observe how dancers in one of our top company do not look like the students in their associated school.  Of course some did not go to that school or joined in the last few years.   

 

As a parent, you can only say to your child: I don't understand this.  Isn't the job to be beautiful and talented 'in motion'?  All you can do and control is: aim to be the best dancer that you can be.

 

I always remember how normal Torvel & Dean looked in interviews.  On the ice they were sublime.

Agree again - I’ve seen Australian situation and UK. Also my daughter had first hand experience of a favoured student being very slow to pick up choreography in a newly choreographed ballet with a very famous uk choreographer. It got so bad that the practice run was stopped and the persons difficulties pointed out - the comment was despite how great you look your useless to the company if you can’t do the dance with the rest of the corps. Despite being known for slow pick up of choreography and being constantly replaced by other dancers this person is now in the job and employed. Crazy ballet world. !!! 

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
5 hours ago, Kanangra said:

@DD Driver I was going to point out the same thing - our dancers in the Australian Ballet are a range of shapes. Professional dancers surely need to have strength and stamina to succeed in their career. 

 

Yes!  Early rejections can help our young dancers to build the drive and resilience they will need in a company or any walk of life.   Or that's just what I tell myself every time it happens haha

Edited by DD Driver
  • Like 2
Link to post
Share on other sites

Kathryn Morgan has just released a video on YouTube about why she left Miami City Ballet. She was treated horribly by them and her mental and physical health began to suffer badly. It applies directly to this topic. 

  • Like 3
Link to post
Share on other sites
  • alison changed the title to Dancing, training and issues with body image, resilience, etc.

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

×
×
  • Create New...