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Interesting article in the Mail today


Dancingdreams
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There is undoubtedly a lot of pressure on young girls to look "good" these days, and it certainly doesn't only come from dance classes.

If the child in question wasn't enjoying her classes then it seems reasonable that she stopped - there are very many hobbies and activities on offer for 9 year olds after all. But if she liked dancing otherwise, it seems a shame. Of course if a child, or adult come to that, spends a lot of time in a leotard doing a physical pursuit then they are going to compare their body to others at some point, and this can become an issue. But it's an issue that can often be resolved without stopping the dancer dancing. I don't think that this kind of thing should be brushed under the carpet but it annoys me a bit when ballet is demonised in this way. Obviously there are some dancers who have eating disorders, but that's not confined to ballet, and the vast majority of young children who dance do so for fun and fitness and are not troubled by weight issues.

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I agree at that age you do naturally begin to compare body shape as girls enter puberty some become a little plumper etc, its nothin to do with ballet although any activity where you're scantily clad you will notice other people's a shape etc. If she wasn't bothered about ballet then as pups_mum said try a different activity but I would have thought it better to confront the issue rather than sweep it under the carpet. It would be different if it was someone external telling her that she was too large. I vividly remember a day in PE at junior school when I realised that I had chunky legs, it's nothing new!

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Shame that his daughter has body image issues but if she's that way inclined I don't think taking her out of ballet will solve the problem for long. What happens when she starts reading fashion magazines and trying to emulate famous celebrities? Despite the cliches, it's not ballet that is responsible for eating disorders - it's the wider society. Most girls with ED have never been anywhere near ballet.

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First I would like to say that I am absolutely appalled that parents who are worried about their daughter would expose her issues in the press in this way.  How is she going to feel - it is probably hard enough anyway having high profile parents.

 

However this article in The Mail is a follow up to Sarah Vine writing in The Times on Wednesday.  As they have their paywall I cannot post a link, but I take the Times and will type out some quotes.

 

On page 2 of the "times 2" section Sarah Vine writes two full columns about her daughter's problem at ballet.  She says "after almost 8 years of leotards and grand jetés ...."  So either this child started very young or is more like 10 or 11. years old and going into pre adolescence which, as others have already said above, is a time when girls become conscious of their changing bodies and do make comparisons with others.

 

Towards the end of the article Sarah Vine says: "Another time I collected my daughter, customary lollipop in hand (our little ritual), and she refused it." So is it helpful if a child is worried about her weight, to try to make her eat sweets?

 

Many things in this article troubled me, however I carried on reading this section and then came to Sarah Vine's second article.  A full page written in her capacity as Beauty Editor!  It contained perfectly good advice about avoiding the sun and using suncream and how this would prevent the skin ageing.  However she then becomes very self-congratulatory because she didn't sunbathe like her friends when they were all younger and wrote:-

 

"Former schoolfriends resemble prunes.  In the right light I can still pass for a peach, albeit a little on the turn".

 

So I would dare to suggest that concern with appearance is something that her daughter is learning closer to home and pulling her from ballet is not going to solve anything!  If the child's  ballet teacher happens to read this board I would be very interested in her side of the story.

 

 

 

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Many girls seem to become self-conscious about their bodies and start comparing themselves to their peers as they approach and enter puberty, whether they do ballet or not. Today's fashion is figure-hugging and skimpy: think skinny jeans, short shorts and close-fitting t-shirts. However, I think that ballet can exacerbate any insecurities for a number of reasons: leotards are very unforgiving garments; the girls that continue doing ballet after the age of, say, 8 are a self-selecting group of slimmer girls and there is an awareness that ballerinas are generally thin, flat-chested and slender-hipped.

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I used to get the Times and enjoy Sarah Vine's writing but putting her to writing on Beauty was a waste of a very good brain. Maybe the Times did it because Gove became an MP and she couldn't speak out about many issues anymore. However I thought all good journalists these days were very wary about writing about their children. She has slipped up here. I wonder if her dd goes to a suitably elite dance school where they are all super slim etc. Maybe she should try the village hall type school where you can find all shapes and sizes. I have a very skinny semi seriously dancing ds, and a distinctly shapely ++ non seriously dancing 12 year old dd who takes after me. She's perfectly happy at her school. The only time I plan to worry how she feels about her shape is when she gets to Intermediate, but she plods along in lower grades perfectly happily. I made it to the old Elementary RAD grade with my shape!

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I too am frustrated with the bad rap ballet gets from the media regarding girls and their weight. I am aware of the history of eating disorders in ballet but to my knowledge, most ballet organizations have gone to great lengths to change the stigma and to redirect to healthy dancers and healthy bodies but no one outside the ballet community wants to hear this.

My dd is 16 and in a professional program and she has a slight but strong figure. The school puts a lot of focus on healthy EATING and has zero tolerance for unhealthy dieting.

Perhaps this is where the focus should go to.... healthy eating. There is nothing wrong with wanting a healthy body and when a young girl/woman isn't happy with her body, she should be made to understand that the way to health is through good food instead of by eliminating food. We are so busy denouncing skinny people that we are almost endorsing obesity.

If a 9 year old child is having body image issuess, I have to believe there is more to it. Like another poster mentioned, this child may have issues that stem from within her own home and publicizing it was a really stupid choice.

And I acknowledge body shapes are all different regardless of eating choices (I am overweight and ok with it). And knowing that body shapes are different, and that some industries require certain physical traits, then we direct our energies into those that work for the individual. Ballet is a great activity even if you can't go pro. Basketball is a great sport even if you are 5'2". Many sports have physical criteria that most don't fit into and yet it doesn't get the bad rap.

And I am tired of my dd's doctor and others question her eating habits. My kid eats... a lot. And nobody is asking the next kid what they eat even though they probably couldn't identify a vegetable to save their life and are overweight.

Yes this is a rant...

Edited by audsjcanuck
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First I would like to say that I am absolutely appalled that parents who are worried about their daughter would expose her issues in the press in this way.  How is she going to feel - it is probably hard enough anyway having high profile parents.

Schools have been on the receiving end of Gove's off-kilter ideas for sometime now! (Sorry to be political!)

 

As for high profile parents and their children, can you remember John Gummer trying to get his 4 year old daughter to eat a burger to endorse the safety of British beef? Poor child! Perhaps it's an MP thing.

 

On a serious note, I don't think any parent should expose their child's concerns in the press. Also, (yeah.. ballet is very body revealing, I dream I'm in a leotard, awful, because not only am I hopeless but it is not a great sight),  I do feel the majority of girls (and boys) who are dedicated to ballet are slim and healthy because of the amount of exercise they do. My daughter, and her dancing friends, eat like horses! Eating disorders can affect anybody from any walk of life, not just ballet. So, Gove, I'm not impressed, (again).

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Taking up Cathy's point, different ballet schools attract and retain different types of student (and parent). Some cater for all-comers, who are all shapes and sizes, whereas others cater for the more "serious" dancer who tends to to be more slender.

 

Journalists, particularly those who appear in the "lifestyle" sections of papers, have plenty of "form" when it comes to talking about their children. Honestly, you'd think that they were the only people on earth who had given birth, applied for school places, taken their children to extra-curricular activities etc. Remember Julie Myerson who wrote a novel which was clearly about her son's problem with cannabis?

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Remember Julie Myerson who wrote a novel which was clearly about her son's problem with cannabis?

I do, but I couldn't think of her name to mention it above, thank you Aileen! It took a while to evolve but there was a big stink about her writing about her son, wasn't there? I think even journalists had a go her for this.
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Many girls seem to become self-conscious about their bodies and start comparing themselves to their peers as they approach and enter puberty, whether they do ballet or not. Today's fashion is figure-hugging and skimpy: think skinny jeans, short shorts and close-fitting t-shirts. However, I think that ballet can exacerbate any insecurities for a number of reasons: leotards are very unforgiving garments; the girls that continue doing ballet after the age of, say, 8 are a self-selecting group of slimmer girls and there is an awareness that ballerinas are generally thin, flat-chested and slender-hipped.

 

There is also the other side of the coin where you see plenty of overweight teenagers wearing skin tight clothes and letting it all hang out without seeming to have a care in the world. The press needs to decide whether we've got an obesity epidemic or an eating disorder issue. It's one extreme to the other from one week to the next.

 

I think 8 is a bit young to be self-selecting. In my experience it usually happens about 13/14. I can honestly say that at my DD's local dance school, all types co-exist happily and there are skinny and hefty girls dancing side by side, some serious RBS associates and some not, all enjoying themselves.

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How extreme to remove her from ballet altogether! Perhaps she could just have moved schools? And why make a big fuss about it in the papers? Poor kid! I was rather surprised to see so many comments backing the parents for exposing their daughter in order to bring the problem to the public's notice. One person however made a clever comment -

"First time I've seen dancing and sinister used in the same sentence"

 

I would be very interested in knowing whether or not there was a higher percentage of anorexia in teenagers who learn ballet and teenagers who don't. All the rest is just scandal mongering....

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There is no mention of how the child felt about having her dance lessons stopped!!

If she was really keen this could have been a rather destructive action. I would have been devastated if my mother had stopped my classes at that age. Surely mum could have found a creative way round this problem.

Chances are that if its not been resolved properly the girl will continue to have problems re her weight whether she continues with dance classes or not.

Perhaps someone made an unfortunate comment at her school or perhaps that school had too competitive an atmosphere and she was worried about her ability really which then got focused on her weight. So at another school she may have been happier.

Depends really how much she wanted to continue anyway but if she did it has not been handled well I think.

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I love ballet but it is a cruel world.

I stopped dancing for a number of years due to developing an eating disorder when I was 15 due to my obsession with ballet and my teacher.

My psychiatrist told me "either stop dancing or go into hospital" I chose to stop dancing.

Just my own experience....

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Whilst my dd was at vocational school we knew of four students around her age who had a eating disorder and required hospital treatment. At the Bolshoi there is a lot of girls who have a unhealthy relationship with food.Many of my friends whose daughters attend ballet schools in this country and abroad tell me that it is the same in their schools. weather we like it or not there is still a huge amount of ballet dancers both students and professionals who have a eating disorder diagnosed or not. We shouldnt get defensive about it but be open so that much needed help can be given to these dancers. Anorexia is brushed under the carpet in the ballet world and is seen as something not to be spoken about to the outside world. In my opinion the mother in the article did the right thing. I dont think anybody is to be blamed for her daughter's attitude to her body. I also think she was brave to hi light a problem that does exist amongst our young girls. She was actually proactive in removing an activity that the mother thought to be a catalist in her daugters mental state. In my books I would say she is a responsible parent.

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However I don't think in such a young girl this can just be a "ballet" problem. Girls whether they do ballet or not usually start these extreme weight issues in puberty....most usually 13-16. Even girls who don't go on to develop extreme probs are usual more aware of weight etc around this age. So if this young girl is already revealing probs there may be other underlying issues causing this that are nothing to do with ballet so does need investigating.

 

Having said that however I would think there may be slightly more prevalence of extreme eating disorders in the ballet, modelling and indeed theatre world in general probably because of "being on view" so to speak but of course don't know what the official figures are.

 

I

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The thing is we dont know what has triggered this young girls unhealthy attitude to her body, probably many things. I do know that if my dd came home at that young age comparing herself to other dancers and wanting to diet, i would probably be horrified, panic and I would have to remove what I thought might be a contributing factor. I feel sorry for this mother in that she is getting so many negative responses from the newspaper article. Can you imagine what she must have gone through and be going through worrying about her young daughter. I believe that as a society we are too quick to point the finger instead of offering support.

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Primrose, thank you for sharing that. It saddens me that there is SO much work going on by organisations such as IADMS, Dance UK, The National Institute for Dance Medicine and Science (NIDMS) in the UK as well as TaMed in Germany, AusDance and many others across the world - all of whom are working and working to raise awareness of dance medicine and the various factors affecting dancer health and yet it seems that despite appearances (school directors going to conferences, company directors speaking at events, publishing in the media etc) the issue may still be rife?

 

Of course there is always the argument that those individuals who are at greater risk of mental health issues including ED's are also those who succeed in dance and sport (the type A personality, perfectionist, conscientious, eager to please). In that case, is the body image issue a foregone conclusion, regardless of whether the individual dances? 

 

On a wider scale - many of the most 'successful' and 'talented' individuals in our world are also the most troubled - I am currently reading Victoria Pendleton's book and am finding more and more parallels with her training, and emotional struggles. How she coped with Strictly at all is amazing, bearing in mind her already-fragile psychology. You only have to look into the world of theatre, television, comedy and music to find an array of uber-talented yet immensely troubled minds. 

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To an extent I agree with you Primrose, but there are other ways of dealing with issues than demonising ballet and washing your dirty linen in public - especially in a ghastly paper like the Daily Mail. You've only got to glance at the DM's website to see that 90% of Femail "articles" are commenting on women's looks or their figures. The DM's manda Platell is one of the worst culprits (anyone over a size 10 is obese according to her) so the Daily Mail is hardly the place to air concerns about a child's weight.

 

Did the mother speak to the teacher? Has she looked at her daughter's diet and adjusted it slightly if necessary? Has she spoken to her daughter's GP? Is the ballet class full of potential vocational students, or is it like our local ballet school where there are children of all shapes and sizes with varying aspirations?

 

"Celebrity" or not, there are better ways to support your child than writing in the paper about it.

 

Edited to amend last sentence.

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Just a small point of fact, not that I expect that to limit the rhetoric building up here - Sarah Vine's article was in The Times 2 Supplement, for which she is a regular columnist.  The Mail has simply quoted from that, added a bit of Ms Rojo, and here we are ......

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Fair point Ian. :-)

 

I still think her time would have been better employed in trying to investigate and resolve her daughter's issues privately though. Write in one paper and it will be picked up by others.

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The Mail is always full of stories about girls as young as five having concerns about their weight. I don't think children at age 5-10 really understand anything about weight issues - they are just copying what they see and hear from other people, usually the adults in their life. If this girl was getting comments at ballet from other children, then they were probably just repeating what they'd heard their mothers say.

 

Pulling her out of ballet is an extreme reaction and will probably do more to cement the idea in her mind that weight is a big issue than if the mother had adopted an approach along the lines of "it really isn't important what other people think" etc.........like all mothers have to when other children say spiteful things to their children in all number of different circumstances, not just ballet.

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I believe that this mother reacted in a very responsible manner. Her daughter was clearly showing signs of having an unhealthy view of her own body in comparison to her friends in her ballet class. This may well have been the start of a long road to an issue that has been part of the ballet world for a very long time. This child may well have developed these issues somewhere else later on, but her mother observed her child's unhealthy behaviour around her ballet. If as a parent you knew your child was obsessing about her body and then reducing her food intake before classes would you not remove your child before it became too late. I presume this mother had spoken to her child on numerace occasions before removing her from the source of her anxieties. At the end of the day this is a news paper report that will only ever tell a part of a story. If I can also point out eating disorders amongst very young children as young as 6 is on the increase, this was on the news not so long ago. For this little girl who hadn't even gone through puberty to continue to be put in front of a mirror and wear a leotard nearly everyday or everyday could easily have distorted her when she did go through puberty, this mother was in my humble oppinion responsible and acted responsibly towards the health of her child. A mother did this who's daughter was a truly gifted dancer at the Royal but was clearly ill. The young lady is now recovering well persuing a different career path.

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For the mother to do this in private would be one thing - to splash it all over the newspapers is another!  Remember she is Beauty Editor of The Times, and for someone who is involved an industry where there are reportedly far worse problems, I think it was ill-judged for her to attack the whole of ballet.  In the original article she talks about "thin, white girls".  She obviously needs to get up to date with the number of talented dancers in companies and schools here who are not of anglo saxon origins!

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I personally never buy or read newspapers as they nearly always want to create a huge drama or scandal of some sort. I though the lady in question was not the same person who wrote the report, I thought she was an MPs wife, I mustn't have read it properly.

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The author of the article is Sarah Vine who is Beauty Editor for the Times AND Michael Gove's wife. They live in Kensington and I still think the issue is more about the mothers than the children and probably more about the mother's insecurities than the child's.

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