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Ideal weight for dancers?!!


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I'm sorry if this is a bit of a sensitive subject, and I'm also sorry if this post turns into a rant, but I am looking for some advice.....

As a few of you may know, I have been battling anorexia for about 4 years. Recently, I have been doing well, and as such, have been discharged from outpatient treatment. However, with the pressure of auditions, I have been struggling again. I am trying to find some information to reassure myself that I don't need to be emaciated to go to ballet school (from a young age, I was in awe of the Russian dancers, particularly those at the Vaganova, who all seem so desperately thin), so what BMI (or weight range- I am just under 158cm) should a ballet dancer have?? I just feel trapped in a vicious circle, of trying to eat 'normal' amounts to be healthy, which results in feeling fat, which results in cutting down my intake even more..... Will being underweight prevent me from getting in to dance school?!!

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dear lovely Swanprincess, you do not need to be emaciated to be a dancer. Dancers need to be strong and fit. I don't know the answer to your question but I DO know that you need to take care of your instrument i.e.your body.  Tend to it and love it. Imagine a violinist with the best violin in the world...they would not neglect it but would be gentle and loving. You must do the same with yourself.  All the best in your endeavours

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Oh Swanprincess, bless you, and wishing you a continued and successful recovery :wub:

 

This is probably something that you need to talk over with support from your GP and others. I do hope they haven't just discharged you and are leaving you to get on with it by yourself?

 

As you say, this is an issue which people often shy away from, and don't like to discuss. Since you ask, my dd's current BMI is 16.7 (we've recently filled in some application forms which asked for height and weight, so I've just found a website and calculated it for you). She looks much the same size and build as her classmates.

 

I believe that BMI isn't necessarily a good indicator as it takes no account of the muscular build/fitness of the person.

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Dear Swanprincess,

 

The best advice I can give you is to consider yourself as an athlete - by which I mean the demands of ballet training are as rigorous (and therefore demand as much fuel) as those of an athlete. A full time dance student MUST provide their body with enough fuel to endure the hours of training, in the same way as a runner must. You need a good balance of all the food groups because they all play their part in maintaining different body functions.

 

If you look at Olympic sprinters, they are a pretty wide range of heights and builds. Usain Bolt is 6'5 and long limbed, yet Ato Boldon is 5'9 and stocky - both great runners. Similarly - and I've touched on this before - one thing I love about ENB as a company is the wide range of shapes, heights and sizes among the dancers.

 

This just proves to me that the important thing is HOW you dance, not what you weigh or how tall you are.

 

Fuel your body with a lovely mix of foods and food groups, and you will enable your body to keep dancing. xx

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Oh, swanprincess, good luck - I know this can be difficult to deal with but at least you're aware of it, which is half the battle. I hope the British ballet schools have more sense than to encourage girls to become emaciated even if the Russian ones don't. Speaking for myself, I'd prefer to watch dancers who are sparkling with health and well-proportioned rather than a bunch of pallid stick insects. And don't forget there's life after ballet - your long-term health is more important than anything.

 

I really think the Russian schools and companies are being a bit irresponsible about perceptions of weight. I saw a YouTube video that featured one dancer who was around 5ft10 and looked as though she weighed basically nothing, and she said a few times during the day that she hadn't had a chance to eat anything all day, just coffee, and this is how it is most days. Even if this was true - which I doubt because I don't see how she'd have still been conscious after a day of hard physical work and nothing to eat - it's not sending a good message. Then there was a video about Olga Smirnova, and one clip showed her in the canteen, spending forever toying with a forkful of food and then finally raising it delicately to her lips and taking a small nibble. In other words, if you want to be a beautiful ballerina, don't eat. This is such nonsense, and it's causing potential danger to impressionable youngsters for the sake of a bit of mystique.

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I can't answer the question I'm sorry, but I want to wish you luck with your continuing battle against this horrid illness. I had a good friend at university many years ago who struggled with anorexia and I know how hard it can be. You are a very brave young lady to be so open about it and I am sure that your openness and willingness to seek help will be instrumental in your long term recovery. This is a tough year - lean on those who love you. (And I am sure that there will be many of those as you always come across as having a delightful personality on here.)

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DD is 5 ft 3 and about 7.5 stone;I don't know what her BMI is but I consider her slightly underweight  (actually I just checked it here http://www.teenagehealthfreak.org/diet/bmi_calculator & she is 18.6)

 

She eats about 5 meals a day and is always hungry she does about 16-18 hours exercise a week which I have been told is the equivalent of an Olympic athlete.  My brother (a fitness geek) would like her to eat a bit more and cross train a bit more, but it's hard fitting it all in.

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Dear Swanprincess,

 

I've just calculated my DD's BMI for you and it's 17.7... She does about 13 hrs of ballet a week and has a sweet tooth...

 

I also want to add that one of my nieces is battling anorexia and it is a very hard battle. I admire you greatly for talking openly about it... As someone else said, you have such a lovely personality and I will add such determination to get there, that I cannot imagine you won't...

 

Your personality and love of dance will always have more value in the eye of the schools as well as your future spectators than the size of your body...

 

xx

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Dear Swanprincess

Firstly I wish to say how in awe of your bravery I am in being so frank about your illness. I hope you continue to recover well.

 

I cant help you re bmi, sorry but yes I agree with previous posters about the need to look after your body and eat well. Many dance schools teach nutrition now, there is far greater awareness of the importance of staying healthy now. So yes, many schools would these days be wary of taking on someone who is too thin and therefore in danger of not being fit enough for full time training.

 

Have you seen Ballet Theatre UK? They are a shining example of wonderful dancers who are very talented but have varying physiques. More importantly they look healthy and in fact its a condition of their contract that they look after themselves properly. Its possible these days to be a professional dancer and be healthy!

 

Good luck, I hope others can help you more.x

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My brother (fitness geek) says BMI is virtually worthless if you are fit (proper fit, not 'going to the gym once a week and walking a lot' fit) due to the density and weight of muscles.  Plus a lot of tables etc are set for 'white/european' type people & that DD mustn't look at them as she is mixed race & her bones weigh differently (I don't know how true that isn't it probably isn't too relevant to you......sorry) .

 

He struggles with the idea that a number describes your size; generally you can see whether someone is over/under weight & that the clarity of their skin, hair & nails, the lack of bags under their eyes and their energy levels are more important as a measure of 'healthiness'

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I would love to invite you to a rehearsal of the Rambert Company!!

Now I know they are not strictly a ballet company but I watched them in their ballet class recently and they were all shapes and sizes and doing the ballet brilliantly as well. They all looked brimming with life and health and I didn't see any skinnies!! The exuberance with which they did the class was really catching. I definitely had a skip in my step on the way home. The point is you don't have to be that thin to be a fantastic dancer. It's strength, grace, and energy you need to inspire people. That's what people want to see!

Some people are naturally thinner than others and if you have a small frame you probably don't need a lot of weight but there is a difference between being just healthy thin and as you obviously know anorexic thin. Frankly when someone is too thin even for their height and frame size etc it can in fact be painful to watch them.

 

I'm not sure what the current thinking is on BMI.......and how useful a guide it is etc. When I was in my 20's I think I was a nice weight and my BMI then was 19. But I am 5ft 8ins tall and my weight varied then between about 9 and a half stones and 10 stones.

Because I did put on a lot of weight in my 50's I have been very slowly been trying to lose weight and would now be very happy with 10 to 10 and a half stone.

But when I was researching what a healthy weight for my age and height was etc there was a wide range eg : for me it was anywhere between 9 and a half and 11 stones.

You could ask your GP to advise on this.....or mum or dad can help you? If you look at the lowest weight for your age and height....you really don't want to get below this weight.....not even for ballet..... or you start to stress the bones and muscles.........definitely not what you want for dancing in fact!!

 

If you are feeling a bit stressed by what's ahead for you in the next few months can you ask if you can get back into the scheme you were in......who have obviously helped you a great deal......just to see you through this period. It's a crucial time for you and you need all the help you can give yourself.

 

I know this is a difficult problem but we all want the best for you Swanprincess and want you to be able to give your best shot when you go for your auditions and you will need a lot of energy for this.

I know I'm old enough to be your gran but you can PM me any time if you need to chat etc

You may know lots of organisations already but I think there's one called "Beat" I can see if can find their website to see if could be of any use for you or not

Linda Morris xx

 

.

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The beauty that you see in ballet is made  up of lines and curves.  Curves don't exist in just bones.  

 

Good nutrition means energy to dance and carry on with life.  It means there is a curve to the leg, a curve out of the waist, color on the cheek, a shine to the hair and a sparkle to the eye.

 

It is not a number on the scale.  Don't ever think of yourself as a number.

 

Though you have been discharged from out patient care, inform the professionals involved in your care that at this time you are under pressure and need some support.  It's ok - we all need support from time to time.   Everyone and everything alive on the face of the earth needs some support from time to time.  

 

You know that I wish you well - and I wish you all the good and beautiful things life has to offer.  

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Dear Swanprincess,

 

I really feel for you and hope too that you make a continued recovery, I can imagine how the stress of this year  is putting added pressure on you, but please believe that a healthy dancing body is your main goal.

 

Just want to reiterate how important it is to fuel your body well and not to focus on a specific weight. I know this is easier said than done... at WL they talk a lot about the need to 'fuel the machine' as this fuelling will give you the vitality to let your personality and love of dance shine through.  

 

As an aside - I am feeling a little uncomfortable with all this talk of BMI and specifically with dancers BMI numbers being given out. Can't help wondering if other young dancers will be reading this and making direct and maybe unhelpful comparisons. A body is not a number - it is a moving, communicating, energy driven gift. Tamara Rojo has written very powerfully about the need for ballet dancers to be strong and vital artists and athletes - I do hope all our young dancers are encouraged to focus on this in their training.  

 

Sending you very best wishes Swanprincess and thank you for sharing so honestly.

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It sounds like you need some support, could you ask to be re-referred before it becomes a problem again? if as an older teen you're not having regular periods that is a strong indicator that you're not a healthy weight (although if you are under stress that can have some effect too).

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Dancers come all in all shapes and sizes and as others have said it is more important to fuel your body than to think of a specific weight.  I am not happy to discuss my DDs height/weight/BMI on a public forum but I can tell you that she and all her fellow dancers at vocation school seem to consume huge amounts of food - mostly healthy food.  DD is the same height as me but weighs more than I did at the same age but it is purely down to the amount of exercise she does for the extra muscle weight.  What I think you have to remember first and foremost is that you can only dance your best if you are healthy so aim for health.  I wish you all the best swanprincess.

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Dear Swanprincess my heart goes out to you,it really does. It must have taken a hell of a lot of courage to share this with all of us .I would just reiterate exactly what others have said.You MUST fuel your body sufficiently in order to be able to perform ,not just in a dance context,but in ordinary,everyday activities. I developed a bit of an obsession with losing weight when I was dancing professionally in Japan 20 odd years ago.I only needed to lose about a stone [14 pounds] and it was more to do with toning up.But after successfully losing the stone I found i liked it. It made me feel like a success. I could DO this. It was something I had complete CONTROL over. I used to set myself another target."I`ll just lose two more kilos then i`ll stop. I`ll just lose two more kilos then i`ll stop. Only by then I didn`t want to stop. It left me exhausted every day,and I literally did nothing but sleep.I would get up an hour and a half before the show, have something very small to eat then go straight to bed after the show,completely exhausted.On two separate occasions ,just a few days apart,I wasn`t able to wake up.There was a bang on my hotel door and it was someone from the hotel. The evening`s show was due to start in ten minutes time and I was still fast asleep in bed. No food eaten,no shower taken, no make up and costume on. The show had to be delayed by half an hour while I ,still exhausted,dragged myself awake. I was lucky I wasn`t sacked. All because I was severely restricting what I was eating. I`m not saying for one minute you would be the same. Just to let you know that it can and does have consequences. Please think of your potential future career and look after yourself.

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Since your question was partly about reassurance that you can be successful without being stick thin I would just like to share that my DS's girlfriend who is 16 has just been offered a contract with one of the top European (arguably the world) companies (if you want to know which one PM me- i didn't want to put anything on here that is too identifying for her)- she is shorter than me (I am 5 foot 7) and she is a dress size 12 (I know cos DS bought her some clothes from H+M in the UK for Christmas and I was surprised to find out she takes the same size as me). She is an immaculate, lyrical, astoundingly technically brilliant dancer. She most certainly doesnt look emaciated in any way, and DS (who is also only 16) struggled to lift her above his head (he needs to build a bit more muscle poor chap!). But she dances like she was made of air....

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Dear Swanprincess, I do hope you can manage your condition whilst you are under pressure and can get back on an even keel soon. I have found the book ' Nutrition for the dancer' by Zerlina Mastin very helpful to show what are appropriate types and volumes of food for someone in dance training and why appropriate nutrition is crucial. I wish you all the best.

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Dear Swanprincess - hang on in there, you have done so well ! 

One of my older daughter's friends had anorexia a few years ago and battled through it with lots of love and support from her family. She now has 2 lovely little boys and has kept it at bay, but it was such a battle !

Very recently, we have watched a young lady that we know dance - she is very talented, a beautiful dancer - she has always been of slight build, but nicely so. Now, she is so terribly thin, she just looks like she will snap. I find, that instead of looking at her beautiful dancing, I am looking at her physique, not enjoying it at all as I just feel concerned for her. You are doing all the right things, being a walking stick is not attractive at all and i am sure most responsible ballet schools are looking at it that way.

Carry on with your brave battle and just remember that NOTHING is as important as your health. Take care and sending lots of love xxx

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I'm reading this post well after everyone has given their advice - just wanted to wish you all the best and encourage you to keep being open, seeking help and guidance and of course, take care to eat enough.

 

I really with you all the best with your auditions and fully understand how pressured you must be feeling at this time.

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Well done in your battle so far Swanprincess.  A close friend battled anorexia for 10 years and I know how difficult it is to overcome.   I think you are doing the right thing by discussing it.  That is the hard part but the one which seemed to help my friend the most.  Keep talking!

 

 My daughter is 5ft 2in and is 7stone which gives her a healthy BMI of 18.5.  She eats a lot of food, but it's all healthy stuff and dances about 18-20 hours per week.  I think the main point is to eat healthily and regularly which will assist you in building strong muscles for dance.  Your body needs fuel to manage large amounts of exercise.

 

Stay strong! x

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I really feel that posting forum members' children's weights and BMIs is unhelpful and I would urge others not to do this. BMI measurements are a crude tool and it is debatable whether they should be applied to teenagers. Swanprincess, I congratulate you on the progress which you have made but I would urge you to get professional advice on what is a healthy weight for YOU. Other people's BMIs are irrelevant. 

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Yes, I agree. Apart from anything else, different BMI calculators give different results so aren't that helpful in any case. I don't want anyone to read this thread and see a BMI or weight that is vastly different to their own, and start panicking.

 

I appreciate that Swanprincess did ask what BMI or weight a dancer should be and that everyone is very kindly trying to help. But as Julie says, please could we have no more weights or BMIs given out.

 

Thank you everyone.

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