We Believe in Eating
Updated: Mar 22, 2021
WARNING: This post may be triggering if you currently struggle with or have previously struggled with an eating disorder.
The phrase "we believe in eating" sounds ridiculous, or at least should sound ridiculous. If you have spent time in "the ballet world" though, you understand why it is a real thing that needs to be said.
For National Choreography Month this year, we wanted to play with sounds that can be captured in different video cameras, we wanted to experiment with interactions between screens, we wanted to use choreographic devices, canons, unison, space, blah blah blah - none of these things were as important to us as showing that ballet dancers eat. And yes, they even eat chips.
A ballet teacher once told me that a ballet dancer should have no more than a salad and half a banana each day to eat, which is clearly problematic. I am happy to say many ballet professionals would never say something to this effect, but there are still many that would, and there are still many many many who perpetuate unhealthy ideas in much more subtle ways:
Phrases with Implications: While a teacher may not explicitly say that they wish for a student to change their body, a teacher may use phrases that do not relate to anatomical positioning or ideas, but rather tell students that the aesthetic is the problem. As a result, dancers will feel that the important thing is looking a certain way, not using safe alignment.
Representation: Many companies and schools will talk about body type inclusion, but will only select dancers for roles, hire, or photos who fit into a certain ballet aesthetic, which sends a message to dancers that they will not succeed unless they drastically alter their bodies.
Modeling: Students pick up habits that they see in their teachers, so teachers, please help me murder diet culture, and employers, please don't discourage your teachers from eating during class. Even something that seems trivial like claiming to hate a body part or missing a meal sends a message to students that it's okay to ignore our bodies' needs.
Dance is an intense activity that requires calories, a lot of calories, to sustain, and a healthy relationship with food is necessary to get those calories AND the nutrition to make a body able to dance, and we are dancing with our potato chips until that's common knowledge.