Do you have to watch what you eat? Is there loads of pressure to be thin? Is everybody really skinny? All questions which people generally end up asking when they find out I train at a dance school.
Dancers and food. Food and dancers. A complex and personal subject.
I tend to say this..Yes food is an issue. Its an issue because dance is physical. And without food how would we dance? Dancers (well, me and my friends at least) constantly think about food. When's the best time to eat? Have I had too much? (Doing Graham contractions on a full stomach not pleasant) Have I had enough? (Feeling light headed during class not fun).
As for pressure to be thin. Well, thats a complex one. Its a minefield of political correctness. (I had worries about the best way to go about this blog). But my view is high level dancers are ultimately creative athletes. When was the last time you saw a fat runner?
The great thing about the human body is it comes in all shapes and sizes. But a lean, healthy body is a lean healthy body - no matter what shape it is. Sometimes it happens at school that people are told to increase their fitness levels, or tone up etc.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where celebrities are celebrated for being super thin, so dancers can interpret 'tone up' as 'stop eating'. The flip side of this is the media barrage of anti anorexia press, therefore making people think its outrageously insensitive to be told to tone up. (Forgetting increased tone generally means increased strength..so increased benefits!) As I said, food is a highly personal subject matter.
My personal experience is that dance schools do not pressurize dancers to stay thin. The pressure comes from the person. I will hold my hands up and say yep. sometimes I feel guilty about having a chocolate bar. Sometimes I worry about looking fat in my leotard.
Luckily I am quite level headed with these things. (Plus the fact I don't have enough will power to have an eating disorder). But I can see how easy it would be to let these thought take over.
Dance, like all art form, is concerned with aesthetics and we do this with our body therefore it must be in our minds how we look like physically.
And, we stand in front of a mirror for at least three hours a day. In lycra. Who else does that in their daily life? Its bound to have some psychological effects. Enough said.
So, my advise is to be aware of yourself - if you feel a little overwhelmed dance schools generally have support systems to help. Talk to someone.
And most importantly - enjoy good food and enjoy your dance.