Is apparently what dance students at a certain British contemporary dance conservatoire are being told at the moment.
How dare they? It makes me so angry. I had a friend at this school before and the stories I was told about a certain teacher telling her "Your upper body is fine, its from the waist down you need to fix" and when she asked him how can she fix it, he replied "Don't eat". How is this a good way of training young dancers. These are the dancers of the future and yet their minds are being warped to this ideal of a perfect aesthetic that belongs in the past.
I am not stupid, I know that this industry does still have an 'ideal' but things are changing and having an eating disorder is not the way forward. Seriously this is NOT ACCEPTABLE. I really can not comprehend how a contemporary dance school in the year of 2010 really can hand out this kind of advice, promoting eating disorders.
Eating disorders we know in reality come hand in hand with this industry. It exists, yes. But why aren't schools doing enough to counteract the problem. Maybe there should me a support system out there to help the schools? In the three institutions that I have studied I don't think I was once given information about where to get help if I needed it. Actually maybe one of them I did as part of my induction pack.
I myself have had a teacher over hear me say to a friend in jest "Oh I wish I could be an anorexic" to which the teacher butted in with "Well if you want something bad enough you would do it". This comment shaped my whole outlook on food and dieting for the next 3 years, until I grew some brains and realised that the teacher was an idiot for saying this. Also just because a dancer is bigger it doesn't mean they cant have an eating disorder. Thats another myth I want to bust open right now. Yeah it may not be as life threatening but damage can occur to your insides at any size, plus psychologically you need to be given some help. During this time I remember telling a teacher that all I was eating for my dinner every night was a cup of soup and some crackers, was this healthy?. She replied "well is it working? (as in losing weight)" and I said "yes I suppose" and she said "well then keep doing it".
I remember thinking in my head 'I am screaming for you to help me here!', but because I was bigger they couldn't see it. Fair enough I didnt really have an eating disorder but I wasn't healthy and my attitude towards food was very wrong. So in some ways I kind of did.... in the end, I totally burnt myself out.
This subject is totally dear to my heart as I have had so many friends become very ill and it normally starts with a wee comment from a teacher because thats who they look up to and trust. When in training teachers are like Gods to us. What ever they say you do, because you trust every single word that comes out of their mouth. It is like liquid gold and you lap it up. Such an influential but evidently dangerous position to be in.
It really bothers me that it still goes on and that there are teachers that are promoting this. I know you can't always blame the schools as its not that simple and psychologically the person suffering needs to want to be helped otherwise it is like knocking your head against a brick wall.
I know this but the awareness needs to start somewhere. Something needs to be done.
The BEAT website is a really useful resource for anyone who is suffering, knows of someone who is suffering or feels they just want to know more about eating disorders and feels they would like to talk to someone confidentially.
Helpline: 0845 634 1414
Email: [email protected]
Happy healthy eating