A Chance to Live

by Makenzie M on December 6, 2012 - 10:12am

If you haven’t seen these movies, you may have at least heard of Centerstage, Black Swan, and the ABC family series Bunheads.  While some of the situations are extreme, they give an inside look at the constant competition between dancers to be the best, and what they struggle with to get there. 

                Eating disorders are becoming more and more common amongst teenage girls, even more so with ballet dancers.  If we take out the media aspect, dancers are still constantly surrounding by people telling them what to do to fix their look.  When in the studio, dance teachers commonly say “Tuck your stomach in” or “stomach and spine together”.  They want perfect lines, and having anything interrupt that body line isn’t acceptable. Going to competitions or even going to watch a professional company, it is hard not to notice the small size of the dancers.

                It starts out as going on a diet, to only nibbling small portions of meals, then “accidently” skipping meals all together.  It starts out innocent.  Anorexia, for example, can come in the mildest of forms.  Skipping meals intentionally and not worrying about it can be considered anorexia.  But nobody wants to admit they have a problem; admit that they have an eating disorder. We all know the effects and consequences of eating disorders, but when you are in this world where people are watching you dance and watching your body dance across the stage, you can’t help but focus on body image.    

                I have been dancing since I was 2 ½.  I have grown up in a dance studio and thrived on adrenaline during performances.  But I have seen girls pass out or hurt themselves because they wouldn’t eat and were too frail to dance.  Some of my really good friends that I have known for years would leave for months on end to get help because if they didn’t, they would die.  This problem is real, not just something you read about in a magazine. But there is hope for these teenagers.  The way to a full recovery is to fully indulge one’s self into a program made to help those with eating disorders.  A well renowned recovery program that focuses not only on the condition but also the “underlying issues and co-occurring disorders and addictions” is Rosewood Centers for Eating Disorders. 


                There are many different treatment plans that a patient can choose from, and all are effect in helping the patient live a healthier life. Their eating disorder treatments include inpatient and residential treatments, partial hospitalization, outpatient services, family, nutrition, and wellness programs, and continuing care.  Every person who has an eating disorder has it to a different degree and for different reasons.  You can’t have one program that will help everyone because everyone is different.  Having a facility such as Rosewood shows that a full life change can be made in steps with different programs.

                This program has proven to be successful, I feel like now they need to add a program specific for dancers and athlete in general.  They live a different lifestyle than an average person.  They focus on training and nutrition is very important to stay in shape.  They are surrounded by different authority figures that focus on different elements of the body than others do.  I feel as if another program should be added focusing on healthy training habits made specifically for their sport.  While it is unfortunate for dancers, eating conditions are serious and for now the best way to recover it to take a break from dance and go to these residential recovery programs in order to get healthier.  It’s a serious commitment and necessary for a long healthy life in the dance field, or in any career.  

            I would like to propose that this type of treatment should be extended to when studios in a less extreme way.  The dancers my recover, but when put back into their normal lives again, they could spiral back down that road. Since dancers are affected in the studios a lot, a portion of the program should be set up in studios to keep treatment going and keep the dancers on track.  This plan ultimately benefits everybody.  The studio is guaranteed that dancers are living a healthier lifestyle and are both emotionally and physically stable.  The dancer lives healthy while still doing what she loves. Eating disorders can’t ever be fully treated.  It’s a sickness that the victim faces every day. We need to give the dancers a chance to live.