Flak (over) Swans

Of course there's buzz at my dance school and among my online friends about the Black Swan movie. When I first heard that the two stars - neither dancers - were instructed to lose weight for the roles I cringed in advance for the inevitable "will Black Swan promote eating disorders" talk, the conflation of eating disorders and disordered eating, the pro-ana talk, and the minute examination of these actors' bodies. Not to mention my motherly concern that these two young women might trigger mental illness in themselves. Losing weight like that is like trying heroin.

At the same time, there's some talk about ballet dancer bodies elsewhere - and backlash against that talk.

I had planned to keep my head down about the above issues. Dance is important to me personally and the relationship to - and professionally the dependence ON - disordered eating and mental problems is not something to be ignored. But rarely does the conversation get beyond a surface level. Dance is not the problem. It is what we do as - and to - dancers that is the problem.

So it is with delight that I note my friend Marcella brings it all back to something "completely different" and yet entirely relevant. As a mother, a dancer, and a human being this news piece is tonic to all that is toxic around dance. It is a delightful piece, and the only pity I felt as I watched it was for myself before I saw it - for expecting anything less.


  1. "Losing weight like that is like trying heroin." ---precisely.

    would anyone tell the dancer who also has down's syndrome that she needs to lose weight? ...if you wouldn't tell her that she needs to drop a few, then don't tell anyone to drop a few. We must, MUST, get it into everyone's heads that bodies are not open for critiquing. They are for participating in the dance of life.

    I'm glad that thru my own revolution I learned to see everyone as a beautiful creation of life...not as a beautiful person with curly hair, big eyes, small nose, nice cheeks, legs that I want, etc. The Whole Person = beautiful, end of story :)

    Thank you for another great post.

  2. That was a joyous and uplifting experience. Thank you for brightening a dull afternoon.

  3. Thank you Marcella!
    "c'est magnifique!"

  4. Marcella, what a wonderful find! Between that and the letter from L today, LIFE IS SWEET!!

  5. Thank you so much for the video. They are beautiful dancers and I am reminded, watching them, that our bodies ARE beautiful in how we express ourselves, move, ARE...

    I was a dancer. Predominantly ballet, but a bit of everything. I went semi professional from the age of 15. Unfortunately 15 - 20 years ago in Australia the dance culture WAS very skinny. Part of getting that 'perfection', that 'line' was to be skinny. I didn't like skinny but did strive for the perfection. It wasn't why I developed anorexia at all, but gaining some weight and being told to lose weight (even though I was never actually overweight) was a trigger since at that time I was not coping with traumatic events in my life. The overwhelming feeling that anorexia used to give me that I still miss is the feeling that 'everything is going to be okay', I might be hurting and everything is out of control BUT I have a 'solution' and it's going to solve everything. Even when I know that's such a lie, so much the opposite from the reality, that it made everything worse - I don't know why that's so strong. It still beckons to me, every second of every day. I think it's because I was told to lose weight and in that environment of thin is best at the time when I wasn't coping and needed a way to cope that I latched onto that means.

    Fortunately from what I can see, a more healthy body image in dance is starting to emerge. Lets hope it continues that way.

    Thank you again. I don't agree with everything you write but you always give me 'food' for thought (pun intended lol)

  6. I've gotta agree with a lot of what fiandshalimar said (even though I'm older and stopped dancing almost 35 years ago.) Ballet didn't give me anorexia, of course, and actually, nobody ever told me to lose weight. However, no one ever said I could stand to gain a few pounds even when I was a skeletal 74 lb. (At almost 5'6"...) And I also think that ballet, with its focus on perfection, is just something that people with that "overly controlling mindset" are drawn to. I still love to watch ballet and sometimes I tourjete down my driveway but really, yoga is just healthier for me.
    BTW, the video was really lovely.


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