Last week in the Guardian Judith Mackrell wrote an article entitiled “The light fantastic? Ballet dancers and anorexia“, which discussed the sacking of La Scala soloist Mariafrancesca Garritano over comments she has made that have appeared in the press about the pressure that ballerinas are put under to diet.
According to the article, Garritano believes that as a result of this pressure eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia are commonplace among ballerinas, affecting as many as one in five dancers.
Many of Miss Garritano’s peers have since openly disagreed with her statements, suggesting that she is referring to her own experiences of 15 years ago and that things are very different nowadays.
Ballerinas and Weight
The subject of ballerinas and weight has been a staple source of debate for decades within the dance world. However, last year it entered the public consciousness globally upon release of the film “Black Swan”, which shows a scene implying (fairly explicitly) that the central character “Nina” is bulimic. Media focus on the dark tone of the movie and Nina’s disturbing psychological state, also extended to the alleged 20lbs in weight that dropped from Natalie Portman’s already slim body during filming.
The Truth, Please, About Ballet
The physique seemingly preferred by ballet company managers and directors for today’s ballerina is generally attributed to George Balanchine. The “Balanchine body” (long, slender limbs and a skeletal physique that emphasises the collarbone and neck areas) is also a look harshly favoured by many ballet critics (an observation that Natalie Portman makes in the interview).
In terms of Miss Garritano’s views about the physique and eating habits of dancers, media interest in her comments on this subject has grown since the release of her 2010 book “La verità, vi prego, sulla danza!” (The Truth, Please, About Ballet). In her book she openly details the pressures she experienced as a young dancer, the eating disorders she believes arose as a result and the consequential health problems she suffers from today.
Sharing her views and experiences on this matter was always likely to generate controversy; something the dancer herself acknowledged at the time stating that it would likely damage her career.
This story raises a number of questions.
Is Mariafrancesca Garritano right to speak so openly? Is La Scala wrong to fire her for her comments? Has her publishing company deliberately promoted aspects of the book it knows are sensational and controversial?
And in a wider vein…
Do dance companies do enough to protect their dancers’ health? Should lessons in nutrition be made compulsory in dance schools? Should all dance companies be forced to weigh their dancers each month to make certain they are eating correctly?
What do you think?