By Shaz Sajadi
On a winter afternoon around a table laden with a teapot of jasmine tea served in porcelain cups, a group of friends share a box of six brightly coloured cupcakes from Whole Foods. Two of them have already finished their first cupcakes and are onto seconds, while the other one, a ballerina, slowly picks at her sugary treat, each time finishing with a comment like, “I love cupcakes,” or “This is really good.”
Dancers like athletes use their bodies as instruments and have a higher than average focus on their bodies, but it’s the aesthetic component in dance that sets dancers’ body standards apart from the rest of the world of sports.
For centuries, the desired female ballerina body type was defined as tall, lean with short torsos, flat chests and long but strong legs. It’s only been in the last few decades that ballet stage has been open to dancers of different races and different athletic builds.
Although the rise of athletic-build ballerina Misty Copeland as a principal of the American Ballet Theater proves that the ballet world is changing, a study done in 2013 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information concluded that dancers have a three times higher risk of suffering from eating disorders, particularly anorexia nervosa.
Every dancer interviewed expressed the desire to have their body look different than it does and admitted to have been told by their instructors to try to change certain things about their bodies.
“I have been given the occasional ‘fat talk’ by my teachers,” said Sybil Geddes, a dancer, “but I had a limit of things I would do to make my body change and I never crossed that line.”
Registered dietitian at Micheli Center, Laura Moretti said, “Ballerinas realize the link between the food and their performance. More than anything, they are looking for foods that are high in nutrients and antioxidants. They want to keep their bodies healthy, fuel it properly while maintaining a lower weight.”