Defending Ballet and Beyond

Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?

I'm not usually one to disrupt a class.

It was a Monday morning in my first-period freshman health seminar. The lights were low, half the class was already asleep, and the 20-year-old television was slowly gearing up to play some low-budget video filmed in the '80s.

My health class covered topics that would make new high schoolers giggle, like contraception or diagrams of a uterus. While we spent most days watching birthing videos or debating which was the most dangerous hallucinogenic (what we considered "the fun stuff"), our curriculum also covered mental illness, including eating disorders. We watched this video, which aimed to show the consequences and the realities of anorexia. What struck me was that all of the main characters in the film, all of the girls struggling with their self-image and starving themselves, were ballet dancers.

I was dumbstruck. I had been a ballerina for eleven years, and this wasn't the reality of what I saw every day. My fellow dancers are strong athletes; all of us were—and still are—extremely healthy. Dancers can have eating disorders, and, surely, that happens, but why did anyone have to make ballerinas the focus? It is just as likely that a normal girl or boy who plays basketball or takes art...

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