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Susan Cowden, MS

Dance UK Hosts Disordered Eating Conference

By May 7, 2012

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I was excited to read that members of the dance industry in the United Kingdom are having an important conversation about eating disorders this past week.  In response to research that indicates that many dancers suffer or have suffered from an eating disorder, Dance UK hosted a conference on April 30 entitled "Nutrition and Disordered Eating in Dance: Artistry, Athleticism and the Role of the Multidisciplinary Support Team."  Over 100 delegates attended the conference at the Royal Society of Medicine in London.

The first primary topic at the conference centered around dispelling the 'myth' that dance companies are only looking for extremely thin dancers.  Several directors, including David Bintley, Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet were quoted as saying that they would be extremely reluctant to work with dancers who they knew had an eating disorder and are looking for diversity of size and 'real' bodies in their dancers.  Interestingly, though, Monica Mason, Artistic Director of the Royal Ballet is quoted by the BBC as stating that any dance company director who claims never to have worked with an anorexic performer is "lying"

The second topic was that of a multidisciplinary support team in order to tackle the problem of eating disorders within dance companies.  Speakers stressed that each company needs to identify individuals whom dancers can turn to if they have problems or know of someone who is struggling.  Dance UK also formed the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science (NIDMS) in an effort to provide dancers with comprehensive, specialized healthcare.

Have you known dancers who have been impacted by eating disorders?  What do you think it will take to change the culture of dance?

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