Wander Talks Episode 17: Dancers and Body Image
In this week’s episode of Wander Talks, I sat down with dancer and recent USF graduate, Jacqui Dugal, to discuss something that is very prevalent in the dance world: the “in-between disorder,” which is not an eating disorder but not a homeostatic state of mind. Body image is known to be distorted amongst the dance community. We are surrounded by mirrors, thin peers, and are forced stare at ourselves in a leotard and tights almost everyday. With this, dancers must be VERY conscious about what they put into their mouths, as well as keep up with their own cross training to supplement any necessary calorie expenditure. Dance demands so much from you: it requires endurance, a fit body, a strong mind, and thick skin. However, having all this pressure to look and “dance” the part can start to distort the young dancer’s mind, especially when it comes to what they keep in the kitchen.
As Jacqui and I discussed, it can be VERY difficult to even identify when this can even be considered problematic. Outside influences, dance professors, and even our own critical eye can be enough to prompt some unhealthy behaviors. Jacqui admitted to weighing herself habitually (a very common behavior), and I admitted to being okay with wanting to skip a meal. None of these behaviors can ever be considered “healthy,” but when you’re in the spotlight 24/7, it is very hard to tell yourself that these “behaviors” are detrimental to your mental health.
As an artist, it can be difficult to explain exactly what prompts these troubled thoughts. Dancers are a breed of artist that share the same demands of a sport, in terms of physicality. Outside sources may not understand why these dancers desire to achieve such a physique. It is not for mere satisfaction, more so that it is for our art. But, no matter the motive, I hope to find a way to help dancers and others with a body image distortion overcome their tendency to be overly critical so that they can prevent future damage to their body, both mentally and physically. Nothing is worth your love and passion if it is going to destroy you.