Weight is one of the most sensitive words in the dance world. The idea to have the perfectly sculpted body may not be discussed often, but it’s definitely at the back of everyone’s mind. So in pursuit of a dancer’s perfect body I want to share with you my personal journey with weight and body image.
The first time I was experimenting with weight was when I was a teenager and I just started dancing. The idea of having a perfect body kept growing stronger in my head. Especially as all dancers around me were already talking about diets. Scarily enough, I even got myself a piece of string of a certain length and promised myself to always stay slim enough to be able to wrap it around me. From the outside it sounds messed up but the reason why I’m sharing it with you is to give another example how real the problem may be.
People frequently assume that male dancers are less likely to “struggle” with weight and body image.
First thing that comes to mind when talking about “perfect body” is ballet dancers. What about dancers from other styles? Ballroom, Latin, Flamenco etc.? But just because there is an absence of information about weight problems in other genres of dance, it is not an evidence of absence of the problem!
A few years ago after turning professional I kept training more and more. Waking up in the morning to practice in a studio for 5-6 hours. My only fuel was porridge in the morning and I had this hot relationship with coffee. Oh yeah I also ate lots of veg. And that’s all I had. Sounds extreme but calorific deficit is actually something that most dancers go through. Well, a few months later I developed a terrible kidney infection, had blood in my urine and basically my body started to give up. I was asked a few times if I had an eating disorder. Well, in my mind, I thought I was eating ok.
In Ballroom and Latin world we don’t have full time “dance schools” like ballet dancers do. In our style a teacher may be seeing their students just a couple of times per week. So how can a Ballroom and Latin coach help to increase awareness of how important “appropriate” nutrition is? A couple of months ago I hit a bottom again when I was dancing, training and teaching a lot but eating very little. I had no energy, I couldn’t focus nor remember choreographies, I had no motivation, I was miserable, weak and my dancing seemed to be just getting worse. I wanted to stop…
What did I do?
Because this problem is something that affected me and I had no idea “what to eat” for the level of my dancing, I had to change it immediately, before it got out of control. So now I have a nutritionist who simplified the whole process of eating for me. Initially I thought I could do it alone, but no way! This was money very well spent for me! Results- I am back to my usual self! Energy is up, I have lots of stamina again and my skin is not a shade of grey anymore. Believe it or not but I am actually happy with my “dancer’s body” now. I found a solution for my problem and so can you!
One of the many great things I learnt already is that weight is a rubbish indicator as it fluctuates daily regardless of how “similar” conditions you’re trying to recreate. So that extra kg you may see on a scale today shouldn’t really ruin your dancing day! Body fat percentage gives a more realistic indication of any loss since it’s not affected by a meal you had last night or a pint of water you had this morning. Interesting isn’t it?
As a dance coach I am very vigilant to what my students eat so I always ask them what they had to eat before practice etc. So if you’re a teacher, maybe you can ask your dancers too. On top of that, it may be useful to spend time and learn all about the important nutrients that dancers need. After all, the coach is not only there to teach dance steps, but shape the dancer from every angle.
You can read my previous article on role of a dance teacher vs. dance coach HERE.
I learn best by experience hence I put myself through getting a nutritionist myself. Maybe this is also something that your dancing needs the most?!
I’m not expecting lots of comments under this post. I want you to know one thing though- if you found something personal in this post and want to share it privately, feel free to drop me a message or email as I know that our beloved dance world can frequently be a very lonely and misunderstood place.