Mbungu S – Gold Unit 1: Part D

Are ballet dancers and gymnasts under too much pressure to be skinny?

Arts Award Gold Qualification Specification checklist:

◗  a description of the arts issue and why they have chosen it

◗  evidence of research into a range of views about the issue – both supporting, and differing from, their own views

◗  reflection on the research and how it has influenced their views

◗  a copy of the final argument they have built up about the issue

◗  evidence of how the final argument was shared with others and their feedback

Why I chose this issue

I remember when I was little and I wanted to do ballet. I was quite small then but my aunty said that I wasn’t the right weight, even though I was quite skinny back then. I think there should be more different body types in the dance industry. In the ballerina world there’s people with different genetics so people might have wide hips and there’s nothing they can do about that. It puts unrealistic expectations on young girls. There’s some really good ballet schools but because young people expect that they have to be skinny they still end up losing too much weight and developing eating disorders because that’s what the media tells them they have to do. In the gymnastic world its really tough and there is so much pressure to achieve. Too much pressure I think. I saw this video of a girl who was being forced into the splits even though it hurt her and she was crying. They also get really stressed out. It can be different for male ballerinas and gymnasts but I think that they are at risk of exercise addiction. It’s not just body shape that is a problem, when I was little I thought that ballet shoes were supposed to be pink and I only recently found out that black ballerinas dyed their ballet shoes and its only recently that you could get dark ballet shoes. It’s a bit like how the modelling industry sees the models more like coat hangers than people. There is a younger audience out there who would see ballerinas and models and think that they have to be like that.

Before I started researching, I did a quick poll at my school (my school is very small, this is all the teachers and students who were in on the day I started):

  • Helen had an interesting story about her Granddaughter auditioning for ballet school that I would like to hear more about.
  • Fiona said that, although it was bad, it was part of the definition of a ballerina to be skinny. So maybe the question should be whether we should have ballerinas at all.
  • I want to find out more about these comments when I do my survey.

Information I found Online

I mean think about it, who are you competing against in ballet? Yourself, and all the other girls in the classroom. Not only do you want to be the the best, you need to be the best to get any sort of job in the industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are only 20.4 thousand jobs available for dancers who wish to become professional in the US, and the rate of growth is 4% lower than the average job. This means that only the best get the jobs, and the best all have the same body type. I mean think about it, who are you competing against in ballet? Yourself, and all the other girls in the classroom. Not only do you want to be the the best, you need to be the best to get any sort of job in the industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are only 20.4 thousand jobs available for dancers who wish to become professional in the US, and the rate of growth is 4% lower than the average job. This means that only the best get the jobs, and the best all have the same body type.

From a Medium.com article called “Why Are Ballerinas So Skinny”

If the profession needs to be vigilant, those of us who watch dance also need to guard against the stereotype of size. One of the surprising things about Channel 4’s current Big Ballet series, in which 18 generously proportioned amateurs are trained up to perform a version of Swan Lake, has been its willingness to celebrate the physical talents of its participants, rather than obsess over their shape and size.

From a Guardian Article called Dance Needs to Stop Fetishising Thin.

There is also pressure for gymnasts to hold up traditional feminine ideals regarding looks.

From a Stuff article called The lighter you are the faster you twist

A lean athlete, not just a skinny athlete, will perform better. There is no correlation between body weight and the skills necessary for an elite gymnast—running speed, jumping height and hand strength. … The average female gymnast gets her first period at age 15 ½ compared to the average girl at age 13.

From a KSSN article called Gymnastics: A Sport that Prevents Girls from Growing into Women

Research into this issue

Gathering Opinions about the issue

My blog post on this issue

Evidence of sharing

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