On the eve of the new season at Milan’s La Scala, one of the ballet company’s leading lights has dramatically revealed the extent of bulimia and anorexia among ballerinas.
Breaking an unspoken rule never to discuss eating disorders among Italy‘s elite dance corps, Mariafrancesca Garritano told the Observer that one in five ballerinas that she knew was anorexic and, as a result, many were now unable to have children.
Garritano said that seven out of 10 dancers at the academy had their menstrual cycles stop as they competed to eat less. “I would get by on an apple and a yoghurt a day, relying on adrenaline to make it through rehearsal,” she said. “Some dancers were rushed to hospital to be fed through tubes, others were hit by depression and still need counselling today….I still get serious intestinal pains and frequent bone fractures, which I think are linked to dieting.”– Guardian.co.uk
Yes, but think of the money they she save on birth control devices. Not to mention those pricey Italian desserts.
It’s tempting to draw a parallel here with American athletes abusing HGH and anabolic steroids to give themselves a competitive edge, even in the face of dire warnings about developing severe acne, impotence and shriveled up balls, and long-term effects that include brain cancer, dementia, and crippling arthritis. They did it anyway, oif course, clearly understanding that it meant the difference between unimaginable millions of dollars as a celebrated superstar and a miserable, anonymous career in the foundry.
However, these dancers are not torturing themselves for earthly rewards, which, given the business they’re in, are relatively meager (especially compared to professional athletes). They’re sacrificing themselves for their art; their devotion to perfecting their appearance and performance for aesthetic reasons. It’s a higher calling. If it’s not pure, it’s as close to it as mortals get.
Musicians work their fingers into arthritic agony, and suffer maddening tinnitus, even deafness. Photographers risk personal danger, even death, to capture the perfect shot at the perfect time and place where ordinary people would flee for their lives. Even actors, occupying the lowest rung in the hierarchy of artists, and competing in the least respectful of the arts, will take risks and harm themselves for the sake of their appearance and performance, if need be.
History is filled with artists of all different liver and lights who labored ceaselessly, without regard for their own well-being, to create the ultimate masterpiece, whether the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel or the mathematically and sensually perfect final symphonic movement.
Most of us lack the talent, the will, and the tenacity for this endeavor. We are privileged to share a planet with those who do. Don’t condemn an artist’s devotion. Be grateful for his life’s commitment, support his labor, and respect his choice. It’s fucking sublime.