thu 25/07/2024

Ballet industry demands end to "too-thin" dancers | reviews, news & interviews

Ballet industry demands end to "too-thin" dancers

Ballet industry demands end to "too-thin" dancers

Ballerina Tamara Rojo heads speakers at launch of new NHS initiative

Ballerina Tamara Rojo, director-designate of English National Ballet, is making waves even before she takes up her position in September. Next Monday she is a keynote speaker at a day of events at the Royal Society of Medicine launching the first-ever NHS treatment centre for injured dancers and rejecting the pressure for extreme thinness in performers.

The all-day event will field a large number of speakers from both the performance and treatment sides. Rojo last week declared after the announcement of her appointment, "I have never been thin and I want for myself and for others to have long and healthy careers.

"Audiences want to see beautiful and healthy-looking dancers yet there is still that pressure to be thin. Some comes from the fashion world and that in turn affects ballet. When you are in a ballet company, you often lose perspective of reality. So you go for extremes in order to stand out and be noticed. I have preached and will continue to preach."

Audiences want to see beautiful and healthy-looking dancers yet there is still that pressure to be thin

Rojo's current boss Royal Ballet artistic director Dame Monica Mason and Birmingham Royal Ballet director David Bintley head a team of ballet speakers who also include leading ballet-dancers Zenaida Yanowsky, Lauren Cuthbertson, Rachel Peppin and Matthew Lawrence, and contemporary dancers Tenisha Bonner and Gemma Nixon.

The medical cohorts include the Royal Ballet's GP and nutritionist, the clinical director of the specialist dance treatment Jerwood Centre, and a leading sports psychologist as well as physiotherapists, dieticians and researchers into eating disorders.

Dance UK is the driving force behind the conference, which also marks the launch of the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science (NIDMS), a new National Health Service clinic to treat injured professional dancers, the first of its kind in the UK. This will be the country's first specialist dancers' health clinic in the NHS, located at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital, London, responding to the very high injury rate prevailing in the dance profession. It is said that 80 percent of dancers have an injury each year that stops them working, but speedy, affordable and specialist treatment is exceedingly difficult to find outside the major ballet companies, given the low wages of the dance profession.

Rojo, an enthusiastic advocate of better dance health, is a Board member of Dance UK, and is due to speak at the NIDMS launch.

This will be the country's first specialist dancers' health clinic in the NHS

Set up with private donations, the NIDMS involves experts from Birmingham Royal Ballet, Trinity Laban, the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and the Universities of Wolverhampton and Birmingham to treat both the physical and psychological aspects of injury that interrupts a career, and aims to put treatment for dancers on a par with the high levels of science and research available to top athletes and the leading ballet companies. The main donors are the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, British Harlequin plc, the Society of London Theatres, Theatrical Management Association and Trinity College London as well as many private individuals, dancers and professionals, and it's hoped that it will drive the establishment of similar clinics elsewhere in the UK.

Scheduled speakers include leading artistic directors and dancers: Dame Monica Mason DBE, Artistic Director of Royal Ballet Company, Ann Sholem, Artistic Director of National Dance Company Wales; David Bintley CBE, Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, Kenneth Tharp, Chief Executive of The Place, Richard Alston CBE, choreographer and Artistic Director Richard Alston Dance, David Nixon OBE, Artistic Director of Northern Ballet; Lauren Cuthbertson and Zenaida Yanowsky, both Principal Dancers with the Royal Ballet, Alistair Spalding, Artistic Director and Chief Executive, Sadlers Wells; Rachel Peppin Parker, former Principal Dancer with Birmingham Royal Ballet; Matthew Lawrence, Principal Dancer with Birmingham Royal Ballet; Teneisha Bonner, Principal Dancer with ZooNation Dance Company; Gemma Nixon, Dancer at Rambert Dance Company and Ben Duke, choreographer and winner of The Place Prize 2011.

Expert nutritionists, medical and health specialists speaking include: Nick Allen, Clinical Director, The Jerwood Centre for the Prevention and Treatment of Dance Injuries, Joan L Duda, Professor of Sport Psychology, University of Birmingham; Jasmine Challis, dietician and nutritionist; Jacqueline Birtwisle, nutritionist for Royal Ballet; Dr Ali Joy, GP for Royal Ballet; Nicola Stephens, Performers Physiotherapy; Mhairi Keil, Performance Nutritionist English Institute of Sport; Louise Dunne, Beat; and Huw Goodwin, Research Associate, Loughborough University Centre for Research into Eating Disorders.

  • 9am-5pm Conference: Nutrition and Disordered Eating in Dance
  • 7.30-9.30pm Launch of the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science

All events are on Monday 30 April at the Royal Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, London W1G 0AE. Tickets from Dance UK

Find @ismeneb on Twitter

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 15,000 pieces, we're asking for £5 per month or £40 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take a subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters