With all those flowing and feathery outfits and graceful twirls, ballroom dancing certainly looks lovely. But real-life dancer Hanna Louise Annetts tells us not to be fooled by all that elegance and class for-show: the culture is nasty and sexist.
Writing for The Mail, Annetts paints a Halloween-scary picture of the competitive ballroom dancing scene: Snotty comments about her outfits, physical attacks, and heated competition over coveted male partners have led her to take a "keeps to herself" approach toward the social aspects of her profession. "Sisterly it certainly isn't and sabotage is rife," she writes. "I've been left battered and bruised as rival dancers have ‘accidentally' pressed their stiletto heel into my foot or jabbed me in the ribs with their elbows."
Annetts also complains about male partners who take on a "jealous boyfriend" tack. "I've ‘tried out' with partners who were scarily controlling and possessive," she says. "One said he didn't like my dresses and that boyfriends outside dancing were forbidden - one even said he would not dance with me if he heard that I had a boyfriend as he should be the only man in my life." Just imagine if all your male co-workers suddenly imposed such standards. A few passive-aggressive comments around the copy machine—while annoying enough—could always be worse.
Given all the stiletto encounters, psycho partners, expensive upkeep of one's dresses, and other drawbacks, why would someone ever pursue such a profession? One reason seems to be the time investment—Annetts has 14 years of spins and sequins under her belt. But another is that dancing can be addictive. "And to give it all up now—as I am within touching distance of becoming professional—would seem such a waste," she writes.
Sounds like that old cliche about suffering for one's art fits perfectly here. But when does suffering become self-torture? Annetts makes the ballroom life sound lonely, treacherous, and painful. Added to all the interpersonal pitfalls are the sacrifices she makes just to look good—for example, forgoing food on competition days. Hunger-related dizziness plus getting spun around and around? Sounds like hell.
When I was a kid, I loved to watch ballroom dancing competitions and wanted to become one of those pretty dancer ladies at some point in time. (I was very imaginative.) But if the culture's truly as Annetts says it is, then I'm very glad to have stuck to writing and visual arts instead. At least nobody's ever jabbed me with a colored pencil.