Ballet Dancer Fired for Daring to Acknowledge Pressure to be Thin

A soloist at an Italian ballet company has found herself jobless after telling a British newspaper that her company pressures its dancers to be thin. The dancer says that the La Scala's practices have led to an epidemic of eating disorders and fertility problems within the company, and the company claims that's simply not true, and that statements like that damage the reputation of the company and of the art of ballet. Uh, doesn't everyone already know that dancers sometimes have fucked up body images?


Mariafrancesca Garritano was fired last month after telling a British newspaper that her fellow dancers in the La Scala Ballet were suffering from an "anorexia emergency," and that one in five dancers in the company was suffering from the eating disorder. The former prima ballerina also told The Observer that borderline abusive tactics were used by the company to pressure dancers to remain thin, and that after being called "mozzarella" and "Chinese dumpling" in front of an entire class of students, her weight dropped to under 100 pounds. In the ensuing firestorm of defensive debunking, her fellow dancers banded together to insist that there was no eating disorder problem said they felt "flabbergasted and embittered" by Garritano's claims.

The company fired the 33-year-old dancer because of the interview, saying her words were false and damaged the reputation. Besides, insisted a La Scala spokesperson, teaching methods have changed in the last 15 years. Young ballet dancers are fine now!

While her company and fellow dancers say Garritano's claims are false, other ballerinas have backed her claims. A former La Scala dancer who retired in 2010 told The Guardian,

One in five of the ballerinas of that generation from that school had eating disorders, and continue to experience serious consequences," said Michele Villanova, 47, a senior dancer at La Scala between 1986 and 2010. "I saw it in the mood swings, when people would go into deep depression after gaining weight. It is absurd the La Scala fired her before carrying out an in-depth investigation.

Ballet's eating disorder problem has been hiding in plain sight for years, and La Scala's move to fire a dancer who points out the obvious isn't doing anything to address the problem. Firing Mariafrancesca Garritano is simply drawing more attention to La Scala's wholesale denial that anything's wrong in the first place.

La Scala fires ballerina after comments about pressure to be thin [NYT]



Ballet dancers and gymnasts. A couple of years ago, I interviewed ex gymnasts, who basically told the same stories. Most of them got their periods for the first time in their twenties, when they had given up their careers.