6:33 pm - 02/08/2012

Ballerina Fired After Anorexia & Infertility Accusations.

Last December, Italian ballerina Mariafrancesca Garritano gave the British paper The Observer enough incendiary quotes about the eating habits at her prestigious ballet company to supply content for all the dailies in England, and in the process, get herself fired this past weekend.

Garritano, who'd just written a book called "The Truth, Please, About Ballet," told the Observer reporter stories of fellow ballerinas who'd been rushed to the hospital to get food injected into their systems. She said she'd been teased with the names "Chinese dumpling" and "Mozzarella" by her instructors when she was a teenager, that she'd lost her period for a year between the ages of 16 to 17 when she dropped to just under 95 pounds, and blamed her current bouts of intestinal pain and bone fractures on the dieting that got her there.

Garritano, now in her mid-30s, gave a count: seven in ten dancers at the La Scala Academy in Milan have had their menstrual cycles stop, one in five have anorexia, and many of her colleagues are now physically unable to have children.

Then, this past Sunday, while very large men on this side of the ocean slammed their shoulders together in the cause of another physically dangerous industry, the news went out that Garritano had been "summarily sacked," as the Guardian put it, by her employers at La Scala. The news was coupled with an anecdote about Garritano once suing the school for a promotion. In an op-ed, Guardian ballet reviewer Judith Mackrell questioned whether the famed theater was as much a Disney villain as it might seem, or if Garritano was once again working out a personal issue:

"[Garritano] is talking about training that took place 15 years ago; while the school accepts there have been past failures, it claims a new culture has been introduced. Other dancers have been quick to condemn her accusations as false; whatever is going on behind the scenes is no doubt more complicated than might at first appear."

Certainly, there's something complicated about the rumored popularity of a body-weakening disorder among dancers commonly likened to athletes. In 2010, when New York Times critic Alastair MacAuley unleashed public fury for his description in a "Nutcracker" review of dancer Jenifer Ringer (who happened to have gone public about her battle with anorexia in the past, unbeknownst to MacAuley) as "the Sugar Plum Fairy [who] looked as if she'd eaten one sugar plum too many," Ringer responded with the verbal equivalent of a smile and a shrug.

"It's one opinion," Ringer told Anne Curry on The Today Show, before explaining that her anorexia had arisen as a "coping mechanism" to deal with being a professional performer at 16, rather than a logistical necessity based on what her bosses required of her. But "Black Swan" was about to come out, and Curry wasn't about to be dissuaded of the tortures of ballet so easily:

AC: So when you see for example, Natalie Portman, in this movie that's going to be coming out, in which she's lost 20 pounds for the role, it sounds as though you're saying that it sort of is representative of the true pressures that there are on dancers to be exceedingly thin.

JR: Well, I haven't seen the movie, to tell you the truth. So I don't really know exactly what it says. But you know, it's a physical profession, we're dancing all day long. So A) a lot of times when you're dancing all day long -- I'm sure Natalie must have trained like crazy -- so there's a natural weight loss just from working sometimes eight hours a day. But you know, if you're too thin really you can't do the job, and I think that's where people run into trouble. That was my problem. When I went through my eating disorders, when I went through some anorexia you know, you're weak, you can't do the job, you can't perform it well.

Ringer, who is 37 and a working mom, was being clear even in the face of Curry's overwhelming sympathy: in her experience, ballet neither required nor rewarded anorexia.

So what to make of Garritano? Is the Italian system more looks conscious than its American counterpart? Or is there something to be said for the fact that Garritano doesn't seem to have children and Ringer does? Garritano's claims of "widespread infertility" made headlines alongside the word "anorexia" when she first said her piece.

They also elicited the most direct rebuttal from La Scala: a spokesman cited nine pregnancies among the company's dancers in the last year a half. He didn't, however, specify how old the dancers who conceived were, leaving Garritano's claims of an unusually barren generation unaddressed. If her perception is correct, that those who trained with her experienced a dramatic loss in fertility, the situation is striking -- a generation of dancers who sacrificed childbirth for their art at an age when they couldn't have understood the consequences. If true, it's no wonder a whistleblower would surface 15 years on, at the age when childbearing has suddenly become relevant to her. And if true, whatever nutritional courses La Scala has since instituted, their wrong can't be righted.


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likegunfire 8th-Feb-2012 11:41 pm (UTC)
is this BMI day on ONTD
cassie_epstein 8th-Feb-2012 11:44 pm (UTC)
posh 8th-Feb-2012 11:47 pm (UTC)
executivehpfan 9th-Feb-2012 12:14 am (UTC)
A+ first comment.
lalameanslove 8th-Feb-2012 11:41 pm (UTC)
scary. reading ballerina stuff always scares me, this shit is no joke
cantlogoff 8th-Feb-2012 11:49 pm (UTC)
yeah, the ballet world is so creepy. everything those dancers have to endure is intense.
howenchanting 8th-Feb-2012 11:43 pm (UTC)
Reading shit like this makes me realize how lucky I was to get out of the ballet world. I'm still a little fucked up because of it, but not as bad as this.
agatharuncible 9th-Feb-2012 12:09 am (UTC)
same. I was in a program as a kid and looking back it was surreal. I'm so glad I was lazy and quit lol
beatlesluv 9th-Feb-2012 12:11 am (UTC)
Mte! I spent my young years there - well I'm 25 now - but I was in it in elementary school. EVEN THEN they are fucking crazy...the teachers are fucking out of bounce tbh. I left and did soccer instead.
distant_lines 9th-Feb-2012 12:12 am (UTC)
I'm glad I got out early. Well, not early enough to not have ugly feet forever.
blondebeaker 9th-Feb-2012 12:28 am (UTC)
Substitute gymnastics and thats me.

quotequeen20 9th-Feb-2012 12:57 am (UTC)
Same here.
milly 9th-Feb-2012 01:18 am (UTC)
Substitute figure skating and that's me.
celtic_thistle 9th-Feb-2012 01:38 am (UTC)
My sister traces her eating disorder and body issues back to gymnastics...when she was as young as 6 :(
lickety_split 9th-Feb-2012 03:24 am (UTC)
I was in both! Oy!
seishin 9th-Feb-2012 01:59 am (UTC)

The scary/weird/fucked up thing is that I still miss it sometimes.
saltyliquorice 9th-Feb-2012 08:03 am (UTC)
yea...i battled my own eating disorders for several years while dancing, though i can't say it was the dancing that brought them on (though we DID have a few girls in my school who had to "take a break" for a while because of anorexia).
evrythingisrent 8th-Feb-2012 11:43 pm (UTC)
I'm obsessed with ballerina's feet not in a creepy way. It's just how they do that stuff is insane to me.
t3pps 8th-Feb-2012 11:47 pm (UTC)
Same here!
jeugd1 MTE...I love looking at their feet8th-Feb-2012 11:48 pm (UTC)
Image and video hosting by TinyPic
evrythingisrent Re: MTE...I love looking at their feet9th-Feb-2012 12:03 am (UTC)
I'm pretty sure my toe would break off.
pictureof Re: MTE...I love looking at their feet9th-Feb-2012 12:06 am (UTC)

it looks so painful but so beautiful and they do it so effortlessly
leahkatharina Re: MTE...I love looking at their feet9th-Feb-2012 12:14 am (UTC)
i love how you can see the development of a well-trained dancers foot, how the bones on the top of their foot curve out ... hard to explain in words, but that dancer in the gif has it going in spades!!!
hershelwalker Re: MTE...I love looking at their feet9th-Feb-2012 12:36 am (UTC)
I'm getting a charlie horse just looking at this.
schwanensee Re: MTE...I love looking at their feet9th-Feb-2012 01:37 am (UTC)
sylvie guillem has perfect feet/legs/everything.
platinumpinup 8th-Feb-2012 11:58 pm (UTC)
You should see them without the shoes, ugly, ugly, ugly!
hpxstac 8th-Feb-2012 11:59 pm (UTC)
snowweisz 9th-Feb-2012 12:05 am (UTC)
Omg have you seen Alessandra Ferri's? Crazy flexible feet
carminaburana 9th-Feb-2012 05:32 am (UTC)
She gets a lot of hate, but i love Sveta's feet.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic
andres01234 8th-Feb-2012 11:43 pm (UTC)
Well, the ballet world is totally fucked up, bears shit in the woods, pope is catholic, etc.
No news here
wristtattoos 8th-Feb-2012 11:44 pm (UTC)
yay, now everyone will chime in with their ontd-dr experience on ED!
theratwhispers 8th-Feb-2012 11:45 pm (UTC)
I took some ballet classes when I was little, but my teacher WAS A HUGE FAT LADY, lmao. I only took the classes for something to do during the summer.

/This stuff is just awful though.
berry_wish 8th-Feb-2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
omg were you at abby lee miller's dance company??
heure_actuelle 8th-Feb-2012 11:54 pm (UTC)
s0ftlyraining 9th-Feb-2012 12:27 am (UTC)
hypermuseic9 9th-Feb-2012 12:52 am (UTC)
raunchyb 9th-Feb-2012 02:03 am (UTC)
crossingthesea 10th-Feb-2012 07:12 pm (UTC)
Lol, my first thought exactly.
lumosofmylife 8th-Feb-2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
hada_princesa04 8th-Feb-2012 11:53 pm (UTC)
lol my first ballet teacher was a huge fat old lady too. She was really cool though, the woman had a freaking huge house with a huge ass dance studio inside.
stellar_ball 8th-Feb-2012 11:58 pm (UTC)
My first ballet lessons were with a girl that lived in our neighborhood. Pretty sure she was in high school and had about 10 elementary school students. Looking back, smart girl, she probably made some decent money giving lessons while still in school.

Then i went to an actual ballet school and it was lame. My sister cried throughout our Nutcracker audition and I was just confused as fuck.
lookingatlucky 9th-Feb-2012 12:09 am (UTC)
I loved my first teacher so much but then I moved up and had this horrible woman. She was Russian and believed in the strict Russian way of teaching ballet and she made me cry so much because my ten year old self had some deficiencies as a dancer. :( I ended up studying with her for like three years though
razetora 9th-Feb-2012 01:01 am (UTC)
my teachers were all young, lean tall women but they were all very sweet.
andres01234 8th-Feb-2012 11:45 pm (UTC)
dementedevoted 9th-Feb-2012 03:42 am (UTC)
I would watch the shit out of that, tbh.
andres01234 9th-Feb-2012 04:32 am (UTC)
we all would!
drkshdw 8th-Feb-2012 11:45 pm (UTC)
i don't know too much about the dance world, but when i was in college one of my close friends was a dance major and she had a sever eating disorder. from all i've seen these girls are under insurmountable pressures to stay thin, and literally kill their bodies in the process. and then the sugar plum fairy gets called fat.

lucciolaa 8th-Feb-2012 11:45 pm (UTC)
Just yesterday I overheard a couple girls in my class talking about the weight/height restrictions in professional ballet. It's just so crazy. It makes me so sad that people have to go through that in order to make a career out of something that they're passionate about, and that so many people can't simply because they're too tall/short or healthy looking.
miss_kate18 9th-Feb-2012 10:19 am (UTC)
I wanted to sign up for ballet classes as a kid (it seemed like every other kid in my grade was doing it). They flat out refused to let me join because I was too tall. At age six.

I ended up taking swimming instead and got to represent my school district so HA.
williexwhip 8th-Feb-2012 11:45 pm (UTC)
werk ladies. i wish i had the willpower to be perfect.
jessickah 8th-Feb-2012 11:46 pm (UTC)
I've never really understood why ballerinas need to be so tiny. No matter what their size they always seem to impress me with their talent and movements.
greenscarrf 8th-Feb-2012 11:49 pm (UTC)
I'm guessing it's just to appear more graceful and poised.
jessickah 8th-Feb-2012 11:51 pm (UTC)
You're probably right which is a shame because I feel like weight doesn't factor in there. But I am no ballerina...
hpxstac 9th-Feb-2012 12:04 am (UTC)
That and they also use partnering as an excuse.
lookin4theholes 9th-Feb-2012 12:40 am (UTC)
to be fair, normal to plus sized people could be seen as graceful and poised if the culture of ballet (and our culture generally) weren't so phobic of admiring bodies that are on the other side of 'model perfect'
x_butterfly19_x 9th-Feb-2012 12:10 am (UTC)
They need to be small enough for the male professionals to life them, I guess
beatlesluv 9th-Feb-2012 12:14 am (UTC)
b/c they have to dance on their tippy toes - check out the gifs above - the less body weight you're carrying the better. Plus the men have to be able to lift/swing you around like a pixie stick tbh
fionaetcharlie 9th-Feb-2012 04:14 am (UTC)
male dancers need to lift them.
t3pps 8th-Feb-2012 11:47 pm (UTC)
Ballet is so bad ass.
I wish I could go on pointe.
I'd do it every place- grocery store checkout lines, sex, gym, bathroom.
beatlesluv 9th-Feb-2012 12:15 am (UTC)
lmao yoga is just as good, i can go on pointe during sexy times in the bedroom lmaooo well not on point but i can do some crazy moves
pictureof 9th-Feb-2012 12:19 am (UTC)
yeah, my yoga instructor was so amazing. he didn't look like it, but he could bend
seishin 9th-Feb-2012 02:08 am (UTC)
I did it once - hurts like a mofo. And this was after studying for 7 years at that point.

Edited at 2012-02-09 02:09 am (UTC)
mhfromnh 9th-Feb-2012 03:29 am (UTC)
same here. that would be my go-to party trick.
greenscarrf 8th-Feb-2012 11:47 pm (UTC)
that NY Times critic is SUCH a fucking asshole. I can't believe he didn't even apologize.
pictureof 9th-Feb-2012 12:08 am (UTC)

i would've eaten him before my sugar plums! he was so rude!
hot143chocolate 8th-Feb-2012 11:48 pm (UTC)
If it's true (and I wouldn't be at all surprised), good on her for exposing it.
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