Dance Culture


Malia Weber

The dance world and its culture can be harmful to dancers’ mental health.

In recent years, stories of body-shaming and abuse within dance have come into the light more and more. Now, two local dancers are opening up about their own experiences and problems within the dance world.

Leah Zhu, a freshman at Pioneer High School, has been dancing as long as she can remember. For Zhu, dance is a place where she can relax.

“When I’m dancing, I kind of forget about my worries [and] my life,” Zhu said. “I’ve heard a lot about people [being told] that they’re not good enough and I think we should change that.”

Like Zhu, many dancers start training at a young age. Although they might not take it seriously at first, their minds are moldable. The CDC has found that what a child experiences in the first eight years of their life builds their mindset and can permanently change the way they think about themselves and the world.

CHS sophomore Jasmine Boggy has danced for five years. Dance isn’t a huge factor in her life, but has still had an impact on the way she views herself. Since beginning dance in sixth grade, she has increasingly compared herself to others and experienced a heightened level of stress.

“[Dance] hasn’t really harmed me, but it’s not a healthy culture,” Boggy said. “I’ve seen videos of people comparing their stomach sizes and [the teacher yelling] at someone for being bigger.”

Viewing herself as more of a recreational dancer, Boggy believes that more competitive environments can be harmful to students. She sees ballet in particular as a style of dance with cutthroat tendencies. In a systemic review from 2013, conducted by the National Library of Medicine, 12% of dancers had an eating disorder, with that number jumping to 16.4% for ballet dancers.

“[Dance’s culture] can be good, but not when teachers put pressure on people to look a certain way,” Boggy said.

Both Boggy and Zhu hit on a key fact: today’s dance culture is not a healthy culture. Although neither have experienced body-shaming or dismissal themselves, it’s something they’re aware of. Nobody should have to go through that or feel lucky they avoided it. This is something that needs to change.