News: Dance UK conference: Nutrition and disordered eating in dance

Tuesday 17 April 2012 by Carmel Smith

Shobana Jeyasingh Dance Company 'Just Add Water', 2009.

One of the first things ballerina Tamara Rojo has spoken out about since last week’s announcement that she is to be the next artistic director of English National Ballet is the issue of dancers’ bodyweight. “I have preached and I will continue to preach,” she told The Sunday Times. “I have never been thin and I want for myself and for others to have long and healthy careers.”

Coincidentally, at the end of this month Dance UK is organising a conference which will bring together top medical specialists and leading figures in the dance world to look at ways of tackling the problem of eating disorders and dance. The event takes place at the Royal Society of Medicine, London on Monday 30 April. Over the day they will debate how to encourage healthy eating habits in dancers and consider solutions to prevent disordered eating in dance.
Experts will offer insights and evidence to support an alternative to constant dieting, demonstrating the healthy way of achieving a lithe athletic physique; the fitness and stamina benefits of which far outweigh the extreme and damaging effects of disordered eating as a tool for weight control.

Speakers include leading artistic directors and dancers: Dame Monica Mason, Artistic Director of the Royal Ballet; Ann Sholem, Artistic Director of National Dance Company Wales; David Bintley, Director of Birmingham Royal Ballet; Kenneth Tharp, Chief Executive of The Place; Richard Alston, choreographer and Artistic Director Richard Alston Dance; David Nixon, 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 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 Birtwistle, nutritionist for Royal Ballet; Nicola Stephens, Performers Physiotherapy and Huw Goodwin, Research Associate, Loughborough University Centre for Research into Eating Disorders.

Education specialists speaking include: Elizabeth Nabarro, School Counsellor at London Contemporary Dance School; Tracey Lee, Principal of Performers College and Martin Collins, Programme Manager at the Centre for Advanced Training at Trinity Laban.

Rachel Peppin Parker, a former Principal Dancer at Birmingham Royal Ballet, who herself recovered from the Female Athlete Triad which is a condition linked to disordered eating is one of the Chairs of the conference. She says:

“I know too well the importance of awareness, understanding and support in the treatment of disordered eating. Without the care and early intervention from Birmingham Royal Ballet’s medical team, my life and health would have suffered greatly. This conference will alert young dancers, parents and dance professionals to the dangers of eating disorders, the importance of seeking early medial help and that eating and maintaining a healthy diet are fully consistent with achieving success as a dancer”.

At the end of the day Dance UK is launching the National Institute of Dance Medicine and Science (NIDMS) – its most ambitious project to date. This innovative initiative, which is led by Dance UK in partnership with Birmingham Royal Ballet, Trinity Laban, the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital and the Universities of Wolverhampton and Birmingham, looks set to transform health support for dancers.

Nutrition and disordered eating in dance: Artistry, athleticism and the role of the multidisciplinary support team
Monday 30 April 2012, 9am – 5pm
Venue: Guy Whittle Auditorium, Royal Society of Medicine, 1 Wimpole Street, London, W1G 0AE
Tickets: £40 – £240 (Discounts for Dance UK members and concessions).
Book online or call 020 7713 0730

This Sunday (23 April), Dance PR Tony Shepherd is running the London Marathon in aid of Dance UK’s Healthier Dancer Programme. He says:

On Sunday 22 April I will be dragging my weary limbs around the streets of London. It is my second attempt to run a marathon – at 49 it may well be my last. For the last 20 years I have had the privilege to act as a PR in the UK dance industry. During that time I’ve worked with some of the world’s most extraordinary dance companies, choreographers and Artistic Directors. However, it has been the time that I’ve spent with the dancers that is most treasured. Without dancers there is no dance. They have constantly inspired, entertained, exhilarated and moved me. So after 20 years I am running the London Marathon in aid of Dance UK’s Healthier Dancer Programme to support them …. but more importantly, in my own way, to say thank you to them all!

Support Tony – and Dance UK’s Healthier Dancer Programme

Photo: Shobana Jeyasingh’s 2009 production Just Add Water

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