Nadine Kaslow, a psychologist who works with dancers at Atlanta Ballet, says one of the most common questions she's asked is, "What should I do if I think my friend has an eating disorder?" Research shows that, compared to the general population, dancers are three times more likely to suffer from eating disorders. Experts agree that early detection and treatment is crucial. Unfortunately, while adults—like teachers and studio directors—should be keeping an eye out for warning signs, the people most likely to first notice a dancer's issues with food are her friends at the barre.
So what do you do if you suspect a friend is suffering? You don't want to be accusatory, but you know eating disorders are cause for great concern. At the very least, Kaslow advises you to trust your instincts and do something, whether it's confronting your friend directly or speaking to an adult. "If you're worried about someone, you should take it seriously," she says. "You can't be a bystander—the longer somebody waits to get an eating disorder under control, the harder it is."
Adrienne Gregorek working on physical therapy exercises with a patient (courtesy Gregorek)
When Adrienne Gregorek was 14, she injured her hamstring and was sent to physical therapy. "I was super frustrated," she remembers. "I went to a clinic where there were mostly older people being treated and felt like the staff didn't understand the needs of a dancer. When they were re-testing me at the end, they said, 'You're good,' even though I really wasn't where I needed to be for optimal strength and flexibility."
For many dancers looking for their next step beyond the stage, a career that continues to connect them to the art is a no-brainer. In Gregorek's case, her interest in the human body, coupled with her passion for dance, led her to a career in physical therapy and landed her a job at Westside Dance Physical Therapy in NYC, where she treats dancers, including members of New York City Ballet and students at the School of American Ballet.
The Nutcracker has become an essential part of the holiday season—not to mention a part of most dancers' DNA. These days, the ballet is a beloved tradition, and the lifeblood of many dance companies, whose budgets depend on its reliably great ticket sales. But did you know that it was a flop when it first premiered in Russia? Or that George Balanchine himself once played Drosselmeyer on TV? Here's a timeline of the rich history of The Nutcracker.
Ballet class at USC Kaufman (photo by Ema Peter, courtesy Glorya Kaufman School of Dance at University of Southern California)
Stefanie Roper didn't take her first ballet class until she was 20. Despite her obvious facility, she encountered plenty of naysayers. "I remember one teacher telling me, 'Honey, you're just too old,' " she says. And she did have to overcome obstacles as she entered the ballet bubble. "People talked about how good my feet were, and I didn't understand what they meant for the first four months," Roper remembers, laughing. But she found a mentor at Utah Valley University, where she was a student, and persevered. Now, six years later, Roper's professional resumé includes a stint with BHdos, Ballet Hispanico's second company.
It seems like most professional ballet dancers started taking ballet classes before they were born, especially the women. For those who didn't discover ballet until after elementary school, it can feel impossible to catch up to dyed-in-the-wool students. But it's not. Late starters face plenty of hurdles, but good facility and hard work will take you far—even if it isn't into the ranks of a ballet company.
Dancer and photographer Lee Gumbs (photo by Katie Morton, courtesy Gumbs)
A contemporary, jazz, and ballet dancer, Lee Gumbs is known for his six-year touring stint with Bad Boys of Ballet (and, of course, for being a Dance Spirit Cover Model Search finalist in 2008!). But Gumbs' photography has earned equal praise. He's amassed an impressive portfolio of subjects, shooting famous dancers like Ashley Everett, Allison Holker, Melinda Sullivan, and Sean Lew, to name a few.