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by Janine Bryant for The Dance Journal

What if grant money for the arts were contingent on health concerns and physiologic weights? What if dance publications presented youngsters with a variety of legitimate body types in their glossy photos instead of an ideal unhealthy for most young women? If we are serious about the health of dancers, we must challenge the aesthetic. {1}

Most recently, the potentially negative impact of exercise upon the health of exercising females has received attention with the recognition of the Female Athlete Triad, a syndrome consisting of disordered eating, amenorrhea (disruption of menstrual cycle), and osteoporosis that presumably develops due to external and internal pressures on female athletes to maintain an inappropriately low body weight. The presence of this syndrome has been identified across a wide variety of sports that demand low body weight and a lean physique including gymnastics, figure skating, endurance running, and especially ballet. {2}

Most dancers have experienced, at one time or another in their careers, feelings of inadequacy stemming from an inability, whether perceived or real,  to reach a desired aesthetic, which might be either technical in nature or involving physical appearance.  Whether the genre in question is ballet, modern, contemporary, jazz or a fusion of any of the aforementioned, there is often some degree of pressure to conform to a desired ‘look’.  Moreover, individual companies can sometimes require a very specific aesthetic, depending on the artistic director’s vision.   Long, lean bodies that make sculptural movements come effortlessly out of nowhere are incredibly beautiful and inspiring to watch! Audiences can be transfixed within seconds of an entrance when a dancer at this level is performing at their peak. How can dancers reach this aesthetic without jeopardizing, in the short and long term, their instruments?

Elite dancers put in grueling hours of training and rehearsal with little time during their dance day to eat.  When a meal is taken, often the caloric intake falls short of the body’s requirements to facilitate a proper recovery from that dance day. For a dancer at any level, but especially for those who have made dancing their full-time career, maintaining the aesthetic and technical ideal is a daily effort which takes its toll over time.

The effects of disordered eating on a dancing body can include low energy, injury, lower than normal body weight, low body fat, disruption of reproductive hormone secretion, infertility, bone demineralization, and unfavorable changes in lipoprotein profiles.

All of this information begs the question, what can dancers do?!  Some good news is that the suppression of reproductive function that occurs with prolonged states of low energy availability appears to be reversible through an increase in energy availability. However, the degree to which bone demineralization and possible effects on lipoprotein profiles can be reversed is less certain. {2}

The dance community can respond. Through teaching that begins in neighborhood schools as well as sharing of important research, we can help dancers reach their artistic goals and raise awareness that dancers are in fact athletes. A simple shift in perspective might mean less injuries and a longer career for dancers, especially when it comes to energy intake requirements.

The dance community must establish useful guidelines for the prevention of exercise associated reproductive abnormalities and aggressive treatment of female athletes who already are affected. The available evidence suggests a strong association between menstrual dysfunction, eating disorders, and osteoporosis. Future research efforts should be directed toward the psychological and physiological mechanisms causing aberrant eating practices. {2}

There are many resources to help point dancers in the right direction:

American Dietetic Association – www.diet.com/nutrition

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – www.eatright.org

American Nutrition Association – www.americannutritionassociation.org/newsletter

In addition, a visit to the primary care physician and referral to a nutritional or psychological counselor can also be beneficial to help dancers reach their wellness goals for optimum performance.

Until next time, dance healthy and strong, friends!

Janine Bryant
Co-Director of Dance
Faculty of Biokinetics, Education
and the Campolo College for Graduate and Professional Studies
Eastern University, St. David’s Pa.




  1. Vincent, L, M.D.. Disordered eating: confronting the dance aesthetic, Journal of Dance Medicine and Science, Vol. 2 (1), 1998.
  2. Williams, N, Reproductive function and low energy availability in exercising females: A review of clinical and hormonal effects, Journal of Dance Medicine and Science Vol. 2 (1), 1998.



- Janine Bryant

Janine Bryant, Director of the Eastern University Dance Program, or 'Prof B.', as her students call her, teaches courses for Dance, Kinesiology and the Loeb School of Education, as well as the Campolo College of Graduate Studies. She has been teaching technique and choreographing classical and contemporary ballets for more than thirty years.

Janine received her B.F.A. in Modern Dance from the University of the Arts in 1986 where she studied with Pat Thomas, Judith Jamison, Milton Meyers, and Ruth Andrien to name a few. In the early 1980's, Janine was a scholarship student at the Martha Graham School under Martha Graham, Diane Gray, Kevin Keenan, Yuriko, Pearl Lang, Peggy Lyman, Ethel Winter, Jacqueline Bulglisi, Don Foreman, Marianne Bachmann, and Armgard Von Barteleben. While in New York, Janine danced with the Pearl Lang Dance Company and appeared in the cast of Ms. Lang's "The Beloved", filmed at Brooklyn College. Janine also worked with Lynne Lesniak and Dancers, an offshoot of the Alwin Nikolai Company.

In addition to her studies at the Graham School in New York, Janine received a scholarship to the Peridance Center where she studied with Igal Perry, Miguel Moore and Zvi Gottheiner. Independently, Janine studied under Finis Jhung, David Howard and Madame Gabriella Darvash (Kirov technique). She also worked with Kathy Grant in New York to learn the Pilates method. During this time, and as a member of Philadelphia Dance Theatre, Janine was chosen to dance the solo role of Doris Humphrey's, "The Call and Breath of Fire", and was personally coached by Ernestine Stodelle for the role.

In the fall of 1990, Janine was one of two Americans accepted to The Royal Academy of Dancing, London, where she earned her Elementary Executant Certification and her Pre-Elementary Teaching Certification. Both of these prestigious certifications are recognized in 52 countries worldwide. In 1991, Janine founded The Professional School (TPS) in Turnersville, NJ, and directed the school through 2002. TPS was a technique-based studio training many of high school seniors to win college scholarships. Several TPS graduates won the University of the Arts' Presidential Merit Scholarship worth $20,000. Janine has been a frequent guest lecturer at The University of the Arts and also received their prestigious Silver Star Alumni Award in 1996. The Silver Star Alumni award has been bestowed upon nearly 100 graduates of the University's College of Art and Design and College of Performing Arts. The honorees are selected because they are role models and represent educational and artistic excellence that the University's faculty works hard to achieve.

Janine was a visiting guest artist for the Black Rock Dance Company in Reno, Nevada, where she created new works and taught master classes. In addition to her regular instructional post at Eastern University, Janine was recently added to the Summer Intensive faculty of DeSales University.

Janine is an active member of the International Association of Dance Medicine and Science and was recently added to their Peer Review Board, Poster Judging Committee and Education Committee. Janine also is a member of PAMA (Performing Arts Medicine Association) and is currently earning her PhD (ABD) in Dance Medicine and Science from The University of Wolverhampton in the United Kingdom. Janine is excited to be a syndicated writer for The Dance Journal. The column aims to focus on training protocols, injury prevention and general information on dancer wellness. In addition, the column will provide a resource page for dancers who wish to seek medical care, specialty training or somatic therapies from local physicians and practitioners. Janine is passionate about teaching solid technique grounded in sound anatomic and biomechanical principles at a university level.

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