A Personal Journey… and the struggle with weight… even for a man.

There is so much pressure in ballet when it comes to weight. But the stereotype isn’t just for women/girls. There is a ton of pressure for men/boys to also have the right body proportions. From obsessive workouts to the right muscle tone, weight is constantly being evaluated. I think the first time I really became paranoid about weight was when I was measured for my first custom ballet costume. This paranoia was reinforced when I had to fit into another person’s ballet costume. And the third time was when a teacher made a remark that was something along the line of, “Aren’t Asians supposed to be super skinny?” Yup. This was only supported by teachers making general comments like, “Someone ate dessert last night.” While walking around the room. Or, “You probably had too much for dinner since you can’t close your fifth.” And for some reason that became normal.

Naturally, I am not built super thin, I am barrel chested and have broad shoulders. My body also puts weight on really fast. I can literally gain weight just by looking at cake, Just kidding. But, seriously, what I eat the day before drastically effects my body. So, unfortunately, like most dancers who feel the pressure of weight control, I did the most stupid thing anyone can do. I started skipping meals and when need be, purging. When a ballet that required white tights came around… the eating habits would get worse and worse. Still, to this day we don’t really talk about weight or nutrition, though it has gotten better, the pressure to be the right body still exists. Whether schools verbally enforce this or not, it is seen by who they accept and who is employed by a company. And for me, it became an obsession. When my Aunt who was a nurse asked me about my weight, I just said that I was working out really hard. A friend commented on my clavicles and ribs showing through my chest and I just said it was because I did a high amount of cardio. So, I started wearing oversized clothes and multiple layers, avoided photos, and then just said it was “genetics”. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t like withering away, I was still strong enough to lift girls and dance through ballet. I was just managing my weight the wrong way.

Back in the day, which wasn’t that long ago, they didn’t give you the resources needed to get it under control. Or at least propose healthy eating. At best we had the Dancer’s Body Book by Allegra Kent, which is horrible… Published in the 80’s, this book really was the only “dancer diet” resource available. The diet is restricting and really only geared towards petite naturally thin women.

What they didn’t tell you, is that by starving yourself, you mess up your metabolism, your kidneys, your skin and your overall health.

 

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Yes… I know I should have turned out my standing leg, not winged my foot and pointed it. Pulled my back leg up, and not taken this picture with a disposable camera. 

 

Even after my ballet career ended, weight was a big paranoia for me. At first, I would eat everything in sight. Literally. But, the minute I saw myself gaining weight the paranoia set in again. Additionally, I joined the world of fashion, and at the time it was trendy for men to be underweight and the trend manorexic was in. So, I made sure to stay underweight at all costs; smoking, cutting meals, and cardio. It wasn’t until CJ pulled me aside at the club and said, “I can see your ribs and spine through the back of your shirt.” My response was an unhealthy, “Oh that’s good, that’s normal. I thought you were going to say I had a hole in my shirt or you hated my outfit.” Around the same time, I noticed I was getting major headaches, having body issues, and was constantly tired. This led to a slew of health problems, some permanent.

So, I started putting on weight and being healthy.

When my dad passed away I put on a ton of weight, over time almost 50 pounds pushing me over, much over, the 200-pound mark. It really hit me when my doctor marked me as obese on my 2015 physical. At the same time, I started this blog and the Instagram and created the character fat panda. One, to avoid writing using photos of myself, and Two turning overweight into something funny.

I got my weight under control but still wasn’t happy with how much weight I actually still had on me… don’t get me wrong, I didn’t want to be my ballet weight skinny (125), but I wanted to be in a good weight category. (Mind you I stand at 5’10 and a half”)

It’s been a process, starting back in March on my 30th birthday… I mean you all know. I started going back to ballet classes and the gym. It has been a process, but I can finally say I am back to a normal healthy weight. It has taken 7 months, and the process has been slow.
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I went from being a 27″ to a 34″, and now to a 30″. I went from being an extra small shirt to a large, and now I am back to a small, but prefer a medium. But finally, in a place where I am comfortable… I won’t lie, it hasn’t been easy, and I messed my body type up completely while dancing and constantly feeling the pressure of weight. I am not writing this for an applause, but simply to remind everyone that weight, body dysmorphia, and ballet pressures are real issues, even for boys and men. And, that there are major long-term consequences for taking shortcuts and giving into the pressures of the ideals.
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THE FUTURE OF BALLET: The Cirio Collective

The Cirio Collective if the first of five start ups I am going to endorse/plug/support throughout the year. To donate click here.

While it is important to be educated in ballet, it is more important to understand that ballet/dance is a living and breathing art form constantly evolving. It is hard to be progressive in today’s industry because genres are becoming more and more blended. That is the thing about ballet, the evolution and expansion is happening at a rate no one ever could have predicted. When ballet dancers would wait for new choreography, it was one thing. Now, ballet dancers are have become impatient with artistic staff (it is super costly to have a choreographer come in and set a new work, and super risky for a payoff) they are exploring their own forms of movement.

While dancers all across the world have been starting small groups/labs/experiments, none have matched the quality and finesse needed to turn into something major. The last of which were Complexions and Cedar Lake. The Trey McIntyre Project lasted, but since evolved. Now, why am I so hopeful for a company/project/collective that hasn’t even debuted?

Jeffrey Cirio is a ballet prodigy. Awesome.

He has good taste in photography and editing. InstaAwesome.

His sister is the epitome and ideal new ballerina. Flippin Awesome.

He has access to good dancers during the off season. Bostonian Awesome + Ballet celeb awesome.

He is smart. Generally awesome. He has really, carefully thought this through… from the aesthetic of his site, to his PR campaigns, to the overall mood of it all.

So, why am I writing all of this out? Here it is…. Ballet has to have good PR. PR encompasses this field of development, fundraising, and the efforts to keep ballet alive. While the Cirio collective will bring in a younger crowd than the typical ballet audience, this crowd is the crowd we have to please. This will be the crowd that supports ballet for the next 40 years, and this new crowd of ballet/dance go-ers is not patient. Between IG, SYTYCD, and blogs like mine, everyone can be a critic, a judge, or even an editor… With that all being said, I also think it can be used for good…

Here is what I am asking… Support the Cirio Collective. Go online, like their page, share their page, share this page, exposure is always a good thing… buuuut you have to donate. I can not stress that enough… YOU MUST DONATE. For all of you moms and dads out there saving for summer programs… How will your kid dance if there is no place for them?

Bonus, they already have their 501c3 which means tax deductible and exempt… I know that this doesn’t help you this tax season… but hey… it will help you next season!

Facebook: Circio Collective

IG/Twitter @ciriocollective

http://ciriocollective.com

So, here we go… Go make this into a reality… Thanks.