Allegations of Body Shaming and Anorexia at Prestigious Ballet Schools
Disturbing accounts of body shaming and the development of eating disorders among students have emerged from prestigious ballet schools in the UK. These schools, known for their elite training programs, are now facing allegations of fostering a toxic environment that has had devastating consequences for some students.
Harriet Royle’s Struggle
Harriet Royle’s journey through Birmingham’s Elmhurst Ballet School, which counts Queen Camilla as its patron, took a distressing turn. At the age of 13, she entered the prestigious institution, which charges substantial fees, but within just over a year, she was hospitalized and diagnosed with anorexia. Her mother, Michaela, recounted the shock she experienced when she saw her daughter’s alarming weight loss. Despite early signs of Harriet’s deteriorating health, Michaela felt it was a situation that should never have reached the point of intervention.
Early Body Image Issues
Harriet admitted to experiencing body image issues upon her arrival at the school but described herself as “fit and healthy” in November 2014. However, a critical appraisal suggesting she needed to improve her “aerobic fitness” affected her confidence. This triggered a cycle of weight loss, as she felt pressured to exercise more to meet the school’s standards.
Validation of Unhealthy Habits
Harriet’s teachers reportedly responded positively to her rapid weight loss, making her feel validated in her efforts. The approval she received encouraged her to continue her weight loss journey, which spiraled out of control.
Anorexia Diagnosis and Hospitalization
Harriet’s health deteriorated rapidly, leading to her hospitalization and an anorexia diagnosis. Her mother expressed frustration that it reached a point where she had to intervene and request her daughter’s removal from the school.
Harriet’s experience is not isolated. Former dancers from other top ballet schools, including the Royal Ballet School in London, have also shared their heartbreaking stories. Ellen Elphick, a former student at the Royal Ballet School, described a teacher’s extreme criticism of her body that left her filled with self-hate, worsening her eating disorder. She is now pursuing legal action against the school.
Impact on Mental Health
The accounts reveal the significant impact these experiences have had on the mental health of students. Padua Eaton, who attended Elmhurst, described experiencing depression and feeling like a burden to the school. Grace Owen, another Elmhurst graduate, detailed instances of humiliation and body shaming by teachers.
Legal Action and Seeking Accountability
Some former students and their legal representatives are seeking accountability from the schools. They aim to shed light on the toxic culture of body shaming and the devastating effects it has had on young dancers.
Statements from the Schools
Both Elmhurst Ballet School and the Royal Ballet School have responded to the allegations. Elmhurst emphasized its commitment to promoting good physical and mental health and stated it has implemented a health trust scheme. The Royal Ballet School emphasized its dedication to the well-being of its students and continuous improvement in safeguarding their health and welfare.
Support for Eating Disorders
For individuals struggling with eating disorders or those concerned about someone’s health, organizations like Beat, the UK’s eating disorder charity, provide support and resources.
The revelations from these ballet schools highlight the need for greater awareness and safeguards to protect the physical and mental well-being of students in the demanding world of ballet training.