Femininity to the Extreme: Body Image Concerns among College Female Dancers

in Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal
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  • 1 University of Utah
  • 2 University of North Carolina, Greensboro
  • 3 University of North Carolina, Greensboro
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Dancers, like other athletes and performers, are faced with the pressure to obtain a particular body shape and size that stems from varied etiological factors (e.g., personality characteristics, demands of the dance environment) (Robson, 2002). This study examined specific concerns for college dancers by utilizing quantitative and qualitative forms of inquiry. The purpose of the initial phase was to assess weight-related pressures, social physique anxiety, and disordered eating in college female modern dancers (N=107) using the Weight Pressure in Dance (Reel & Gill, 1996), Social Physique Anxiety Scale (Hart, Leary, & Rejeski, 1989), and The Eating Disorder Inventory (Garner, 1991). An overwhelming majority (76%) of the dancers reported pressures to lose weight with the most commonly cited stressor being the mirror followed by costumes, performance advantage, comparison to other dancers, and landing the best roles. The mean social physique anxiety score was moderate, but 35 dancers exhibited a high degree of social physique anxiety. In addition, the dancers had a lower tendency toward disordered eating compared to college females (Garner, 1991). The second phase of the study confirmed that modern dancers experience unique pressures. Through qualitative inquiry, the participants’ individualized experiences related to body image and the culture of modern dance could be shared.

Justine J. Reel, Ph.D., NCC University of Utah Exercise and Sport Science 250 South 1850 East rm 202 Salt Lake City, UT 84112 Email: Justine.Reel@hsc.utah.edu Phone: (801) 581-381 Fax: (801) 585-3992