Right of Reply: Anne Hammerstad

A former ballet dancer responds to a recent article on choreographer William Forsythe

WILLIAM FORSYTHE, of the Frankfurt Ballet, believes that stretching dancers to the limit makes good art. He thinks that dancers should be made to give "a little more than they think they can". But he and other choreographers, if they want to involve dancers in the creation of art, should remember they are working with human beings.

I quit ballet dancing when I realised we were being treated as objects to be moulded. The physical and mental strains we were put under were often so great that our ability to contribute was drained away.

From very early stages in life (I, like many, began dancing as a young child) a dancer is treated as a body to be framed into the right shape, rather than as a human who will also develop personality and a sense of art.

Because of such treatment, many dancers are put under great physical and mental stress. The well-known effects of anorexia, bulimia, physical injury and low self-esteem all follow. If she is trying to survive and compete for a place in a company, how is a dancer to find the energy to develop a vision of her own art?

Even for smaller and less demanding companies than Frankfurt Ballet, such as the the Norwegian National Ballet with whom I used to dance, there is a huge turnover of performers. At 25, you are considered a veteran. In this atmosphere of "use and throw" disposable dancers, it's rare enough to be able to cope well with personal pressure, let alone to be given time to create art. There's a general feeling that dancers are expendable, since there's always a ready supply of willing recruits. Given this, it will be far more common for art to be created with them as material, rather than as partners in the process.

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