There are a few misconceptions within the society that we live in. Not least that those who are highly active, athletes and dancers to name a few professions, are somehow more virtuous than the rest of us. In 2015 Eric Underwood, then a Royal Ballet soloist, with the help of the Telegraph wanted to change people perspective on dancers. In the interview (read it here), the male dancer confesses that not all dancers are as perfect as we make out, many enjoying nights out and smoking.
While the days of a dancer are long and full of physical work, that doesn’t mean all give their body the same respect we think they do. Everyone is entitled to do what they wish in life, we just tend to believe that many dancers don’t partake in activities like smoking. The general public may underestimate the number of dancers that smoke, but those in the dance world tend to over-estimate the percentage of dancers who smoke. Many may have been taught by a teacher or choreographer who smokes or been in a company that has included many smokers.
But in a study published in 2016 (Stein, et al., 2016) it was revealed that about 8.7% of dancers smoke. Over 80% of those surveyed estimated that these numbers would be higher. In truth, 18% of dancers had been involved in smoking behaviours (9.4% being former smokers). These figures are a lot lower than those of the general public but are still large enough to be roughly that 1 in 10 dancers smoke. The study looked at dance students and dance professionals across a range of ages and environments, with 138 participants in total.
The rates are also said to be 5x higher in male dancers than in female dancers (Stein, et al., 2016). These risk factors are vastly different from that of the general population. Within the population, levels of smoking are fairly similar between males and females. Males are a bit more likely with 19.3% smoking and females being 15.3% likely to smoke (ONS, 2015). The percentage of those who smoke in the UK is about 2x as high as the percentage expressed in the dance community (17.3% in population, 8.7% in dancers). While lower it is still important to reflect that dancers are just normal people do their job. Smoking does detract from the capacity of a dancer and many in Stien, et al.’s paper expressed a want to give up smoking. But this is also likely of those who don’t dance, as the government tries to decrease the number of smoking and advertising for smoking becomes decreased, other factors play into the want to give up. Not just occupation. For the reasons why many smoke, dancer’s smoke for the same reasons.
I’m not condoning smoking in any way, but I do believe that everyone has a choice and while it isn’t great for a persons health, or wallet, no one deserves to be treated differently because they do smoke. We shouldn’t have an expectation towards dancers that they don’t smoke, just like we shouldn’t assume smoking behaviours of any other individual. Having this notion can become demoralising for dancers who do smoke, almost making them feel like they are sinning. Just like not all dancers eat healthily, or have quiet nights in every night. The illusion of what a dancer is or should do, is just that, an illusion. Every dancer is an individual and reacts in different ways to different events and engages in different activities.
Our respect levels for everyone within the performing arts should not change based on their decision to smoke or not. If they are still able to perform with the same energy and performance as non-smokers then there is nothing to change our attitude.
This was a little explorative post today to give you a different side of a dancers career. I hope you enjoyed.
As always, be sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments, or via my social media.