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#1 Guest_Antony_*

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Posted 08 November 2002 - 01:31 AM

I'll regret raising this topic one way or another, but watching a video of the re-opening of the Royal Opera House made me think about something.

In a brief diversion, the cameras followed a member of the artistic staff out on to a scenic balcony overlooking the Piazza. His jovial comment: "I'm probably the only one who doesn't come out here with a cigarette".

OK, I'll wear my colours on my sleeve - I'm an avid non-smoker, and the thought of dancers smoking to keep themselves thin sickens me even more than the whole issue of self-starvation.

But in truth, what proportion of dancers (professional or otherwise) really do have a serious habit? And how does this square up with the value they attach to their physical health?

Also, is there any organised effort at the RB to dissuade younger dancers from forming a habit in the first place?

A.
(ducking for cover)

#2 citibob

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Posted 08 November 2002 - 04:23 AM

For the just-finished Fall Season, my company employed 16 dancers. Three of them smoked; one of those three has been trying to quit, with varying success, for the past year.

A few more dancers (3, I think) were hired for the Nutcracker now. One of those dancers used to smoke, but has also been trying very hard to quit.

#3 Calliope

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Posted 08 November 2002 - 06:36 AM

I think that's a hard number to try and gage.
Smoking is personal decision and I don't think dancers are any more immune to the habit than anyone else.

#4 Mel Johnson

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Posted 08 November 2002 - 03:51 PM

I believe that RB has rather more pressing problems on its overfull agenda right now.

#5 grace

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Posted 10 November 2002 - 03:40 PM

antony, i too am an avid non-smoker - hate to be around smoke! BUT: i just thought maybe i should point out (in line with what another poster has said about dancers being no more immune than others...) that, just like 'other' people, dancers smoke for lots of reasons - not just to 'keep thin'.

it certainly is a paradox - needing a healthy body, but deliberately abusing it...but the question remains HOW to get that message through effectively, to any and all people who 'enjoy' something about smoking, and to those who are in the grip of a genuine addiction.

#6 Guest_Antony_*

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Posted 12 November 2002 - 01:27 AM

Thanks for the thoughts, folks; I should probably apologise for not being a bit clearer about the angle I was coming from. This isn't a random rant at smokers. Treading on other people's toes is not one of my hobbies - metaphorically at least. ;) (If anyone does want a lively discussion about freedom of the individual etc., I'm happy to engage them in the proper place, i.e. off-air - but not here.)

Via some acquaintances connected with professional dance companies, I've heard several times the anecdote that "the dancers all smoke like chimneys" (not my words), in an attempt to keep thin. I'd assumed that other people have heard this too, whether or not it's a myth.

A.

#7 beckster

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Posted 12 November 2002 - 02:28 AM

I too have heard that many dancers smoke. But then, I doubt that the proportion of dancers who smoke is any different from the proportion of university students (to take a group of people of similar age) who smoke. In the UK at least. I suppose dancers should be allowed one vice - after all, the rest of their lives is so regimented ... unlike students, who have no excuse ;)

#8 Guest_Antony_*

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Posted 12 November 2002 - 03:11 AM

Originally posted by beckster
I too have heard that many dancers smoke.  But then, I doubt that the proportion of dancers who smoke is any different from the proportion of university students (to take a group of people of similar age) who smoke.  In the UK at least.


Hi Beckster,

That's the sort of statistic I'm after - if it's true, then my question is answered, and I'm a (reasonably) happy man.

But if the proportion of dancers who smoke is much higher (as suggested by the anecdotes), it indicates that younger dancers may be under some kind of pressure that encourages them to take up smoking. And if that's the case, then I'm worried - and I'd be surprised if anyone can persuade me that I shouldn't be.

A.

PS. Incidentally, I'm very keen that this thread doesn't become a political argument about personal freedom - as are the moderators, no doubt.

I gave up trying to fight causes years ago - it costs too many friends.

#9 Mel Johnson

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Posted 12 November 2002 - 04:06 AM

I'd say that beckster's personal observation on a parallel between the smoking rate of university students and dancers is fair also in the US, but the difference may be slightly more marked among dancers, who nowadays seem to be smoking less, largely owing to American Lung Association anti-smoking drives, and a number of local government initiatives against allowing smoking in workplaces. Most universities maintain "academic freedom" against such initiatives, but they can't fight a full-court press by fire insurers, who up premiums if the building contains smoking areas. Dancers most often work in buildings covered by such initiatives and insurance, and so their smoking rate has decreased, if only as a pragmatic measure.

#10 grace

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Posted 12 November 2002 - 05:18 PM

glad to see a reply from an american, addressing the apparent 'stats' (using the term very loosely), for dancers there - as i cannot comment at all about american dancers, so i was beginning to wonder whether what antony suggests was/is true....

i agree that i have heard people SAY that sort of thing - but not for many years (like maybe 20), and only from NON-dancers...

antony, in my experience, in australia and the UK, like mel, i would say that no more dancers smoke that 'normal' (!) people.

i would hope it would be LESS dancers - and in australia, i would say that would definitely be true.

#11 citibob

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Posted 12 November 2002 - 05:29 PM

Note that the smoking rate I quoted (still the only solid numbers on this thread) are about 25%. That is about the same as for the US population in general, and I would presume, also universities.

#12 Mel Johnson

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Posted 12 November 2002 - 06:17 PM

According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the US smoking rate is 25% and steady. University students' smoking rate is 28% and rising. Dancers apparently do not form a large enough demographic for sampling.

#13 citibob

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Posted 12 November 2002 - 06:33 PM

That's right. And my company isn't big enough to distinguish between 25% and 28% with any statistical significance.

What's more interesting is that none of the dancers in the affiliated school's Youthworks pre-professional company smoke. Or at least, not that I'm aware of.

#14 Alexandra

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Posted 12 November 2002 - 07:25 PM

It's an interesting question -- don't worry, Antony (although I thank you for your sensitivity). People are generally very polite here.

I've always been surprised when I see a dancer with a cigarette, because of the effect on lung capacity. I think there is a difference in America, as Mel noted, because there has been such a concerted anti-smoking campaign here, and because of laws that make it a hassle to smoke.

I have two anecdotes from the '60s and '70s, though, that bring in another angle -- stress control. I read an interview once with Peter Schaufuss who said that when he met Bruhn and Nureyev, as a young dancer, they told him he'd have to either smoke or drink to relieve the stress if he went on the super star circuit. And when I was doing the interviews for my book, I did an interview with Antoinette Sibley and I love one of the things she said, and it didn't fit in the book, so I'll put it here. She was talking about the social atmosphere among dancers in the 1960s and said, "You either smoked or you drank. I did both." :cool:

#15 dirac

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Posted 13 November 2002 - 01:10 PM

Trivia from 1953: I recall an exchange between Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire in The Band Wagon. She's The Ballerina, he's the Hoofer, and during their get-acquainted meeting Astaire lights up, and Charisse tells him she doesn’t think dancers should smoke.


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