Political Science

Second Major

Women’s Studies


Leadership Studies


Strübel, Jessica

Advisor Department

Textile, Fashion Merchandising and Design




Carolyn P. Bollerman, Political Science & Gender and Women’s Studies

Project Title- Body Image and Dance: Achieving perfection at any cost

Sponsor- Dr. Jessica Strübel, College of Business

My research project, Body Image and Dance: Achieving perfection at any cost, examines the relationship between dance, specifically ballet, and body image and body surveillance. Additionally, how the use of mirrors in dance classrooms can contribute to negative body perceptions. I conducted a survey that had 35 female-identifying participants, ranging in age from 18-30 years old. The dancers had experience in ballet, jazz, hip-hop, lyrical, contemporary, tap, and musical theatre styles of dance. This survey was distributed to the URI Dance Company, the URI Ramettes, a sorority on campus, and the 2016 graduating class of Dance Arts Centre Dance School in Long Island, New York. I also conducted a netnographic analysis on 100 Tumblr blogs (a social media/networking site) to observe key words that users cited via hashtags to identify their eating disorders and disordered eating habits. An important distinction to make is “eating disorders” refer to clinical diagnoses such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa, whereas “disordered eating” encompasses both the subclinical conditions and is based on the assumption that there is a continuum of healthy and pathological eating patterns (Krentz & Warschburger, 2011; p. 303). Overall, this study is important because there have been numerous publications examining body image and body surveillance in “ballgame” athletes (e.g. basketball), but there is limited research on how dance, specifically ballet, affect body image and body surveillance. This study addresses the gap in literature within this field of study.

Out of 100 Tumblr blogs observed, the bar graph in the results section of the poster depicts the most frequently used key words in the hashtag descriptions of pictures and content posted. “#Ana”, which is code for anorexia nervosa, was used in all 100 blog posts, “#ed” (eating disorder) was used in 58 posts, and “#thinspo” (thin inspiration) was used in 78 posts. These were the most frequently used hashtags and typically appeared on images of extraordinarily thin females and famous supermodels. Another interesting observation was the use of “#proana” and “#pro mia”, meaning pro-anorexia and pro-bulimia, respectively. The tag “#proana” was used by 44 users and “#promia” was used by 23 users. These tags were used to signal that they support and/or encourage their eating disorder and disordered eating habits. Finally, I observed that the hashtags used were largely targeted towards all audiences and were not gender-specific. For example, “#anaboy” (anorexic boy, n= 1), “#edboy” (eating disorder boy, n= 1) and “#maleana” (male anorexia, n=2), were used only a few times. The high volume of eating disorder and disordered eating related hashtags indicated an exceptionally large community that has been created on Tumblr through the use of code words. These users bond over their certain behaviors, regardless of their gender identity.

The survey scales OBCS (Body Surveillance-Objectified Body Consciousness Scale), GNBCQ (Gender Neutral Body Checking Questionnaire), and SATAQ-3 (Sociocultural Attitudes Towards Appearance Scale-3) demonstrated that individuals who have more years of dance experience have increased levels of body surveillance and identify more with general sociocultural and athletic ideals of attractiveness. Additionally, the Dieting Beliefs Scale suggests that dancers with more years of experience have increased feelings about their weight locus of control, meaning they believe they have the ability to control their weight based on their personal actions (e.g. exercise, dieting, etc.). These findings are consistent with my hypothesis and with previous research that those who have participated in dance for numerous years have increased levels of body surveillance. Regardless of the type of dance that individuals have experience in, the survey data indicated that participants have increased body surveillance across all measures.

The key takeaway massage from this project is that there is a gap in literature and research that examines the relationship between dance and body image and body surveillance. Research is mainly targeted towards ballgame athletes, rather than encompassing both ballgame and aesthetic athletes (e.g. dance). Additionally, there is an increasingly large community of users in online forums that have identified their journey and struggles with eating disorders. Due to the alarmingly high rates of body surveillance, eating disorders and disordered eating habits in dancers and in online communities, there should be more research conducted on this topic to address the severity of this issue. Moreover, additional research could lead to the expansion of treatment and identification processes in an effort to save lives and reform the institution of dance to prevent the extraordinary pressure dancers are under to achieve perfection at any cost.


Dance; Body Image


CAROLYN BOLLERMAN (Political Science, Gender and Women’s Studies)

Body Image and Dance: Achieving Perfection at Any Cost

Sponsor: Jessica Strübel (Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design)

Over sixty years ago George Balanchine, one of the most influential ballet choreographers of the 20th-century and co-founder of the New York City Ballet, set the standards for the ideal ballet body look. These standards include body-long limbs, long neck, flat chest, toned muscles, and a very thin pre-pubescent look. The “skinny dancer” in the 1960s and visible bone structure was not only expected, but viewed as the norm for professional dancers.

Despite the known health risks of extreme thinness, choreographers, teachers, and the institution of dance, as a whole, still perpetuate such damaging beauty ideals. The current study explored how dance, specifically participation in ballet, has impacted the body image of dancers and how the use of mirrors in the studio can may contribute to body dysmorphia. Furthermore, this study examined how gender identity may impact body image in ballet dancers. Quantitative and qualitative data was collected from a sample of dancers (18-30- year-old women) and netnographic observations were made on Tumblr. We examined participation in dance in relation to body satisfaction, body surveillance, and personal experiences in their respective dance classes. Our findings are consistent with preexisting scholarship that suggest a relationship between participation in dance and the promotion of negative body image.