You have only to google the words ballet and anorexia to see how prevalent and unfortunate their connection is. Without going into the various theories relating to a complicated disorder, it’s enough to know that anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness and though there have been some advances in treatment, there are still many unsolved questions and too many sufferers and victims. So it’s particularly perplexing that the New York City Ballet company has chosen to use the graphic designs of Jamie Lee Reardin on their playbills, brochures, ads and posters. These are attenuated line drawings of dancers in various poses - most of the bodies needle-thin. Though they are clearly abstract renderings, the elevation of these stick figures to the role of representing the company sends a dubious message that this unnatural and severe elongation is a thing of beauty.
Ms. Reardin has a background in fashion illustration - fashion being the second profession overpopulated with anorexic women. Judging from her head shot online, she appears to be a very thin person herself. Her cover design for the NYC Ballet’s Schools Program brochure offers these Giacometti-like figures in action poses, looking enegetic and vigorous despite their dangerous size. If this style of drawing were used to advertise anything that had no association with young women starving themselves, it might be properly admired for its exaggerated sense of rhythm, but as the logo for a prominent ballet company, it looks dangerously morbid, as if skeletons were dancing.
Considering the many voices raised in protest against Barbie, recent attempts by the modeling industry to discourage the use of very underweight girls and even the inclusion of dancers with heftier body types - Sara Mearns for example - in the company, the NYC Ballet should reconsider this new branding campaign. Mainly it should think about this alarming statistic: The mortality rate for anorexia is 12 times higher than the combined death rate fom all causes in females 15 - 24 years old. There is nothing pretty about that.
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