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Legendary ballet school denies claims of 'rife' anorexia

A former prima ballerina at Milan’s La Scala theatre had said one in five dancers suffered from the eating disorder.

File photo of the La Scala theatre
File photo of the La Scala theatre
Image: LUCA BRUNO/AP/Press Association Images

A FAMED BALLET group at Milan’s La Scala theatre has denied repeated claims by a former prima ballerina that anorexia is rampant among performers.

In a statement, the dancers wrote that they were “flabbergasted and embittered” over Mariafrancesca Garritano’s statements in media interviews and a book that anorexia is widespread, affecting as many as one in five dancers.

“There is no emergency of anorexia, and whoever is part of our reality knows it well,” the dancers’ statement said.

Garritano, 33, was fired last month after continuing to make statements that the theatre considered false and damaging to its reputation, La Scala spokesman Carlo Maria Cella said Wednesday.

Anorexia is typically characterized by an extreme fear of becoming overweight. People with anorexia severely restrict how much they eat and can become dangerously thin.

Garritano first raised the issue of the eating disorder in a book that came out in January 2010. That was followed by media interviews before the season opened last December in which she said she dropped to 95lb as a teenager after teachers called her “mozzarella” and “Chinese dumpling” in front of other students.

Garritano, who joined the theater at age 16 and had recently been promoted to soloist, was initially suspended after interviews, missing a performance with the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow in December.

Theatre management fired her 10 days ago after she kept repeating the statements, Cella said.

The dancers said they were surprised by the theater’s “drastic” position, but said they did not have all the information about the theater’s procedures to draw conclusions.

“At the same time, we do not feel that we can support a campaign against the theatre and the world of dance in general, which we do not agree with and of which we feel victims,” the dancers said.

“To read certain newspapers, and even some internal union statements, it seems that there is one courageous heroine who is fighting solitarily against a hell where many girls suffer in silence with the complicity of everyone else. This is not the case.”

The theatre’s ballet school put out a separate statement saying that all incoming students receive medical exams to ensure that they are fit for a professional dance course.

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Associated Press

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