While on-stage perfection of ballet can appear effortless, Jenifer says dancers subject themselves to things audiences never see. Jenifer says she battled body image issues in her teens and developed an eating disorder in her 20s. "I just started to eat, I think, to comfort myself or to help myself cope. Or I would not eat. I'd start a kind of vacillating back and forth between not eating, anorexia and then just overeating, like compulsively overeating," she says. "Then I started kind of just hating the way I looked in the mirror. ... I equated my worth with my ability to act perfect and how I looked."

This struggle with food at one point even resulted in Jenifer's decision to leave the world of professional dance. "I had left the company and I was probably 30 or 40 pounds overweight. I had a ballet teacher say to me, 'You've just got to come and dance. Come into my class. Listen to the music and dance. You need to be dancing,'" Jenifer says. "And at this weight, which was the heaviest I had been, I remember clearly looking into the mirror and seeing myself at that weight and saying, 'You're beautiful just like that.' It was a huge deal for me to just accept myself like that."

Jenifer says fitness is important in dance, but there is room for more than one body type. "We do have to be honed to a fine point. ... We do need to be thin. We need to be in the best physical place we can be," she says. "But the thing is, there's room for all body types. In my company every body type is represented. We have tall, we have waif-like, we have womanly, we have petite. The danger is when the dancer can't appreciate their own body and starts hating the fact that they're not fitting into the waif-like mold."


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