Alessandra Addari / Culture

Interview – Mariafrancesca Garritano: “My good fight deserves to be fought”

The interview with the Italian ballerina fired from La Scala Theatre after she confirmed the scientific research results that a large number of dancers suffer from eating disorders.

Last December the former soloist at Scala Theatre Mariafrancesca Garritano, alias Mary Garret, was fired for image damage from the theatre of Milan. She wrote a book called The Truth, Please, About Ballet and in an interview to the British newspaper The Observer she spoke about anorexia and eating disorders even at her prestigious ballet company. A few days ago the Labour Court of Milan rejected her request for reintegration into her job but she claims she will continue her fight because “when you tell the truth you should never be afraid to go all the way”, as she declared.

The Court of Milan ruled in favour of Scala Theatre in this first phase of the trial. Will you oppose the ruling?

The decision was taken at an early stage summary, before they even heard any witnesses, and therefore certainly I will pose the ruling! It’s a good fight, undertaken in spite of myself, but I intend to fight to the end.

How do you think it will end?

In my favour. I have always believed in justice and I trust that this matter will be evaluated with all the necessary attention, getting to the heart of the problem and seeing the real meaning of my words. Things can always get better.

Is there a connection between anorexia and the dance environment or even sport in general?

There are numerous studies showing occurrences of eating disorders in professional environments and in dance schools, but anyone can get ill of eating disorders because it is a common disease in many environments and not just in those environments in which the a healthy body is of the utmost importance

How does an eating disorder start?

The causes can be many and are very deep. I can’t answer in detail because I am not a doctor, but the studies that I told you about demonstrate what can be the precipitating factors both in schools and in corps de ballet . It was found, in fact, that one of the reasons can be the competition between dancers covering the first roles. But it was also shown that one of the main difficulties is that often people deny they have a problem. Eating disorders are progressive diseases that are aggravated because they are ignored and not diagnosed in time.

Also the director of the Royal Ballet has recently raised the problem. Why do you think there has been so much reticence until now?

I think because they want to maintain the status quo… The need to hide behind the “body of a dancer” without have to admit that there is a wrong way of thinking inherited from the past that can and must be changed. Changes always scary but the studies that I mentioned demonstrate that is not possible sustain this culture that has been dominant until now.

 How do you respond to those who accuse you of raising this issue just to advertise your book?

I don’t have to defend myself against allegations dictated by the lack of knowledge of myself and of my story. I do not think there is anyone who wants to risk losing the job of his life just for a bit of publicity. Those who read my book and followed my story know that everything is much simpler and more true than how they [my detractors] describe it.

What is the purpose of your fight?

It’s to raise as much awareness on this issue that affects a lot of people. In Italy I’d like to see more specialists monitoring the path of the dancers, who are too often left alone in dealing with their troubles. In Italy there is not yet a national day dedicated to these diseases however along with Mi Nutro di Vita, the association that appointed me honorary member, we are struggling to get one established on March 15, when the president of this association lost his 17 year old daughter to bulimia.

Looking back, would you do everything you have done again?

Of course! The problem is too big to put my personal interests before those of many other people. You can’t imagine how many emails and messages of thanks I get from girls, dancers and other people: they give, in my battle, the strength to return to hope. I have said some simple things and the debate that resulted from it is the most comprehensive answer.

 Alessandra Addari

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