Classical Ballet and Natural Foods vs. Hip Hop and Processed Foods

November 3, 2011
by Ballet North

It may seem a stretch - no pun intended - but there is an increasingly clear, strong association between successful or limited child development and the consumption of a natural foods based diet or a processed, artificial or "junk" food diet.  Conditions such as allergies, sinus problems, hyper-activity and even Attention Deficit Disorder are all strongly linked to consuming too much processed or junk-type foods by children which are very high in sugars, saturated fats, and low in fiber, vitamins, and good quality proteins.  One of the directors of Ballet North had severe allergies as a child which required weekly allergy shots and was also hyper-active until being placed on a natural foods diet very low in sugar and based on what is today called "organic" foods.  This dietary change eliminated the need for the allergy shots and stopped the hyper-active and nearly ADD symptoms.

The similarity between these two diets - one of processed foods with loads of sugar but no real nutritional value, and the other of natural foods full of nutrients which result in much improved health - is being reflected now in the world of dance by the stark contrast between the study of classical ballet and the taking of "hip hop" type dance classes.  In classical dance, the basis of it is a fundamental question: what is a beautiful line?  And, once you get an idea of what a beautiful line is, how do you go about making it with the human body?  In the pursuit of these questions the body must be enhanced and trained to stretch and control it's movements far beyond what normal day-to-day activities ever ask it to do.  In children this leads directly to a much improved posture, a much better awareness of the body, and greatly enhanced movement of joints like hips, shoulders, and the spine.  The music of classical dance is also on the same quest, the attempt to find what is a beautiful harmony and melody and then playing that in a reliable way for others to listen to.  As young students study this process and learn the subtleties of it, they become able to present epic, grand, beautiful works on stage that can challenge the body and enthrall the audience and tell almost any story, something that is extremely remarkable coming from the very same human body that also has to go the grocery store, mow the grass, or clean the car. 

With the modern dance types like hip-hop, the movements are not interested in finding a beautiful line, but rather in gyrating at the same rhythm as the computer-synthesized music being played, heavily amplified, that is itself only designed to generate essentially a hyper-active state.  Such music is great to listen to in the background while working on something monotonous for adults, but for children a constant diet of this speed rhythm music and gyrating dance goes right back to where a sugary diet leads - a hyper-active mental state where focus, clarity and endurance are not to be found.  This is a harmful state for a child to be placed in because the very development of a child is deeply connected to the mastering of the wild energy swings we all have as kids, not the deliberate amplification of them.  What is even more disagreeable is the stark parallel between the fast-food/junk food industry selling their products to children who crave a hyperactive rush for the sole sake of profit (despite the cost to child development) and the exact same strategy by all those who sell hip hop music and hip hop dance to kids simply because they know that kids are easily addicted to a hyper-active rush and therefore are a sure bet for making profits.  The costs incurred by the child's development being compromised and the parent's worry that their child seems to have ongoing hyper-active, ADD or other systemic health issues are of course completely ignored or worse, spun as being some sort of "un-cool" or "square" behavior by those who "...just don't get it".  What we think is that conning parents by way of their children into activities deliberately designed to addict them to their tendency towards hyper-active behavior especially when spiked by sugary food or speed rhythm music and then disguising what you are doing in the cloak of "coolness" or some sort of cultural statement pretending to make you in the know about things is a total scam worthy of Bernie Madoff.