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A choreographer confronts eating disorders

Social stigma around eating disorders means that “you don’t talk about these things.”

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Like writers, choreographers are often advised to create work about what they know. Sometimes that can lead to revisiting painful chapters in their lives. Such was the case for choreographer Alexandra Bodnarchuk with Something Pretty, about her and others’ struggle with eating disorders. The work premieres Aug. 18 and 19 at the Kelly-Strayhorn Theater. 

The 26-year-old Pittsburgh native and Ohio University says her problem began at the age of 15, after she tore her ACL running high school track. The sadness that followed from not being able to dance or be active, she says, “led to me not eating, and getting lectures every day from my dad, who was a health teacher at my school.” 

The lectures, and ultimately her own will, allowed her to eventually break the cycle of self-starvation, says Bodnarchuk. But “[i]t’s not something you put a Band-Aid on and is better in a few weeks,” she says. The disease, she adds, stays with you the rest of your life.

Eleven years later, the experience has stuck with Bodnarchuk, too. After meeting others who have struggled with eating disorders and researching the subject, she is doing something about it. She hopes that her 50-minute multimedia work will bring awareness to and create a dialogue about these disorders.  

The work is set to a soundscape by ba Musser, with additional music. The piece physicalizes the emotional and mental turmoil that Bodnarchuk says is experienced each year by some 20 million women and 10 million men with body-image dysmorphia, anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa and other eating disorders.

A cast of eight including Bodnarchuk will examine the many facets of an individual’s relationship to an eating disorder, from societal pressure to look a certain way and a constant lack of self-worth to hitting rock-bottom and choosing to end the abuse.  

The social stigma around eating disorders means that “you don’t talk about these things,” says Bodnarchuk. “I don’t think that’s right, and it’s time we do something about it.”

[Editor's note: This is a revised version of the original preview article on Something Pretty that appeared in print and online, edited for clarity and accuracy.]


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