A former prima ballerina's repeated statements that anorexia is rampant at Milan's famed La Scala theatre have startled the dance corps, which issued a statement Wednesday denying the eating disorder was an issue.
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.
The 33-year-old dancer 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 43 kilograms (95 pounds) as a teenager after teachers called her "mozzarella" and "Chinese dumpling" in front of other students.
Garritano, who joined the theatre 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.
Theater management fired her 10 days ago after she kept repeating the statements, Cella said.
The dancers said they were surprised by the theatre's "drastic" position, but said they did not have all the information about the theatre'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.
The school said it does not employ an in-house dietitian because there have been no critical cases, but it does have three specialists that it refers students to in the case of weight gains or losses "due to an unbalanced diet, or in the case of weight gain due to adolescence, but always from the point of view of the correct intake of carbohydrates, proteins and sugars for the athlete."
The ballet school has 200 students, while the dance corps is comprised of about 90 dancers, including nine female soloists and six male soloists.