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My Dinner With a Prima Ballerina

On Tuesday, October 25th Seattle Public Library Central Branch hosted “Fit to a T @ Your Library,” a national kick-off program focusing on osteoporosis awareness and prevention (see Dragonfly article “Fit to a T” dated Oct. 11th). The special guest speaker was Patricia Barker, principal dancer for the Pacific Northwest Ballet Company. Ms. Barker talked about her battle with anorexia as a teen and how she learned that her bones were already thinning at that young age. She said many dancers struggle with body image since they spend so many hours a day in studios covered with mirrors. The Pacific Northwest Ballet Company has a full-time nutritionist on staff who teaches at the Ballet School and also observes the professional dancers, watching for too much weight loss or gain in too short a period of time. Sometimes outside factors such as family issues come into play that can cause stress and affect dancers’ usual routines. With help from a nutritionist to develop healthy eating habits, Ms. Barker was able to avoid further bone loss and continues to dance professionally at 42 years of age. She says she jumps rope for at least 5 minutes a day when she is not dancing or if she is traveling. This fits right into the recommendation for weight-bearing exercise as a way to prevent osteoporosis. For other recommendations, visit the web site for the U.S. Bone and Joint Decade at or go to for information about osteoporosis and other conditions.

Following the event at Seattle Public Library, the planning group went for dinner at a nearby restaurant. I always envisioned ballerinas as most likely being “hoity toity.” That perception was quickly shattered by Ms. Barker’s down-to-earth personality and honesty about her profession. And, when she’s not on stage pretending to be a princess, Ms. Barker claims to wear a tiara at home while vacuuming, just to make a mundane task feel special! She said as a result of participating in the “Fit to a T” event, she plans to incorporate bone health awareness into her activities with the dance company. Others involved in the event were: Toby King of the U.S. Bone and Joint Decade, Dr. Susan Ott, Associate Professor at the University of Washington, Howard Fox of Seattle Public Library, Sunyoung Yi of Seattle Public Library, Lisa Oberg of the Health Sciences Libraries at University of Washington, Cathy Burroughs of NN/LM PNR and Gail Kouame of NN/LM PNR.

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