During the pre-adolescent period, J. decided to try a new experience enrolling in a dance course. She probably knew that she did not have the “typical” physical characteristics of a dancer and that she was maybe already too old to join an already formed group of dancers. But she was looking for something new, after practicing other sports attended mostly by boys. In those activities she could not find what she was looking for in a sport.
This girl appeared different from the others of the group: her body was bursting and robust, with “masculine” characteristics that distinguished her from the typical “female” dancer. Her attitude was also not very delicate and light as commonly expected by ballet and modern dancers. Moreover, the country of origin of the girl also played an important role in increasing the distance between this girl and the rest of the group. She is a Roma coming from Romania and although she had grown up in Italy, local people perceived her as having a “gypsy” look.
From the very beginning, J. was victim of insults because of her body shape and her ungraceful way of approaching the dance. That happened both during classes and in the locker room. She was attacked in particular by the group of the most talented girls, always ready to line up as a group in front of her and laugh at the difficulties she encountered in the discipline. In many occasions, they were discussing about her gender and sexual appearance in presence of J., talking as if she was not there. In particular they could not understand how she could be the way she was, having the body she had. Also J’s mother was targeted, when, like all the other mothers, accompanied her daughter to classes. In fact, the mothers’ group never tried to include the “gypsy-looking” mother of J.
J. and her mother came to the gym avoiding looks and comments, and used to leave in the same way. Often the comments and laughter were fed by the teacher herself, who never avoided talking in very negative terms about the girl, even when she was not attending class. The most difficult and inexplicable episodes occurred at a certain moment of a lesson, when an exercise of “jumps” aroused a lot of anger in the teacher that, observing the girl’s little capacity in the exercise, began to insult her and compared her to an elephant, accompanied by the background of laughter of the other students. What bothered the teacher was J’s lack of harmony. Objectively, J. was often a bit out of time. However, insults, lack of experience in the dance and the difficulties she encountered to integrate into the group worsened the situation.