Dance And Diabetes: Mathilde’s Passion And Experience As A High-Level Dancer

Hello everyone and welcome to a chapter of my life. I am Mathilde, I am 29 years old and I feel like I have lived a thousand lives. I have had Type 1 Diabetes since the age of 12 and with my hypers and hypos, I have traveled the world, I have been a beautician, a store manager, a project manager and now an interior decorator, but most of all a dancer. Let me tell you about it.

We are in June 2006. I can’t wait to be on vacation at the end of the month. I am impatiently waiting for the answer from the Conservatoire de Danse d’Avignon following my application to the sport study section of high level dance.

Dance has always been a part of my life. More than passionate about this art, I was convinced that I could become a dancer. I was confident in my technique, still so fragile for the time, but mentally I was ready to leave my family and friends to live my dream.

A Not So Quiet Month Of June

For the beginning of summer, the temperatures were not so good.

I was thirsty all the time, intensely so during the day and night.

Nothing to worry about and yet dark circles had settled on my childish face. My dancer’s body was getting thinner by the minute. My body was screaming from the inside.

On June 17, 2006, My Life Changed 

I would have liked to tell you that my life changed with that letter from the conservatory that I had been waiting for, but not on that day. On June 17, 2006, I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.

The first question I asked the doctor was: Will I be able to continue dancing? The answer was obviously yes, but at what cost for the time. 

I stayed in the hospital for a week where I was taught to inject myself several times a day, to control my blood sugar (levels) and to weigh my food… My life as a little girl had changed, but not completely. I could hardly wait to put on my slippers and dance.

The Big Departure

A new upheaval took place this summer 2006, this time much more joyful. I finally received my letter from the Conservatoire d’Avignon, I was accepted in September.

I was finally going to make my dream come true and follow a sport study program in dance. In the morning, I was in class at the middle-school and in the afternoon, in the dance room at the Conservatory. A steady rhythm from Monday to Saturday where luck and improvisation have no place and work is a must. 

In dance, I excelled! I was first in jazz dance, first in contemporary dance, I loved my classes, I loved my teachers, I loved my life at the boarding school with my friends.

Diabetes was more complicated. The pace was so hectic that I forgot about my chronic disease. Seventeen years ago seems like such a short time ago, and yet… there weren’t all these devices, sensors and miniaturized insulin pumps that we know today and that make it easier to manage diabetes on a daily basis. 

Like before every sport, when you dance, you need to check your blood sugar levels before you enter the gym to make sure you don’t have hypoglycaemia or hyperglycaemia. Just make sure you can enjoy your class and the moment without diabetes getting in the way. 

Too Intense A ace

Unfortunately, I had to stop studying sports when I entered high school. Not because of my level in dance, which was quite good, but because no doctor wanted to take the responsibility of following me with the intense rhythm imposed by high level sport. I couldn’t balance my diabetes anymore, I was so young and without medical support… There was nothing left to do but quit. Between you and me, I wish I was 14 years old in 2023. 

2023: Dance Continues To Be The Rhythm Of My Life 

I’ve grown up, I’ve taken a step back and here we are in a “more connected” era.

I’m still dancing and I’m still diabetic, as you might have guessed. Today I do African dance and believe me it is intense! 

I don’t think one style of dance affects your blood sugar or your diabetes balance more than another. If you are fully aware of your diabetes management, then you can dance for hours. Today, managing diabetes is easier than it used to be. Management solutions exist today so that you can live and enjoy your life to the fullest.

After the Conservatory, I had to mourn the career I had long dreamed of. Now I still dance, I don’t spend as many hours dancing as I used to, but I am free from the weight of the thought that I might one day be forbidden to dance. 

To end this article, I can only tell you to put on some music and dance. 

“Dancing is like talking in silence. It’s saying lots of things without saying a word” – Yuri Buenaventura

Beautiful escape.


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