Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oh boy, the weight issue

So I'm guessing you've probably already seen or heard about the whole "too many sugar plums" controversy? Alastair Macaulay has managed to bring up weight in ballet again (as if most of the ballet dancers in the studio don't confront that every day). Jennifer Ringer, the Sugar Plum in question, was interviewed on Today Show (most interesting how she says NYCB has a variety of body types...). And Mr. Macaulay's response in print was basically that he didn't make the ridiculous body image standards of the ballet world, he just enforces them.

In addition to the body image issue that touches off women's personal reactions, the fact that the Black Swan ballet movie has just come out means it's even more appealing to mainstream media. No one is interviewing "downtown dancers" in the wake of another of Mr. Macaulay's online "controversies"--the fact that as the NY Times dance critic, he really only has an interest in classical forms, and a handful of the more musical of contemporary choreographers. I guess that story doesn't have as wide an appeal of course, it's pretty much only offends the downtown NY dancers (and their audiences) that he doesn't pay them any attention.

But back to the weight issue, who hasn't had body issues of one kind or another (if you're somehow lucky enough not to have weight as one of those) that come up as a dancer? As everyone points out, your body is your tool for making the art and so there you are. And in ballet especially, the "facility" required for professional dance is really freakishly rare. I've wondered sometimes what's worse, the old school communist style recruiting where kids were chosen specifically for their "facility" and made to dance whether they wanted to or not, or the democratic every girl in a pink tutu version, where they let you dance your heart out as a kid only to have it crushed by the realities of your genetics as you grow up.


  1. Thank you for posting this. Body image is an issue that every dancer struggles with. The most exciting and inspiring dancing comes from artists who know how to fuel their bodies like the athletes that they are.

    As a former professional dancer and now as a nutritionist for dancers, I am honored to get to work with some of the best at the Centre for Dance Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyles.

  2. It's great that you offer this service for the Atlanta community, Emily. DanceUK, a service organization for the UK as the name suggests, has an area of focus devoted to nutrition and other health issues for dancers. Do you feel that a DanceATL meeting could be devoted to discussing this topic? Are there others you feel could join you in presenting information? Email at info@danceatl.org and we can discuss.

  3. There's great points in this article! This sugar plum controvesy has got me annoyed. Dancers need to be thin, but they need to be healthy too. I have seen far too many sickly looking ballerinas on stage whose boney figures create stark, unsightly lines. I would rather see a slightly fuller, fit and healthy looking dancer on stage with muscle tone. Your body is your instrument, so it needs to be finely tuned. As long as a dancer is eating well, healthy and active (which they are, dancing hours and hours a day), then we shouldn't make comments about their size. If they have made it into the NYCB then they are pretty fabulous as far as I'm concerned... :)