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Ballet Talk for Dancers

History of distorted body ideals?


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We don't discuss weight on this board because it is essentially meaningless. As noted, height enters into the equation, bone structure, even fluid retention. And many dancers who weigh more are "lighter" when they dance than those who weigh less but are like a hod of bricks! The LOOK is what is important, not some number. And even more, CAN THEY DANCE? I remember a teeny little thing in one company I worked for who nobody wanted to partner. She was utterly impossible to lift. One girl who LOOKED heavier was like a bubble. When you partnered her, you felt as though you were all that was keeping her connected to the ground - she might just blow away!

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I agree - but don't you also agree that it is a good thing for our kids to hear that yes, some professional dancers do weigh 125?? My daughter really thought that she had to weigh less than 110 to even be considered for a company. I'm sure she's not the only one.


This particular dancer who shared her weight is Sarah Vronce - and she is a beautiful classical ballet dancer with a prominent company. In this instance, I feel that this was valuable and helpful information. I would rather my daughter compare her weight with Miss Vronce's rather than the girl next to her at barre who is 5'3.


Let me do say, however, that I do understand your point of view and the site's reasons for its position on this subject and I do respect that.

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For the record: YES, dancers can weigh more than 100, 105, 110, 115, 120 and be hireable. If you hit 200, it might get a little dicey.

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Another problem that I see is that food becomes the only thing that you can control in a world that makes you feel powerless. My DD is 18 and we went to London in December for an audition for a company and were told that we would have an answer in "a couple of weeks". Now, 5 weeks later, it turns out that she won't me told for several more weeks. It is financially prohibitive to fly her home so she is taking class and trying to stay "up" while she waits.


We talk via email and the phone and she is very aware that she is getting weird about food. We talk about what she is eating and I keep on top of it. It is a different scenario than most people have but I am grateful that she can see that a problem may be starting. I hope that we get an answer soon.

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(Sorry, not a parent, but reading this thread with interest)


Just to go back to the discussion near the beginning of this thread about changing heights through the generation: I'm 5'10 and my mum is 5'5. My mum reckons it's down to poor nutrition- she has 8 siblings and they grew up in very poor rural Ireland.


However, on my dad's side, my great-grandma was really tall. She was nearly 6'1- and was born over 100 years ago!!


So although the height thing is a bit inconclusive, I think the proportions of peoples bodies have changed. I read an article in a newspaper (can't remember which one) saying that face shapes had changed hugely in the last 300 years.


Fashion really dictates how thin people think they should be. Look at the whole "heroin chic" thing. Thankfully the general consensus now is that was horribly unhealthy, and the trend for super-thin models is fading slightly... though my model friend has been told by her agency that if she doesn't lose a stone she will be dropped. Madness.


I got a bit of a shock reading through this post, and doing some maths. I use stones and pounds to weigh myself and had to figure out what 100 pounds or whatever was. Eeek!! That's scary light! The BMI of these girls (esp. the gymnast who was down to 90 pounds) must be miniscule. That's so not right.


I'm glad that there are dancers out there who look more healthy. If looking at these dancers could stop just one girl from getting so insecure about her weight, that can only be a good thing. The long term effects of eating disorders are awful (and I should know!) and any teacher who encourages their student to lose weight is completely irresponsible.


Sorry... I've gone off on a bit of a rant....

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  • 1 month later...
I dont know if anyone has gotten the most recent edition of Dance Spirit Magazine, but theres a wonderful article on Ballet Austin. The AD, Stephen Mills, was asked about body types in his company and (sorry i dont have the magazine near me but i'll paraphrase the best i can) he said that he doesn't like wisps and that he would choose a dance who may not have the best body but can dance well over the perfect classical body, but not the best dancer. I was so happy to hear an AD come out and say this, and especially because Ballet Austin is quickly gaining a strong reputation. I will give you all the direct quote as soon as i can.


......She also always brought up Misty Copeland. Who is bigger than a waif! so theres definitely hope!


I'm not quite sure about the rules of posting in this forum. I stumbled across it while doing a search on Ballet Austin and I thought it was an intriguing and valid discussion.


I do have one concern however. I'm concerned about how we name specific dancers as not being "waifs", as thin, or being busty. Whereas I'd like to think a growing number of dancers are realizing that they need to be "fit" and not just "thin", there is still something of a program engrained in us that says "I need to lose weight". It's a constant argument we have with ourselves. I just feel that even with our good intentions at heart we should be careful in naming specific dancers.


A slowly growing number of ADs are realizing, especially the more companies do contemporary work, that they need their dancers to be strong, and "not a pile of bones" (as I once heard Mr. Mills say). But of course there is still the ever present other extreme. A company I won't name, at least up until '01/'02 had weekly weigh-ins of their dancers which were then posted. Even if this practice is no longer going on, this AD is still active, and I doubt his views of a dancers physique have changed drastically.


I'd like to think that "muscle is the new bone" (as a friend of mine once said). More and more dancers these days cross train. We have to in order to keep up with the sort of choreography that's being outputted these days. Whether it's going to the gym, swimming, yoga, pilates or any combination of things, I think it's so important to condition your body. Cross training, as long as you don't overdo it (like those of us who try to keep our same routine when we're sick or injured) can make you a stronger dancer, strengthen your core muscles, lengthen your line, and tone muscles groups that don't get targeted the same way when just dancing. Of course a growing teenager should not do certain activities, but nor should they diet. When students are pressured to be thinner, I think it would be more important to teach them proper nutrition, and encourage participation in a pilates program, or mat class, which alot of ballet schools incorporate these days, it can give them the tools to being a healthy, strong, "fit" professional years later


I also feel that it is important that as our students get older, that they are careful how they reference their weight in front of younger dancers, because we unknowingly influence them. As a student at the age of 13, I remember an older dancer who I looked up to being happy when she could see more bones showing below her collar bone. Since then, even though I know I shouldn't, I think it's beautiful. And thus, again begins my inner argument.


I once worked with a choreographer who over a dinner discussion said "Skinny is not a technique", and it is a motto that I now live by....

Edited by Pointe1432
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great points Pointe1432. i apologize for directly mentioning names, but i just saw it as a great example of a strong girl making it in a large company.

"skinny is not a technique" is a great quote, but i was wondering what exactly is meant by it? i could think of many different ways to analyze it, but i was wondering what it is supposed to mean...

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Remember this: Professional dancers and directors are, by the very nature of their work, public persons, and a discussion of what they do, or how they look is fodder for the public mill. Ballet Talk for dancers takes the view that opinions are those of the posters, and the administration and moderators take no responsibility for any opinions other than their own, personally. As long as a negative point of information is brought up in a manner such as to continue discussion, or provide comment, then it should be all right. Posts or threads which are added with the intention of starting a fight, or providing hurt to someone are neither Protected Speech under the First Amendment, nor are they good for journalism, nor for discussion. This thread has been very reasonable on this particular point, and I'd like to see it continue. Not that anybody's done anything wrong! :shrug:

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very very excellent thread. weight does come up in ballet and discussing it sanely & safely is a relief. my dd has danced since she was very young. dd hasnt had major wiehgt issues-and still doesnt. was very thin as a kid, rounder in preteens, skinny as a young teen & now slim-not-skinny as a mid-teen. when she gains a few pounds for any reason she knows it herself & will askher teacher what they think. either they say 'you're fine' or 'watch what you eat'. i ask her if she's happy at her current weight. [ has great proportions/long legs]. if she says 'no', i ask if she wants to cut snacks [except fruits/veggies] for a bit. she'll say 'i dont want to but i will' & does. it isnt easy. some ballet peers are so thin & eat pizza, fries or whatever they want [including a boy who partners her]. she is now a realist. to feel good en pointe, she prefers to be on the lighter side [for her]. but healthfully so. even when she's gained after holidays dd is considered slim by most-but knows the optimal healthy wieght for her where she's most comfy. for school, she's researched nutrition & read books on healthy food choices for dancers. some of her pals eat almost nothing before comps & auditions-then they compulsive overeat junk. she kindly talks to them about nutrition. people think DD's 'effortlessly thin' but keeping herself at a weight she feels good at takes work-& discipline- like most things in ballet! btw she Loves to eat has no tendencies toward ED's. just likes to feel light especialy for pointework and pas de deux. if each time she asked me -and teachers-, 'am i gaining?' or 'am i at my ideal ballet weight?' we said 'yes' despite seeing she's gained some, i dont feel we'd be serving her. neither teachers nor i ever point weight out to Her; but if she asks us, we do answer honestly & help her with wise food choices seems practical.

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There is an informative article in the April/May issue of Pointe magazine about diet, metabolism and maintaining a healthy appearance. Learning proper nutrition is something that should really be stressed with young dancers. By learning to eat well, a dancer would be surprised by how much they can actually eat, and maintain their weight.

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LooseLegs2: the choreographer who said it basically meant that just because you're "skinny", doesn't mean you can dance. It doesn't mean you can turn, jump or whatever else you're about to be asked to do. He was looking for dancers who could move.

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ahh gotcha, thanks for the clarification! and its so true. there are the dancers out there who have the most perfect, beautiful bodies... but they dont have the technique or artistry behind it, and thats a shame!

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I love to watch all gifted, passionate ballet students, in class and onstage. I tire of hearing, " Her/his body type is all wrong'--before the kid has left the stage or finished class. All too common.

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