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Ballet Talk for Dancers

History of distorted body ideals?


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DD has already begun to see a difference. :o Her nutritionist has started to explain to her that by eating more protien enriched foods, she is less likely feel hungry all the time. DD said that was one of the first things she noticed. DD is eating either chicken/fish/red meat every day. She has increased her food intake and has lost 1" off her waist! She is still trying to get her mind around the eat more, lose weight and gain strength. I have also started to experiment with tofu. :D I make a soup now that is high in protien, iron and other vitamins and is low in fat and calories. It consists of tofu, spinach, mushrooms, chicken broth (low sodium) and a scramble egg. (add a few spices or even rice vinager for a bit of a tang) It is very easy to make and is a great addition to any meal or can be eaten by itself.

This change of eating habits is not only helping dd, but her mom as well! This has been a very good lesson for both dd and me. We are both seeing the benefits of healthy eating. It effects more than the body....the mind works a lot better too!

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If you get your protein from a source other than meat, don't you have to combine it with something to get the same benefits? I can't remember what.


In nursing school (20+ years ago) we learned that you DO need to combine incomplete proteins with other proteins to get the benefits.


Generally, animal proteins (meat, fish, poultry, milk, cheese, and eggs) are good sources of complete proteins (ie: they contain sufficient amounts of all essential amino acids).


Vegetable proteins (grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and other vegetables) are incomplete proteins because they are missing (or don't have enough of) one or more essential amino acids.


This website has suggestions for combining proteins to make them complete:

Completing Proteins


DD loves peanut butter. I always make sure she has it with a glass of milk and/or whole wheat bread to complete the proteins.

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Amy's mom -


Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for that link! Very very helpful for the veggies/vegans out there!



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I think many times AD's take the blame for young dancers weight issues but I am finding at the moment that the young dancers are very hard in themselves and it is totally initiated by them. All mentors can do is continue to be positive role models reinforce healthy habits and encourage strength and moderation.

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  • 8 years later...

This is an old thread and dates back to 2006. But It seems trends must have changed for the better in the last 9 years. But we are still seeing a favoristism towards certain body types.


My daughter is 5'6" and tiny waisted, long neck and arms, but she does not have the 2/1 leg to torso ratio.Her shoulders are broader than her hips. But her hips are wider than her tiny waist. In street clothes she is very petitie.In the studio she is small to medium, but not a pixie or waif. She also does not appear sporty or athletic, which seemed like the ballet world was starting to accept. But my daughter is niether pixie looking, nor athletic looking. She is somewhere in the middle.


My daughter is 15 years old and 5"6". She does have mini curves.But she has had a tiny waist all her life. At 6 and 7 when some girls had bellies and no hips. My daughter had a flat stomach and a tiny waist line. She is an athlete, as I beleive all dancers are athletes. But she is not at all sporty or sporty looking.Out in public, complete strangers at Starbucks or elswhere have asked if she is a ballet dancer. They thought not only did she "look" like a "ballerina" but she carried herself like one.


However, my daughter does not beleive she has the perfect ballet body, especially based on Balanchine's prefrences. With conversations between peers and articles she has read, she feels she doesn't have the perfect ballet body. In many ways she has all the boxes ticked. But there are a few that are not. Like the 2 to 1 leg to torso ratio. She makes very healthy food choices. In fact, she is very pleased with her body and says she will not put herself through anorexia to achieve something that is not natural or healthy.In fact she feels stronger and healthier as a dancer than the 1 or 2 of her peers who do seem to have "that" body.


Still some of those girls (1 or 2 per level) while not seeming stronger as a dancer, have been advanced ahead of their abilities.These girls who are promoted ahead of their skill set or abilities seem to have advanced based solely on that Balanchine body type. Very sweet girls.No hard feelings. Just a very obvious and clear observation. When there are 12 girls (approx.) to a level, it is pretty easy to spot the girls with those bodies that are technically lagging behind, but have "the Balanchine look" preferred by our school artistic director.


So have trends changed? Our AD is amazing. But very old school.She is sweet and talented, and a great teacher. But does give more opportunities to her preferences. Still, she is not the only incredible teacher in a week that my daughter encounters. I feel my daughter is recieving a well rounded dance education.But I worry about self esteem and body image.Even though she is confident, she does not have that Balanchine preference and she is aware of it.

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I too see what you are seeing in the audition circuit, as well as in the Balanchine school DD is attending. There is definitely a "look", and it isn't always natural or healthy. But, if you have it, it doesn't matter about your technique, how hard you work, or your musicality. Again, no offense to the people who do have the look. Great for them!!! They will succeed in the world of ballet.


Keeping your DD aware of her physical limitations, and healthy in all mental aspects, and a strong sense of self-esteem, is a challenge in this business. It can become very cruel in the professional audition circuit, where AD's dismiss you at he barre before the first tendu based solely on your look.


A great way to look at it is, well, at least they didn't dismiss my dancing, because they never got a chance to see it!!! It's been a hard road, but one we do not regret. College pathway is looking way more fulfilling these days!

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I think it is also important to remember that you can't control the way other people behave (I don't mean your daughter, I mean instructors or auditioners), you can only control your response. Unhealthy habits will not change your bone structure. Eating too little will not make your legs longer or your hips narrower, it will only make your bones and muscles (and eventually your organs) weaker. I'm sure there are many "old school" instructors out there who are looking for a very specific body type, but hopefully there really are a lot of them out there who are willing to look at the whole dancer. I do want to caution against assuming that girls who have "the look" are unhealthy or that their accomplishments are undeserved. To say that if you have the look then nothing else matters and you will succeed is completely absurd.

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This is why it's important not to focus that the end all, be all of ballet is one style. Look at the vast number of companies in the US. Then how many are Balanchine styled from start to finish vs. how many simply do a work or two during the year. If you have Balanchine styled training and end up in a Balanchine company...great! However, there is a much wider view out that. Not much wider, but certainly not as narrow.

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AB's Mom,


You are right. we can not control how people behave or what their preferences are and their decisions based on their preferences.And I guess my question is whether or not the trend is changing a bit to the point where there is enough diversity in body types within the ballet world. So that beautiful dancers with good work ethics, strong technique,musicality and artistic expression will find their way in the dance world.


As a mother of a son and daughter in dance, it is so severely different for boys and men in dance. There are a lot of very stocky looking male dancers in ballet with shorter limbs. My son happens to be one of the longer, leaner dancers out there, with long limbs.Nut I have never heard of a strong male dancer being cut at the bar because he didn't have a 2 - 1 leg to torso ratio.


When I say diversity in body type, I do not mean over weight dancers should be able to find a caree in ballet. I do understand the difference between having too much extra bulk (whether muscle or fat) in order to be a professional dancer and being a young woman and looking more like a young woman than a boy.I wish there was a way to explain. I am just hoping that the trend is to view dancers as individual artists and that newer younger artistic directors hopefully are not set on the preference of a 70's ballet master. Afterall, it has been 40 years.Acceptance of various body types of men is much more apparant in the ballet world. I'm just waiting for female dancers to not have to face such scrutiny when they are thin, even petite, but do not look like little waifs.

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Maybe Berlin or Dutch National Ballet? They are starting the trend of diversity in body types in ballet that don't fit the Balanchine cookie cutter mold, right? any more out there? I heard possibly Austin Ballet? Feedback on what you see out there in the professional world would be great. But maybe this topic is worthy of starting a new thread?

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Texas Ballet Theater has a lovely dancer who looks quite a bit like what you describe. She's been dancing with them for about 10 years.

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Danza2, quite a few of the smaller ballet companies have dancers of all shapes and sizes. My theory is that the better known companies scoop up all the capable long-limbed traditional-look dancers. What's left are often beautiful dancers whose size or shape doesn't conform to that ideal. Since the smaller companies can't employ a large corps, the necessity for identical body types isn't of such a great concern as it is in large companies who need a corps to look as one unit. I know so many non-traditional looking dancers who thrive in those smaller companies. I can easily get on a rant about how much better they dance than many dancers in the corps of large, famous companies, and the reasons why.


Frankly, I much prefer a variety of body types and colors in a ballet company. They add character and texture to the ballet. I want to be able to easily recognize dancers up on the stage. I know not every ballet-goer feels the same. Some prefer the synchronicity of a corps working as a single unit; there is definitely an important place for that in some ballets. But as more companies reduce the sizes of their corps, I think there will continue to be more variety. I'd especially like to see the variety include more color, but that's another thread's worth of posts.

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I know so many non-traditional looking dancers who thrive in those smaller companies. I can easily get on a rant about how much better they dance than many dancers in the corps of large, famous companies, and the reasons why.



Thank you

It would definitely be nice if the focus would shift just a little bit!

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