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Ballet Talk for Dancers

odds Bodkins


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Let's talk bods! (Things have seemed to slow down now that we have our kids sorted out as to where they are going this summer, and many of us are recuperating from strained backs looking under the mattress for the cash to pay).


Who can shed a little light on what exactly is being looked for in a ballet bod. Here? There? Everywhere? (schools?, companies?, coasts?, countries?) Female? Male? And if what is "acceptable" evolves over the years, in what direction is it evolving? And do some teachers work best with only certain body-types? How strongly does the aesthetic they came up with get ingrained in a teacher, school director, artistic director? Stories of those performers who managed to break the mold are of course welcome as well. :confused:

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An interesting question, syr, but one that is very hard to answer. What SI programs or preprofessional schools are looking for will depend on the age. However, at any age there are certain things that will attract their interest.


Let's start with proportion. They will look for a well balanced proportion, or, one with longer legs and shorter torso. The shorter legs/long torso physique is not ideal for ballet. Long legs, or at least balanced proportions are better.


They will look for a very good foot which is highly arched with a good instep, but also strong. The "banana foot", which is the extreme arch and instep, while it might be beautiful, is often very weak. In a young student the strength can be built. In an older student, if it is still weak, this is a detriment.


They will look for good rotation and extension. Again, with a very young student, they may see potential for this which has not yet developed, but in an older student (like 15 or 16 and up), it had better already be there.


They will look, hopefully, for a sense of style, artistry, and most especially, musicality!


And, they will look for students who pick up combinations and choreography quickly. In my auditions I always do some combinations with accent changes, and a couple that are intentionally different and a bit tricky. I'm looking for the brain, and of course the musicality.


Lastly, or, at least the last of what comes off the top of my head at the moment, is the students attitude. Although I put this last, it is by no means least! A student who is 100% THERE, in the moment, tuned in to the teacher/choreographer/director, listening and watching, trying everything no matter what is asked, responding positively and enthusiastically to correction, THIS is the student that I will take a second, third and even fourth look at, even if it is not the most ideal body!


What company directors look for may or not be any or all of the above. Sometimes when I see companies I have to wonder what they were looking for in the dancers. Other companies it is more obvious. What NYCB looks for may be very, very different from what Houston Ballet, or Washington Ballet, or many other companies look for, and each of those companies are different from each other. It all depends on the artistic director, and of course the repertoire of the company. Some will go for personality and strength of technique over perfection of line and technique, others will look for the later first and hope for personality later. Some expect it all to be there.


Some company directors have also seemed to realize that very young dancers will go through changes physically, and, with a very talented dancer, will be willing to wait for them to make those changes. I am speaking here of the tendency to have some weight problems in the late teens, which often can straighten out and change dramatically by 20 or 21. This is one reason why a second company, like ABT II for instance, can be valid. It gives these dancers time to grow up and get through the tough body changes. Some do, some don't. The apprentice programs can also do that. I have seen that work both ways, however. Sometimes the apprentices don't work enough and they are not really happy in the company and their bodies change for the worse. Then they have no contract. A second company is better, as everyone is working full out all the time, and might avoid some of the boredom and disappointment that sometimes happens when one is an apprentice.


I must add that this does not happen with all apprentices. I have seen a number of them used just as much as regular company, and these are the ones who end up with the contracts.


So, at the end of all this longwindedness, the answer is, it varies a whole lot! :rolleyes:

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Guest aballetmom

WOW! Very informative as usual Ms. Leigh :D) I love reading your replies. You have a wonderful way of answering peoples questions! Glad you are out there to give us this kind of information! Thank you.

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  • 2 years later...

Here's an older thread that's got a very nice explanation by Miss Leigh posted within that I thought might be helpful for those who are trying to get a picture of what's what.


And here is a link to a related thread Ballerina Body that you might find interesting, as well.


Don't forget, if you want to add a post on to either of these threads that is great. :grinning:


And another thread about the ballet body type.

Edited by BW
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