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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Body type?


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I've read a lot on here about body types, height, feet... For the life of me I can't truly say what DD's body type is (except that she is short -5'2 at age 14). I would love help figuring it out. It may or may not be a priority, but it would be interesting to know if her body type is an asset or challenge. How can I go about getting your help with this assessment?


I videotaped her performance on Saturday. I managed to hold the camera still for the most part during her jazz dance (which was outside at a festival on uneven brick). I'm not sure of the rules about posting a video or even a link to the video. I understand if it's not allowed. I just thought it might help to see.


Any ideas on how to really figure out body type and feet?

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backstagemom, I understand your curiosity about pinpointing your DD's body type, although it probably still is premature----even if she did reach puberty early. Things change---and can change drastically as children continue to grown and mature. My younger daughter reached menarche just before her 11th birthday, had had a 5-inch growth spurt between age 10 & 11, grew a couple inches each year for the next three, then stopped cold for three years, and then grew another inch (apparently topping out at 5'4", much to her chagrin). Between age 10 and 11, she went from being in the 50 percentile for weight and height to being in the 75 percentile at age 11, and then after a year or two, the percentile went down again. However, her 'body type' currently (age 20) is nothing like her body type was at age 11 . . . or even a 14.


But that's just one kid. I'm sure there are a million others with similar stories-----and a million others with completely opposite stories.


As for our Rules and Policies on posting videos or links to videos, the rule is: We do not permit video postings or links to videos of minors, even if it is your own child. Just not a good idea to have folks pick apart or comment on a youngster in any way, shape, or form. (See the Rules and Policies----a direct link is in the upper right hand corner just under "Ballet" in the banner.)


I would recommend that you ask her teachers for feedback regarding body types and that you check out professional company sites, performances, and videos. Also, reviewing Pointe and/or Dance magazine will give you an idea of what professional dancers look like in terms of body type.

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Thanks dancemaven. I guessed that was the case on videos, and I certainly understand. I will have to ask her teacher when I have a chance.


I have a feeling she is not going to grow. I am 5'4. I thought she would reach my height and possibly surpass it, but it's just not looking that way anymore. I think she takes after my mom who is 4'9. My DH is only 5'7 (short in his mind only).

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Hi backstagemom, I also think it's very hard to ascertain when your daughter's growth is complete as well as what she will actually look like at that point. The way both my two grown kids, ages 26 and 31, look now is completely different from how I'd thought (many years ago) they'd look as adults. Both of them continued to grow in their early twenties despite having supposedly finished their growth spurts, according to their doctor. Also, their shapes have continued to change even while their height is now stable. Their bones and musculature are packaged differently on their frames than they were when they first stopped growing. So I think it's an exercise in futility to try to figure it out at your daughter's current age.


Just enjoy it!

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I can relate the body type issue, but so much does change in a young dancer's life. My dd also reached menarche just before her 11th birthday, but never had a big growth spurt. She just grew steadily and stopped at about 5'3" and she is a young 15. Her body has changed a lot during her training, even when the numbers didn't. Right now her muscles are looking longer. Her feet are bigger than one would think which makes her seem taller when en pointe. She's also reaching the point in high school where she is thinking seriously about her dance career. She is evaluating other things besides classical ballet. This has some things to do with her body type, and some things to do with the fact that she realizes her training can take her into other realms besides just a ballet company.


Asking a teacher is a good start, but pick a good teacher to ask. Teachers, just like AD's, can have very specific likes and dislikes. I once asked a teacher what he thought of my dd and he pretty much told me my dd would never be a classical dancer and should look to other forms of dance. He listed a few limitations she had. Having a science background, I knew that some things might be limitations of puberty and growth, such as flexibility. Sure enough, when she takes lower level classes now, students comment on her flexibility. Who would have ever seen that coming?? ;) But her shorter arms and legs compared to her taller peers are a definite limitation that she can't do much about, and that was something important to that particular teacher. Another of her teachers comments on dd's musicality, so that is an asset that translates to other dance forms if dd wishes to pursue other training. So there are assets beyond body type that make a good dancer.

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Some of the posters on this thread sound so discouraged, but your dancers are young! And I don't think that a height of 5'2" - 5'4" means that your dancer doesn't have a shot at a professional career. There are plenty of petit professional dancers out there.


Haha, LauraR... my daughter (18) is also one of the shorter girls with big feet! She still has that long limbed ballet build & often looks taller on stage than some of her peers who have a couple of inches on her! :) She is always told that she dances "big" too.

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DD is not discouraged, but realistic. She knows that not all AD's and teachers appreciate her muscular body. Some just prefer longer and willowy. And you know what...that's OK. :innocent: If everyone was the same it would be a boring world. Aside from body type, she's looking at the professional ballet world in general which includes moving around, periods of trainee and apprenticeships, etc. I really don't think 5'2"-5'4" is too short to dance ballet. You just have to find a place to fit in, regardless of any dancer's height, body type, or personality.

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I was under the impression that 5'2-5'4 is rather normal for ballet. Is there an "average" height range?

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That would tend to be on the shorter side these days. I don't know if there is an average established or not, but my guess for a median would be in the 5'5-5'6 range. Female dancers range from 5'1 or 2 all the way to 5'9 or even 6'0. :)

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So it sounds like all of this "My DD is tall, or my DD is short" or whatever doesn't really mean much, right?

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It means they may encounter similar challenges at the opposite ends of the spectrum. It means they will be paying closer attention to company audition notices that list minimum and maximum height requirements. It means that a job offer may depend more upon which guys are hired or are available than some other dancer who is hired.


The ends of the spectrum (height-wise) are fluid depending on companies, ADs, perceptions, and the moon. It's something to deal with on the audition circuit and not something worth spending a great deal of time stressing about until it is time to audition for companies. It can't be changed, so the dancer must learn to select those companies that he/she is most likely to fit into---and that changes as the company roster evolves and revolves.

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backstagemom, my understanding is that height, short or tall, can limit a dancer's opportunities when a particular company is looking for a specific shape to fill. Some companies list height minimums and maximums for their auditions when this is the case. There are still many opportunities to audition and many many talented dancers auditioning for a few spots. I don't think any dancer should let their height keep them from trying, especially those who are just on the fringes like it sounds like the posters on this thread are. *haha posting at the same time as dancemaven.

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I do not have the experience that these other posters have, but agree wholeheartedly. This is what I have told my dd all along since she has always been on the fringe during her training in one way or another. She is the muscular, compact dancer in a company affiliated school of students who are not, for the most part. I have always encouraged her to dance with her strengths, whatever they are at the time. There have been years that seem easy and some that have been struggles. Some teachers do not think she has a ballet body type, some do. It is a very subjective issue. DD knows that some SI's and companies would not be a good fit for her based on the type of dancer they are looking for. But so much is available; she focuses on where she would fit. Auditions list height requirements if they have them. As artistic directors change, preferences change, so you never know what a company will be looking for in the future. Our company has had three AD's in the past decade. Each time, the type of dancer hired has changed in a very noticeable fashion.

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And it's not only preferences that factor in..... many times it's where the hole may be left by a departing dancer, if any. So if I have a corps that ranges, but most of my dancers are around 5'5", odds are if one leaves, it will likely be one of them, so I need another dancer who is similar in height and build to fit the departed dancer's costumes without issue.

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I'm no expert so this is just my opinion only, but I don't think height really matters much for a dancer who is a principal or soloist, but I think it would be an issue if the dancer was in the corps, as they probably arent' going to want someone who will stick out by being either too tall or too short. My dd is probably going to top out at 5'4" max so there have been discussions about her potential for a professional career. As long as she doesn't take the attitude that it's NYCB or nothing, there are plenty of good companies out there, and she just has to find the place she fits best.

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