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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Bellies


Guest Jeujeucda

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Guest Jeujeucda

I have noticed a strange thing. In all the pictures, videos, and public imagery of ballet, all the dancers always have flat bellies.

 

At my school, that's mostly true of the little girls too. But the teens are a different story. Sometimes I arrive early and have a chance to watch the advanced students through the studio windows. Their technique is without doubt far superior to us adults, of course. You can tell they've had years of training already.

 

However, many of them also have a very NOTICEABLE belly! From the front they look fine, even if their waistline isn't that "hourglass", but from the side, they have bellies. Their torso have the look of muscles, but overlaid with a layer of, well, I hate to say it, but a layer of fat.

 

I'm wondering why, given they've had so much training. I've only done ballet for about a half year right now, but even I never had that belly look. In fact, I've already noticed a remarkable improvement in my muscle tone and body shape.

 

Jeujeucda

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Sounds like you're looking at a mini-generation of dancers who've been allowed to forget to work their lower abdominals!:)

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Jeujeucda, Mel,

I'm noticing it too. Too much junk food. The American diet has too much carbs and too little protein and fiber. I notice younger children are less concious about their bellies than past generations are.

 

MJ

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It's a fairly widespread phenomenon, and while I have noticed the stats on overweight kids, I don't think it's a primary reason for the saggy bellies. It's the underlying musculature that "lets it all hang out"!;)

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jeujeucda, i have been mulling this one over, not wanting to seem to be offering a contrary thought here....

 

but i do feel it is important that someone says: a belly is a normal attribute of a woman - young or otherwise.

 

a belly is a layer of fat, put there by nature for a reason. developing females acquire one. those dance students who are hell-bent on looking like sticks do all they can to avoid getting one, and to lose it when/if they do get one. they are often very successful. but it IS going against nature...

 

i have found it interesting that, after the 'anorexic' desirable-female image that has prevailed for perhaps the last 35 years (since twiggy's heyday!), models and girls/young women in the street seem to have re-invented bellies (at least in australia, they have!). that horrible (to me) fashion of piercing, and the bare midriff look often draws attention to very normal looking bellies. i have often felt surprised, feeling that, with a belly like that, i certainly wouldn't show it off! (in this regard, my attitudes obviously still belong to the era i grew up in.) but young women DO, now, show off a belly without self-consciousness, or any sense that 'it isn't OK' to have one.

 

when teaching, i often get the feeling that students completely misunderstand comments about use of the abdominals. i see skinny girls who don't use their abs, and don't get told to (or don't think the comment applies to them), and i see 'fatter' girls who think they are being insulted (i.e. told they are 'fat') if you mention abs. the presence or absence of a noticeable layer of fat (i.e. a belly!) and USING the abdominal muscles, are two different things, in my book...but of course i can't comment at all on the physiques of american young people, because i don't see them like mel does. on that matter, i will have to accept his observations.

 

ballet SHOULD tone up the musculature - and most of us (dancers or not) want to feel 'trim, taut and terrific' - but all of you out there who have bellies shouldn't feel there is anything amiss about that.

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Not a problem, grace. Teachers and balletomanes are sort of adult students, too; we just study from a different angle.:) As long as a moderator has taken a whack at an initial answer, additional comment, or even debate is common practice!

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  • 3 weeks later...

I hate it when people judge dancers on the way they look esp on their bellies. I am a small dancer except that I have a bit of a bellie. The reason is that I have had to major operations on my lower part of my stomach therefore cutting away all the muscle. It is people who look at me in a funny way esp at my stomach and judge me as to what kind of dancer I can be, who really makes me sick. I never wear a leotard my itself, always with a t-shirt over because people think that because I have bellie I'm fat or not a good dancer. I resent people like that. They never think to what I have actually been through. If you see a ballet dancer who has a bellie dont automatically think she's lazy or she eats to much junk food. There good be a really good reason. And really I dont think that dancer who has a bellie has to answer to anyone but herself when iit comes to her bellie. Time and time again I have received terrible looks from dancers, and it makes me think who are they to judge me on my bellie. Another girl in my class has a bellie as well, she's a wonderfull dancer but as medical reasons to why she has a bellie. All I'm saying is dont judge a book by it's cover.

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I know something of what you're going through, haylee. I had a major abdominal operation over the summer, and getting the old abs to cooperate again is a beast, but they come back - slowly, slowly. Just keep working, and thinking of using them more and more, and they'll eventually recover. A belly is nothing to be ashamed of, and it can be controlled.:rolleyes:

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Guest WendyMV

Not to be devil's advocate here, but I don't think you can really compare a photograph to reality. We're forgetting that all girls have to go through puberty sometime, which means all sorts of changes to their bodies. Not many girls are going to escape that without gaining a little bit of weight around the lower part of their bodies...hips, thighs, etc. including their stomaches (maybe ABT dancers do, but they the small exception, which may also be why they are there and not a heavier dancer!). Anyhow, this change is what makes us women! I'm sure in many cases maybe they just aren't holding in their abdominals properly but then again, maybe they are! I didn't get rid of my baby fat until I was an adult. I was very thin when I was younger (my best friend's mom used to call me a twig and I hated it!) but I still had my baby face and baby fat until I was 22. I think when girls are that age (12-17 or whatever) because of the many changes in their bodies, the best thing is for the teacher to overlook that and focus on their technique and making sure they are properly executing steps and maintaining their safety. Eventually all of us lose the baby fat stages, and we can only change so much what our bodies develop into. And after all, how many of us really look like dancers from ABT, right? There are so few people that can maintain that body image anyways. It's better to instill a love of dance in girls REGARDLESS of their body type...too many of us girls are SO aware of our body type (being in a leo and tights makes it pretty obvious!) that (especially young girls) need to know that they are beautiful the way they ARE. :( Unfortunately too many girls don't think they are and this is why there are so many eating disorders in the dance world. (If you read the message boards on (I don't know if I can name the site here) but it's another dance website that has a board specifically for these issues, you will read thread after thread of girls who are paranoid about their changing bodies and being too fat. I think it is tragic actually, but unfortunately I can't say that I am not overly aware of my body as well. And it drives my husband crazy if I even mention the word "fat" because I'm not. But being in a profession that is SO completely focused on your body, it's almost impossible not to be obsessed. I think as teachers, (and I have been a teacher, though not currently at the moment) we need to do our best to inspire dancers to be the best they can be and not compare themselves with others.

 

On this issue (but off...) did anyone see the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show last week? Talk about body image...I can't even fathom being that skinny, but look at what us women have to "compare ourselves" to....it's really just plain unattainable for most of us because we simply aren't made that way. And that's what it boils down to...God created all of us in His image, and that means he doesn't create mistakes! So, while there are some things we can control (what we eat, how we take care of ourselves, which unfortunately there are many people who don't) we have to accept ourselves the way we are and what we can't change.

 

Amen....now that I've said that I'm going to not worry about those five pounds I've been torturing myself over. ;) Writing all of this just inspired me. (And by the way, some of those outfits on the VS show were absolutely bizarre...anyone see the mohawk-snake-like one? I can't even imagine what my husband would say if he saw me in that...) :cool:

 

P.S. Sorry if I was a little on the "soap box"!! Us girls have to stick together though! ;)

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YEs, I must admit I was a little worried that some of the young dancers might read this thread and really worry about their bellies. They worry enough as it is and they have nothing. iTs bad enough convincing an extremely slim young dancer that her belly is not fat, when she pinches about 3 mm of skin below her waist and pouts at you. I mean, I say, 'honey, you need that there, otherwise you'd find it difficult to bend !"

I've definatley noticed it more in women when I look at their bellies. The bellie I'm talking about is the little pooch you get just under your belly button. I would so stress about it, then i began to notice that other women have it as well, and they weren't what I would call fat. I live in San Francisco afterall, where everyone here is a health nut.

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Guest beckster

I think the little pooch under the belly button is necessary for women over the age of about 14. After all, women have a few more organs inside them than men do. The little bit of fat that most healthy (even thin healthy) women have, is probably there to protect the womb and ovaries. When women get unhealthily thin, their body shuts down the reproductive system. Personally, I'd rather be fit and healthy than superskinny.

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Oh, THAT??? Who even notices?! I mean, a woman really wouldn't look like a woman without it!:) Don't sweat the small stuff.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I can't name names, but a well know teacher at an arts college cannot tell dance students they are overweight, lawsuits and such.

The most they can tell the student is they are not marketable, which some students may not understand, or misinterpret.

I've also seen overweight students put on point shoes and start dancing in the center, without a warmup at the barre! YIKES!

 

MJ

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I think this "belly dancing" stuff has to do with puberty.

 

In my experience, the teenage girls haven't yet developed the muscles required to really hold themselves well (as a partner, I can tell). As they transition into a professional career, they get a lot stronger and a little bit (just a little) leaner.

 

This all seems quite natural and nothing to worry about. Pre-pubescent girls don't have much muscle or body fat. That all changes with puberty, and takes a while to come to a new equilibrium. I see no reason to artifically short-circut the process as a teenager for fear of being "fat" (where "fat" is still well within accepted healthy weight guidelines); that seems so dangerous to health.

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