The "Ideal" Body Type for Dancers

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For as long as I can remember, I have enjoyed attending many ballet productions. My favorite has to be seeing my dreams come to life through The Nutcracker ballet at Lincoln Center, performed by the New York City Ballet. I remember being mesmerized by the dancers’ technique and overcome with the desire to join them. I just wanted to be one of the perfect ballerinas. Now, thinking back to this moment in time, I notice that that is what those dancers were, “perfect” ballerinas, or at least by certain standards. Each girl in the ensemble was tall with the longest legs. And every one of them was also so skinny and had the most beautiful features. Why were these the only girls that I saw?

All around the world, from the United States to Russia, ballet companies have built certain standards for themselves. These could be in their techniques or in the dancers they cast. At any one of these companies, one would probably find few girls that are short, have curves, or large breasts. Maybe it’s because girls with those features simply aren’t good enough. Maybe all the tall, skinny girls just happen to be the ones better fit for the job, but I find that extremely hard to believe. Walk in to any dance school around the country, whether professional or amateur, and you will find girls of all sizes receiving the same training. The girls who don’t have the certain “look” don’t get cast because they don’t look the way the company’s choreographers and directors want them to look.

I find this unfair and ridiculous because the way a girl looks shouldn’t define the kind of dancer she is, or what she is capable of. Some of the girls with the curves or who are short might have some of the best technique possible, but because they don’t have the “ideal” body type that has been created for dancers, they are ignored during casting. I know plenty of shorter, curvier girls who could dance circles around me, even though to most I might seem like I have perfect technique or am the perfect girl to dance. I am told on numerous occasions that I look like a dancer, and this is before anyone has ever seen me dance. Yes, I take pride in the fact that I am tall and on the thinner side, but it shouldn’t define me as a dancer. In the future, I would hope to get cast based solely upon my dancing ability, and not the way that I just happen to look.

The point that I’m trying to make is yes, I do believe that by today’s standards, an “ideal” body type has been conceived for dancers, but this has to stop. Females come in all shapes and sizes, but if they all share the same love and passion for dance, then why does it matter what they look like? A selfish director would only care about who would look best together or who would fit into the costumes that he already has, but a smart director would not care what it takes. He would want to cast the women who demonstrate the most talent for the job, even if they are fat, short, or of another ethnicity. Dance has turned in to a universal art form, and that’s exactly what it needs to do. Dance needs to show the world how united all people can be through dance no matter what they look like.





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LeahTW This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 25, 2011 at 8:05 pm
great job Kim!
 
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