NY Times Dance Critic: Nutcracker Dancers Hefty?

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by soxxy, Dec 10, 2010.

  1. soxxy

    soxxy Guest

    "Hefty," my word.

    Alastair Macaulay's review of this year's Nutcracker at the New York City Ballet:

    I suppose many of us would like to look this way....in our dreams (note he says the dancer he deems "brilliant" has a "tough-grained hardness":

    http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2010/12/04/BALLET.html

    Full review:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/29/arts/dance/29nutcracker.html?_r=1&scp=4&sq=Nutcracker&st=cse
  2. vesperholly

    vesperholly Well-Known Member

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    GMAFB. It's hard to see most of her body in that picture, but I'm sure she's fine. I'd prefer to watch ballerinas that look like they keep solid food down instead of dancing skeletons.
  3. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa Port de bras!!!

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    Most of us are not principal dancers in major ballet companies, eys? You cannot apply street standards to top ballet dancers. Although it's hard to judge from these pictures whether the assessment of "hefty" is accurate. But if a dancer is heavy for ballet standards (extreme case, think Rachael Flatt's physique), it's impossible to create the lean, long look expected in classical ballet.

    Given all that, I do think that one of my favorite ballet dancers ever, Diana Vishneva was too thin in Don Quixote but the dancing is still superb.

    Here in Sleeping Beauty she looks healthier and dances just beautifully. I am such a Vishneva uber. :shuffle:
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2010
  4. Schmeck

    Schmeck New Member

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    I'm thinking it sounds more like 'heavy on one's feet' than a body measurement - laborious instead of light of toe? Like how one feels and moves after a big meal?

    Must say though - some of the dancers in the blue/white snow photo looked a bit 'hefty' for ballet dancers, but that could just be the costumes, the sizing of the photo, or the body positions.
  5. Gazpacho

    Gazpacho Well-Known Member

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    No, as a ballet follower, I'm pretty sure it meant body measurements.

    Jennifer Ringer's problem isn't fat, it's her proportions. People with long limbs can put on extra weight without affecting their line. People with shorter limbs, like Ringer, look dumpy with just the slightest bit of extra weight. In fact, even the slightest bit of extra muscle will destroy their line. Ringer, like almost all ballerinas, has heard endless comments about her weight, but usually behind closed doors, so the critic wasn't saying anything new.

    However, to phrase it that way so publicly is insensitive because anyone who follows ballet knows that Ringer has previously battled an eating disorder. He could have gotten the point across by saying she looked a bit out of shape, but that would probably improve as the season goes on--a true statement because the added practice and performance makes dancers thinner by the end of the season.
  6. soxxy

    soxxy Guest

    Gazpacho, et al, any comment on the man? I've heard these criticisms of ballerinas.
  7. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa Port de bras!!!

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    It's hard to judge from that picture. Possibly a little soft around the waist, or is it the costume? I can't really tell.
  8. Gazpacho

    Gazpacho Well-Known Member

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    Also, the Sugar Plum Fairy is not a waif character like Giselle or Manon. A waifish Sugar Plum Fairy would be as out of character as a plump and robust Giselle. So weight is a legitimate issue for critique, but I believe it should be done sensitively and spoken of in terms of the dancer's ability to execute the steps and embody the character.

    I'm not that familiar with Jared Angle and haven't seen him dance and thus can't comment on his body line and proportions. But in general, men don't get nearly the number of weight comments as females do, both in and outside the ballet world. That's not to say there aren't men with body image disorders, but that in general, female ballerinas get mean nasty weight comments far more than men and are more likely to be affected by them since the competition among female dancers is so much stronger. In addition, long lean lines aren't as emphasized for male ballet dancers.
    Last edited: Dec 10, 2010
  9. Skittl1321

    Skittl1321 Well-Known Member

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    Although I think it was unnecessary to comment at all, the way he did it was really out of line. It was completely an after thought put at the end of the review. There was no point to the comment except to get a jab in.
  10. vesperholly

    vesperholly Well-Known Member

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    He was definitely talking about her eating habits: "Jenifer Ringer, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, looked as if she’d eaten one sugar plum too many."

    I would think a writer of sufficient caliber to be published in the NYT could think of a better way to say heavy on her feet than that.
    deltask8er and (deleted member) like this.
  11. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa Port de bras!!!

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    Yes, I think snarking like that here on FSU is one thing but putting in print in NYT is another.
  12. Rob

    Rob Beach Bum

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  13. Schmeck

    Schmeck New Member

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    OK, I stand corrected - the guy is an ass. Why does ballet have to be about body shape? Because we say it has to? Because it's traditional? Well, there are quite a few traditions that we as human beings have decided are arcane and unneccessary. I'd like to see the brittle ballerina tradition tossed out the window too!
  14. Marlowe

    Marlowe Well-Known Member

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    Not surprising for Alistair. He can be brutal.
    In my opinion he's just being self-indulgent by making this crack. It's totally unnecessary.
  15. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa Port de bras!!!

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    What should ballet be about if not about lines and shapes and grace and precision? Not svelte enough for ballet? There are other dance traditions. A ballerina should not look brittle, she should be long, lean and strong.
  16. bardtoob

    bardtoob Well-Known Member

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    It's not the costume. He probably has 6 pack abs but he is not nearly as lean as some would expect from a male ballet dancer. His waist would come in more. I bet he is between 15-20% body fat rather than 10-15%.

    However, I do not believe that would effect his ability to perform, in terms of athletic ability, as much as it influences his lines aesthetically.
  17. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa Port de bras!!!

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    While I believe that maintaining a certain weight and look is important in ballet, horrible things as a result of eating disorder can happen.

    This is the story of Heidi Guenther, a ballet dancer from California who died suddenly at the age of 22. I think her death was a result of a combination of a genetic heart condition aggravated by an electrolyte imbalance caused by the abuse of laxatives. But that's just my opinion. OK, that's also the coroner's opinion in so many words.

    I knew Heidi a little and have seen her dance--she was a lovely dancer.

    Here's the story: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/e/a/1999/04/04/MAGAZINE2036.dtl&ao=3
  18. ballettmaus

    ballettmaus Well-Known Member

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    Exactly. Ballet is all about lines, every movement is about creating a line. There's a reason why some children don't even get accepted to ballet schools because they don't have the right body types.
    I don't think this dancer looks particularly overweight, however, overweight dancers do bother me.
    Bardtoob mentioned the right word: aesthetic. That's what's it about and being overweight and aesthetic doesn't go together in my opinion.

    One of the girls I train with was sent home before the audition even started not too long ago because of her weight. She's trained and she doesn't look "fat" but she's overweight and the choreographer couldn't be bothered with her.

    Of course, eating disorders are the other side of the story; I think dancing as a professional is very hard on the mind and body and it's a very thin line between eating healthy and maintaining your weight and lines. There's a lot of pressure on the girls especially and it already starts in the schools, so I guess, something should be done about it there.
  19. mag

    mag Well-Known Member

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    I would say this is an example of "long, lean and strong," but I just can't even imagine the work and self discipline it must take to maintain that kind of shape - especially after having two kids!

    http://www.ballet.ca/thecompany/principals/sonia_rodriguez.php

    If you are not born with the right body type, being a ballerina would be brutal.
  20. Anita18

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

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    I do agree that if ballet is to remain as physically stringent as it is (I have a BMI of 17 and I would still be too fat for ballet, judging by pics of these dancers :yikes: ), steering the dancer towards other disciplines is certainly healthier than pressuring them to lose weight at any cost.

    The Balanchine ideal just looks unhealthy to me, though. :shuffle:

    Some people are naturally very lean and slim, but it looks like a lot of work on Sonia. She's looking rather skeletal. :eek:
    flutzilla1 and (deleted member) like this.
  21. Gazpacho

    Gazpacho Well-Known Member

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    This is what I was alluding to earlier. Jenifer Ringer has shorter limbs than the average ballerina. If she puts on even the least bit of extra weight--whether that weight is in fat or in muscle--her line is compromised. A ballerina with longer limbs can put on the same weight without her line compromised.

    Chances are, Jenifer Ringer ate the same number of sugar plums as any other ballerina (most likely zero), but it's more noticeable on her because it affects her line more.
  22. skatemommy

    skatemommy Well-Known Member

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    I think she and her partner are beautiful and this reviewer is a wannabee A$$! Good riddance to this pig!
  23. Jubak

    Jubak Well-Known Member

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    They look just fine. And if he thinks the guy was heavy, what on earth did he think of one of NYC Ballet's best dancers, Jock Soto? Fabulous and solidly muscular. I loved watching him and was so sorry he retired, except all good careers in ballet come to an end.
  24. gkelly

    gkelly Well-Known Member

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    I have a problem with this, which is one reason I'm not so interested in ballet any more.

    Traditions change; why should Balanchine's personal aesthetic define body types for the whole art form?

    These dancers look thin but not brittle.

    There was a woman in my ballet class in college who was bigger than I was (and even at my fittest I was overweight by normal standards let alone ballet standards) -- but she was a great dancer, and specifically a great ballet dancer. She must have started young and kept with it even after her body changed. She'd never get a job with a traditional ballet company; I think that says more about the limitations of the ballet world's vision than about this dancer's limitations as a dancer.
  25. Ozzisk8tr

    Ozzisk8tr Well-Known Member

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    You don't pass exams if you have the wrong body type. I remember years ago I saw a Spanish ballet company touring here do Carmen. The lead was "hefty" for the day (most ballet dancers of that time were Ballanchine influenced stick figures) but she had amazing technique and performed a great role. I must admit, I do love a stick thin persons line better, but not at the expense of health.
  26. emason

    emason Well-Known Member

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    Actually, the reviewer is a well-known and highly respected dance critic; it was a coup for the Times to get him.

    I think some of you irate fans are missing an important point; he is not comparing these dancers to some ideal type that he thinks is better. He's comparing them to what they looked like at the beginning of this season or the end of the last. AM reviews City Ballet on a regular basis and has seen Ringer and Angle dance dozens and dozens of times; he's just commenting that at the moment he finds them slightly out of shape. Since I haven't actually been to City Ballet since mid-September, I don't know if he's on the mark or not. In general, I avoid this particular Nutcracker like the plague; I've been in NY for 38 years and I'm just sick of this production.
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2010
  27. Rob

    Rob Beach Bum

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    Haha, that guy could eat (and drink). He'd eat his meal and finish the rest of our meals too. He was so fabulous. A great performer and a great guy. But he had people on his back about being too fat all the time.

    Ringer has soft muscles - she's not the willowy sinewy style dancer. She doesn't look out of shape to me, but she does look a bit heavier than she was the last time I saw her. Weight does change line. I don't know her personally, but I have read that she burnt out, took time off, and has had battles with eating issues. She went to my school (much later than I did), and my teacher pointed her out to me when she was a kid. She was always a strong dancer. But if she was that heavy, they'd flip out on her so I am sure she is fine.
  28. danceronice

    danceronice Corgi Wrangler

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    I just saw the Bolshoi's Nutcracker on the Battle of... the other night and I recall I thought some of the girls dancing snowflakes would be getting browbeaten into laxative abuse in the US (or probably even in the Kirov.) Seriously muscled legs on short girls (and really, in ballet, most are short, EXCEPT in NYCB) look "hefty" but I would not call them unfit. Not least because I'd be afraid they'd kick me with toe shoes. (Also because none looked in any way winded.) Even the principles didn't have that ropey, emaciated look some of the allegedly "willowy" girls too.

    Really, if you can be long and willowy while still maintaing a decent fat layer so you don't look like a crone, that's one thing. (Look at the YOUNG Susan Farrell, during her first time with NYCB--she was long-limbed and slim, but she didn't have the sunken look and wirey veins and muscles. Or, heck, look ten years before THAT at the kind of shape and muscle Balanchine himself used--much more old-school strong legs, and he worked with that.) If being 'willowy' means aging ten years because you have less than 5% body fat, it's really not attractive. (Like that Don Q. video. Her arms are disgusting.) You can see when super-slim people are that way naturally or whether they're below where they should be.

    Personally, I prefer the power the strong Bolshoi legs give, but there are not a few Kirov/Balanchine type girls who can maintain the willow look without sacrificing youthful skin or stamina. Both to me are acceptable styles, provided the dancers are able to perform and look healthy doing it.
  29. Jubak

    Jubak Well-Known Member

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    One of the most willowy on stage is Wendy Whelan, but god, in some costumes & in person she is soooooo skary skinny. I am always amazed that these young women have the energy to perform.

    But back to Jock Soto - dang, I miss him & his artistry. I guess he was thought of as a wonderful partner by the women who danced with him. I could watch him all day!
  30. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa Port de bras!!!

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    Ballet is classical. Classical does not change and if it does, it becomes another tradition and ceases to be classical ballet.
  31. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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    Ballet dramatically transformed under Balanchine. If you look at early ballerinas under Petipa, they were somewhat chunky with little turnout. Ballerinas danced en pointe on top of the toe box rather than over it as is common today. Ballet aesthetics have changed quite a bit over the years. But it's all still ballet--even classical ballet.

    On a separate note, I've heard Vishneva described in many ways, but disgusting hasn't been one of them.
  32. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa Port de bras!!!

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    In the beginning of the 20th century, yes, there was a different look to ballet dancers and even more so going back to its roots in the Renaissance. But as ballet became very established and schools became more selective, they were able to keep to a standard. And that standard is unlikely to change.


    What? Who said that? :lynch:
  33. ballettmaus

    ballettmaus Well-Known Member

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    And not to forget that the female body type also changed.

    Also, agalisgv, what you describe is the development of ballet. People were capable of doing more, they understood the body in a different way, technique advanced. It's like jumping singles back then and now triples in skating.
    What never changed in all this is the aesthetical aspect of ballet/dancing and the lines you create. The importance of those hasn't changed. If anything it became only more important.
  34. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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    Just putting both together--as the female body type changed, so did ballet aesthetics. That would indicate aesthetics aren't static or unchanging.

    I agree that ballet has developed over the years--it goes without saying. But I would disagree that ballet has reached a point where development doesn't continue to occur. Balanchine was a major development. One could argue Vishneva being plucked straight out of Vaganova to principal dancer represented another moment of development--where other dance styles were being incorporated into classical ballet and greater emphasis on athleticism of sorts (I think this is evident in her Scheherazade). And one could argue Somova's similar rise represents another developmental moment--where extreme flexibility is coveted.

    Both Vishneva and Somova (particularly the latter) were criticized when they came on the scene as they represented departures from certain "classical" ideals. I recall many saying if one wanted to see a greater than 180 degree leg extension, they should be watching rhythmic gymnastics rather than ballet. But really it's a different aesthetic coming to the fore.

    FWIW, I read many years ago a former principal ballerina (I believe trained at Vaganova) talk about the essence of ballet. She said the goal of ballet was to create the illusion of lightness unbounded by gravity, and movement that continued past where physical movement ceased. In this way, the sense of lightness and extension made dancers appear to not be bound by physical laws, and not weighed down to the earth. The point of lines was to convey that sense of extension that went beyond the physical body and which had no definable end point. The point of body shape was to allow the dancer to move, jump, and lift/be lifted in such a way to appear that gravity did not exist. Thus lines and body aesthetics were not the goal of ballet--only the means.

    I found that interesting.
    Just above gkelly
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2010
  35. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa Port de bras!!!

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    That's just it. Some things like 180 extension may appear and Vishneva's interpretive style is not exactly strictly classical. However, there is one constant and you have just mentioned it: the illusion of weightlessness that is achieved via core strength. That would be hard to achieve with extra pounds on one's body. The lines and body aesthetics are an integral part of this illusion.

    But back to Vishneva, while there are standards that she had fulfilled extremely well, just look at her record at Vaganova and her international prizes, she has, like every artist put her own spin on her roles. This is analogous to one's interpretation of a classical piece like say, La Campanella. I've heard vastly different individual interpretations by different pianists but the music always remained a classical piece.
  36. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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    Not sure if we're disagreeing, but what I'm thinking of are dancers you might find, say, in Alvin Ailey Dance theater. They do classical ballet (amongst other things), but may have a different body aesthetic. Arguably the same sense of lightness and never ending movement is still achieved.

    Here's Alicia Graf who discusses her thoughts on the matter:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvZj45n7ix8
  37. cruisin

    cruisin Well-Known Member

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    Is Wendy Whelan still dancing? I haven't been to NYC Ballet in years. I used to have season tickets for the fall and spring, but we let them go when week-ends became too busy with daughter's own ballet obligations. I remember being lucky enough, one year to see the Nutcracker with Darci Kistler as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Damien Woetzel as the Cavalier, and Wendy Whelan did the Arabian Dance. It was amazing! I also saw Wendy Whelan do The Cage, it was brilliant, and very eerie.
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2010
  38. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa Port de bras!!!

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    Last edited: Dec 12, 2010
  39. agalisgv

    agalisgv Well-Known Member

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    Last edited: Dec 12, 2010
  40. IceAlisa

    IceAlisa Port de bras!!!

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    Thanks for the links. Both clips are of dancers who are trained in ballet but this is not ballet. Alicia Graf is not even en pointe. And there is no attempt at weightlessness, nor was there an intent for it as once again, this is not ballet, rather modern dance with elements of ballet.

    I will comment on Vishneva a bit later.