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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":


    Full review:

  2. vesperholly

    vesperholly Well-Known Member

    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 discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    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

    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

    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 discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    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

    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

    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

    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 discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    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

  13. Schmeck

    Schmeck New Member

    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

    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 discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    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 Former Choreographer for Anna Maria Tragikova

    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 discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

    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

    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

    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!


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

    Anita18 Well-Known Member

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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 discriminating and persnickety ballet aficionado

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