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Is there a level of too thin?


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#16 SingerWhoMoves

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 10:08 PM

I'm sorry to hear about your contact not being renewed. Things like that are so crazy- I worked several contracts on a cruise ship and we had weekly weigh ins. And I'm not even really a dancer- I was the lead singer and still had to keep my "show weight". Very stressful, and led to some very unhealthy behavior from the younger girls- which I luckily put a stop to with my lecturing. ;-)

#17 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 23 February 2009 - 10:10 PM

The one I performed with was extreme and one of the only, if not the only, one in the country that still performs weekly public weigh-ins. ..

Excuse my ignorance but...what is that...?

#18 Marga

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 12:07 AM

Excuse my ignorance but...what is that...?

That is when each dancer is weighed on a scale in front of the other dancers, by the ballet mistress or master or AD, and the weight shown declared out loud for everyone to hear.

#19 diane

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 02:52 AM

Good grief!! That is awful!

That is when each dancer is weighed on a scale in front of the other dancers, by the ballet mistress or master or AD, and the weight shown declared out loud for everyone to hear.

I danced back in the late 70s and through the 80s - it was not that bad where I was then.
There does appear to be more pressure now, though, and at many of the _schools_ (pro) there are weigh-ins, though as far as I know not always public.
-d-

#20 Natalia

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 04:35 AM

Do you think being extremely thin is a particular problem at NYCB, as compared to other companies? .....


Good heavens, no. EXHIBIT A: Kirov-Mariinsky Ballet. I won't name dancers but all of you who witnessed the recent DON Q tour in DC know of certain ladies who were prominently on view (both principal and debutante) who are seemingly being rewarded by the company's management in relation to their extreme thiness. The greater the protrusion of the clavicle bone, the faster the promotion.

#21 bart

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 05:26 AM

I was especially interested in SingerWhoMoves's point about the young dancers at SAB and, I assume NYCB as well.:

[T]he dancers dance SO MUCH that many can't put on weight if they wanted to. When girls would quit, their bodies would completely transform and mature.


This redirects the focus a bit -- towards the sheer quantity of physical work demanded of young dancers at the top schools and the most active companies. Does anyone know whether the leadership of schools/companies address this in a serious, committed fashion? Is there anything analogous to "work rules" to put limits the amount of time a student can spend in class, training, or a young dancer has to spend rehearsing and performing?

As an older person who works out a lot, including aerobically and a bit of ballet class, I've come to appreciate how important REST can be in a physical training program. I also remember how much sleep my body required as a young teen. Rest is a factor I would think that ever dance school and company should address.


[Moderator beanie on: Thanks, all, for for insights and for the considerate way you are writing about this important but highly sensistive issue. :) Moderator beanie off]

#22 nmdancer

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 06:09 AM

Very emphatically -- YES. There is definitely a level of too thin, most certainly at a physiological level if not an aesthetic one. And it varies individually by dancer -- some dancers might be "too thin" for their own body type and injuring themselves and compromising their health while still appearing to be of "average" size (for a dancer); others can be quite thin and bony and not be unhealthy.

As one who knows, it is incredibly hard to sustain the level of activity and energy needed to dance well while attempting to reduce one's weight below a point that the body can healthily manage; I suspect that this is a problem for many dancers today despite the increased attention to nutrition etc. The thin ballet aesthetic is still firmly in place. We, too, had weekly weigh-ins when I was growing up (imagine placing 11 year olds on a scale and telling them to lose five pounds!). I, too, was rewarded with better roles when I was a thinner adult. It just happens.

I find it very distracting now to watch dancers who appear to be excessively thin for their frames. Wendy Whelan doesn't bother me, although she is quite thin (obviously), but there are others who are clearly not as healthy as they could be, in all companies.

#23 Hans

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 09:14 AM

Also, being in high school with the girls from SAB was enlightening about the demands of Ballet on the body- the dancers dance SO MUCH that many can't put on weight if they wanted to. When girls would quit, their bodies would completely transform and mature.


I was in high school (and ballet school) with them, too, and I have two things to add--one is that in addition to dancing so much, they often would not eat much at all. Once they stopped dancing, they went off their diets. Also, teenagers are often growing, and so they can sometimes eat more without gaining weight. This would be different from the situation of an adult dancer.

Although I don't know what things were like in the 70's, it appears to me that thin is still in. Natalia makes a good point with the Mariinsky, and ABT is also very thin, although not to the Mariinsky extreme. Ballet dancers are always going to be thinner than average, but I think they are still thinner than really necessary.

#24 cubanmiamiboy

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Posted 24 February 2009 - 10:52 AM

In all my years watching ballet in Cuba I must confess I never though about weight as such a matter of death or life issue. I guess that this also comes from the fact that body types view vary according to certain pre-established/cultural standards. See, coming from a place in which the most accepted/common female body type includes big hips, thighs and lower back, a la Jennifer Lopez or Beyonce-(EVEN WITHIN BALLET)-, it is certainly shocking to see some of today's ballerinas thinness. Now that I'm thinking about it, probably all of the dancers that I have written about from the Cuban Company would have been considered fat to this standards.


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