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Now it's Sara Mearns turn in the Bullseye (Not that again!)un-waif ballerina gets the "heavy" critique


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#1 Jayne

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 12:17 PM

From Robert Gottlieb at the NY Observer:

http://observer.com/...e-out-in-front/

[font=Georgia, serif][size=4]Hyltin shone throughout the rest of the season. Her debut as the central girl in [/size][/font]Serenade [font=Georgia, serif][size=4]was convincing and moving, even though we associate the role with dancers less ethereal. She was enchanting in [/size][/font]Western Symphony[font=Georgia, serif][size=4], poignant in [/size][/font]Stravinsky Violin Concerto[font=Georgia, serif][size=4]. She doesn’t have the brio, the supreme musicality of Tiler Peck (who does?) or the plangency and inner life of Sara Mearns when Mearns is at her best (at the moment, she’s just too heavy).[/size][/font]


Yeesh, I find it hard to believe Sara Mearns is too "heavy". I've seen recent pics and videos and she has the same physique as Carrie Imler at PNB: both have classic mesomorph structures. There is absolutely nothing they can do in class or cross training to force their muscle fibers to become ectomorphs. But both are throwbacks to an earlier age of ballerina physiques and have more in common with Maria Tallchief than Tanny leClercq.

#2 Helene

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 12:23 PM

Yes, dancers like this should put bags over their heads and hide in shame:



#3 dirac

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 02:43 PM

Going by what he actually wrote, he did not say that Mearns was too heavy in general. He said she was too heavy right now to be at her best. Not having seen the lady live it's not for me to judge his accuracy, but it seems fair comment enough. There are figures where extra weight tends to show up more prominently than on other shapes. Perhaps that's the issue here, or maybe Gottlieb needs a new prescription from the eye doctor.

Her photos do not put me in mind of Tallchief, but certainly she doesn't confirm to the stereotype of the "Balanchine look." No problems with that.

There are right ways and wrong ways to discuss a dancer's weight, but I do not think the topic should be ruled out of discussion; performers present themselves to be looked at and weight can matter. It's a difficult question, especially in a culture where women are expected to be slender and physical fitness, otherwise a Good Thing, has become something of a cultural fetish for both sexes.

#4 sandik

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 02:49 PM

Watching that clip of Imler again -- as impressive as the fouettes are, it's the chaine turns that really amazed me. She does just what the classic textbooks say to do, stand in 1st position on pointe and do a series of 180 degree turns, shifting weight from one foot to the other. You hardly ever see a series of turns that tight -- it's quite astonishing.

In terms of body type, there were a couple of moments in Diamonds in this last rep at PNB where Imler reminded me of photos of Danilova -- lots of cross-lateral gestures. They were complex and sophisticated shapes, contrasting with the large, open arabesque saute -- it was really interesting.

#5 Helene

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 03:19 PM

The chainees were the high point for me, too, both in the video and live.

#6 Jayne

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 03:56 PM

I found Sara Mearns' blog from early May, and you can see some practice video from Slaughter and Who Cares? - I don't see fat on her frame, but she carries bulkier muscle (part of being a mesomorph) than Sylvie Guillem or Diana Vishneva. What is important is how she uses the muscles that she has - her control is tremendous.

http://www.youtube.c...OOiaKRcg#t=354s

Her shoulders are broader, her neck is short, and her measurements from hip bone to hip bone are going to be wider than Hee Seo. In terms of athletes, she looks more like an American gymnast (think Carly Patterson) than a Russian gymnast (think Svetlana Khorkina). I would wager money that if her BMI were professionally measured, it is extremely low.

#7 vipa

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 04:49 PM

Yes, dancers like this should put bags over their heads and hide in shame:


Thank you HelenePosted Image - Imler is one of those dancers who I am so sorry I won't ever get to see perform live. I wish there was more film available. Everything I see of her I love - not only tremendous technique, but she seems to exude joy.

I saw Mearns last week in Allegro Brilliante and didn't notice anything different about her size or weight. She looked gorgeous to me. I guess Gottlieb recalls seeing her thinner, but it's strange to me that he felt it worth mentioning.

I wonder how he felt about Lynn Seymour. She was a wonderful dancer in dramatic roles in the 1970's Royal Ballet. She was far from thin.

#8 canbelto

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 05:00 PM

Sara did look heavier during the Winter Season, when I saw her in Swan Lake and Serenade. But she was coming back from an injury. In the spring season she looked back to her old shape. Her build is wide-set and there's nothing she can do about that.

#9 vipa

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 05:16 PM

Sara did look heavier during the Winter Season, when I saw her in Swan Lake and Serenade. But she was coming back from an injury. In the spring season she looked back to her old shape. Her build is wide-set and there's nothing she can do about that.


My question is - Why assign weight as the problem. When I saw Mearns in the Winter Season there was a performance when she looked like she was holding back, and wasn't herself (I later learned that she was injured), but I didn't attribute it to weight.

#10 canbelto

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 05:43 PM


Sara did look heavier during the Winter Season, when I saw her in Swan Lake and Serenade. But she was coming back from an injury. In the spring season she looked back to her old shape. Her build is wide-set and there's nothing she can do about that.


My question is - Why assign weight as the problem. When I saw Mearns in the Winter Season there was a performance when she looked like she was holding back, and wasn't herself (I later learned that she was injured), but I didn't attribute it to weight.


I didn't assign the problem to weight. But dancers often say that when they have a long layoff due to injury they gain weight, so it's not a surprise Mearns was a little heavier during the Winter Season since she had been injured for a long time.

#11 vipa

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Posted 12 June 2013 - 05:51 PM

I didn't assign the problem to weight. But dancers often say that when they have a long layoff due to injury they gain weight, so it's not a surprise Mearns was a little heavier during the Winter Season since she had been injured for a long time.


Sorry Canbelto I didn't mean to say that you had, only that Gottlieb seemed to go to that conclusion

#12 Colleen Boresta

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 03:53 AM

It's hard to believe that in today's world a critic (and a male critic at that) has the nerve to say that a ballerina is too heavy. First of all, she's not. I saw her dance 'Serenade' on Sunday and she looks the same as always, which to me is just perfect. This is reminiscent of Alistair Macaulay saying that Jennifer Ringer had been eating one too many sugarplums (I forget the exact wording) when reviewing NYCB's 'Nutcracker' a few years ago. Again, not at all true. Ballerinas, no what what their height or build, are much thinner than the rest of us (except for actresses and supermodels). And in an industry where eating disorders are a huge problem, it just seems irresponsible to comment on their weight. (That's the way I feel about it anyway).

#13 kfw

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 07:55 AM

It's hard to believe that in today's world a critic (and a male critic at that) has the nerve to say that a ballerina is too heavy. First of all, she's not. I saw her dance 'Serenade' on Sunday and she looks the same as always, which to me is just perfect. This is reminiscent of Alistair Macaulay saying that Jennifer Ringer had been eating one too many sugarplums (I forget the exact wording) when reviewing NYCB's 'Nutcracker' a few years ago. Again, not at all true. Ballerinas, no what what their height or build, are much thinner than the rest of us (except for actresses and supermodels). And in an industry where eating disorders are a huge problem, it just seems irresponsible to comment on their weight. (That's the way I feel about it anyway).


I think it's Gottlieb's job as a critic to report the truth as he sees it, not to worry about how the dancers will respond to it, or censor himself because of how male taste and expectations have historically hurt women. The ideal standard of thinness for female dancers may be a matter of taste, but ballet is an art of ideals, and if he thinks she’s too heavy to be dance to the best of her abilities, he should say so. I don't want a critical universe in which gender determines what someone is allowed to remark upon. The problem with Macaulay's remark was that it was worded unkindly. He couldn't resist the joke. Fortunately, his little one-liner backfired.

Having said that, whether Mearns was at her ideal dancing weight or not (and given that's she was coming back from a long injury-related layoff, she might agree she wasn't), in the recent videos and pictures I've seen, she looks as beautiful as ever.

#14 abatt

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 08:45 AM

I thought Mearns looked heavy during the Winter Season, but looked like she had lost most of the weight by the spring season. Perfectly understandable since she was injured for so long. I don't think weight detracted from her performances and would be interested in knowing exactly what performances Gottlieb felt were diminsihed due to Mearns' weight.

#15 Helene

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 08:46 AM

Macaulay might have been trying to be clever, which backfired, but it was his point, and most people ignored that he continued and was much harsher about Jared Angle's weight. If Gottlieb wanted to discuss Mearns' weight in terms of the season, he could have gone down that path directly, not literally parenthetically, because to have compared other ballerinas' expression to "the plangency and inner life of Sara Mearns when Mearns is at her best" alone would have been just as strong.


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