Have you ever been told that?
I have – ever since I was young. I was short, muscular AND curvy (I got hit with the double whammy), and didn’t have the “perfect” turnout.
I remember feeling so dejected. I saw all these beautiful dancers I took class with who were tall, lean and straight like an arrow.
I just didn’t fit in.
I began to hate my muscles, my curves, the width of my shoulders and thighs. “Thunder thighs” is what I remember being called.
I thought I should just quit and get a “real” job.
But when I danced. When I got on that stage, it was magical. Once that music started, the joy I felt was indescribable.
And so despite it all I kept dancing, because I had no other choice (If you’re a dancer you know what I mean).
And the audience noticed.
The audience, didn’t say, “She doesn’t have the perfect turn out”. No one gave a sh#%. They weren’t sitting there measuring the circumference of my thighs. They wanted to be moved. To feel. To be swept up in a story. And I was applauded for my power, presence and passion on stage.
And I think my body type actually helped me to have that power and presence. And I began to love my strength, my muscles and how my body looked and moved.
Too many talented dancers have been rejected by the ballet world because they didn’t fit that “perfect” body type. And these outdated notions of what a dancer should look like has caused so much damage to the mental and physical health of many dancers (and has set up unrealistic and unnecessary expectations of what it means to be a great dancer). Plus, it has deprived audiences of great talent!
The world is a different place and talent comes in all shapes. The ballet world needs to catch up and catch on if it wants to remain relevant.
So, if dance is in your soul, keep dancing! And find the beauty in who you are! You aren’t like everyone else (thank God) and it may be your differences that bring out into the world exactly what it needs.
Train hard. Gain the skills and technique you need to be the best dancer you can be. BUT, don’t sacrifice yourself, your health or your dreams for some outdated notion of what a dancer should look like.
I think if more dancers would refuse to submit, then the ballet world would have to change.