How Thin Must Ballerinas Be?

jenniferanglePH2010121303926I’m not surprised that Internet chat rooms and the wider media went crazy when my friend Alastair Macaulay, the chief dance critic of the New York Times, made a remark about the weight of Jennifer Ringer (pictured, with Jared Angle), of New York City Ballet, in a recent review of “The Nutcracker.” Few things are as gut-emotional for women (and, increasingly, for men) as the issue of avoirdupois. But let’s be fair: Macaulay very carefully and deliberately did not call Ringer “fat.” Had he done so, his life would be as endangered right now as that of Julian Assange. Macaulay said: Ringer “looked as if she’d eaten one sugar plum too many.” At Christmas, most of us eat one sugar plum too many! More seriously, Macaulay, in a follow-up piece, was clear when he said: “If you want to make your appearance irrelevant to criticism, do not choose ballet as a career. The body in ballet becomes a subject of the keenest observation and the most intense discussion. I am severe – but ballet, as dancers know, is more so.” Critics contend that Macaulay is still being insensitive to the issue of eating disorders in ballerinas and women in general. They have a point; but I’d still say that if you don’t want your body to be judged, then don’t become a dancer — or an athlete or a model or a movie star.

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