Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Politics and Weight in Dance Companies

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Bolshoi Decides It’s Over Before ‘Fat’ Lady Dances; September 16, 00; by Sophia Kishkovsky

A Reaction Paper

“Height and weight are not the test of a great ballerina,” said Anastasia Volochkova. This well-known ballerina was fired from the Bolshoi theatre for being “hard to lift” and not fit for a pas de deux. I agree with Ms. Volochkova’s statement. I believe that your strength, determination and willingness to work hard and constantly improve your abilities are qualities needed to become a great ballerina�not a certain height and weight. Physical skills are not the only factor in being a good dancer; a good attitude is crucial.

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Dance, especially ballet, requires a lot of preparation, training and building muscle strength. These requirements are vital in order to avoid injury and to execute the movement you want�and execute it well. So of course you need to be physically fit in order to dance because it is quite demanding. Yet we are all of different shapes and sizes. Putting height and weight restrictions on dancers isn’t only unfair, it is unhealthy. Everyone’s body is different so there is no way to determine a factor of what’s “too heavy” and what’s not. Many professional dancers are on extremely strict diets and have vigorous exercise routines. I’m sure Ms. Volochkova knew how critical it was to be in shape and would not risk her career as a dancer slacking off. Let’s picture everyone’s “perfect dancer”; long long legs, very skinny and tiny, yet flexible and strong, with turnout so wide it’s almost disgusting. Yes, there are some people out there with all those qualities, and they are incredible dancers. But for most people, we just weren’t born with those long legs and our hips don’t turn out 0 degrees. It doesn’t make us less qualified than the next. I know that sometimes height is a factor when choreographing. In many pieces, the “look” you are going for will require dancers in proportion to another or similar in size. For example, in a pas de deux, the male is typically larger than the female. Yet judging people and determining their potential by size and weight is unfair because it is something that they cannot change. You can always work on your form, but you can’t change your height!

From reading the article, it seems like there are quite a few more reasons that the 5’6, 10 pound ballerina was fired besides gaining a few pounds. They mentioned other problems with her attitude and character. I am assuming they are using her “heaviness” as an excuse for other reasons that may not be rational enough for charging. Problems with her “difficult, divalike behavior,” disrespectfulness, and being the only girl with a dressing room to herself are points lightly touched in the article that lead me to believe that Ms. Volochkova had quite the attitude problem.

In any group, whether its work or a social group, your attitude towards others and about yourself quickly factors people’s opinion of you. People do not like someone that thinks they are God’s gift to the world and doesn’t think twice about others. Many dancers that are very talented know it. At my studio at home, my friend Kelly is an incredible dancer, yet she is very sweet and kind. It didn’t matter to her whether she got the solo or you did. She would help you out but never look down or talk bad about the girls. Then there was Stephanie, who is also a phenomenal dancer. She wasn’t afraid to voice her disappointment if she thought a part cast was unfair (which was somehow always when she wasn’t in it). The girls weren’t very pleased with Stephanie because of her dirty looks, snooty attitude and her inflated ego. Having confidence in yourself and your abilities is absolutely necessary for a career as a dancer, but having a superiority complex against your peers isn’t going to yield many friendships. Friendships and connections not only make dancing more enjoyable, but they can also determine whether people want to work with you or not. Your negative attitude could very well result in a situation like Ms. Volochkova’s.

In conclusion, this article made me think that dancers should not be punished for what their body looks like. Yet it is impossible to rule out looks altogether because dance is a visual art, and the size and look of a dancer factors into that. I believe that no matter what shape and size you are, if you have it in your heart and soul, you can be the best dancer you want to be. Looks definitely are not everything. Your attitude and the way you interact with people can either get you a spot, or get your fired. Height and weight are just numbers, but dancing comes from inside.

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