Anyone catch Jennifer Ringer, the New York City Ballerina on the Today Show the other day? She was on to talk about the recent review in the New York Times of her dancing where she was called out by Alastair Macaulay, for looking as though she had had a few too many sugarplums. He stands by his word claiming that ballet is an art form where the aesthetic is about the body and line, and hey, if you want to go out of that standard, you can be a modern dancer.
There has been an overwhelming show of support for Ms. Ringer; not the least being that The Today Show invited her on to respond to Mr. Macaulay’s review. Perhaps they were going with the groundswell of people crying out against this particular body politic, perhaps they were doing a tie-in with the upcoming movie “The Black Swan” where Natalie Portman portrays a very very thin ballerina. (She reportedly lost 20 lbs. for the role; this from an already thin girl.)
No matter whether you are in support of the reviewer, or the public’s outcry against his comments of her body; I would wager that almost every female watching this morning were desperately searching for a sign of, well, her fat.
Even with the “television adds 20 lbs.” thing, she looked pretty trim. Ann Curry must have been muttering to herself: “And I am a big fat pig!” as Ms. Ringer sat beside her, giving us a relative point of view for size. Ms. Curry of course being quite slim, Ms. Ringer appeared smaller next to her.
Bring on the tutu though, and we are dealing with a whole different story. The standards for a ballet body in particular have always been more exacting than any other dance form, but clearly have changed some since the Balanchine days. About 18 years ago, I was brought in to consult with the School of American Ballet dorm staff who were concerned about eating disorders with their students. There was a need to balance the demand that the ballet world and in particular at that time the Balanchine aesthetic for the female dancer, with the health of the students and young professionals to be.
I must comment on the obvious expansion of New York City Ballet’s body policies. In reference to this, Ms. Ringer commented that there is a variety of ‘body types’ in the company, and that certainly she was one of the ballerinas with a more ‘womanly shape’.
Perhaps the critic is simply mourning a bit of a passing of a Balanchine aesthetic that had been such a strong part of the company. Perhaps there would not be such a range of ‘body types’ or ‘womanly figures’ were Mr. Balanchine still alive.
So women of America, take heart, eat and be merry. Have that extra sugar plum this holiday season resting assured that you will not lose your job or be critiqued in the press for those few extra pounds. As I said after having switched from my former job as a dancer: “Clothing hides a multitude of sins, and hey, no one ever fired their shrink for gaining a few pounds!”