When you think of a ballerina, you probably picture an extremely thin, small-boned girl with long, long limbs. And you're not entirely wrong in assuming that all dancers have a certain "look." Since the 1800s, when plump, fleshy ballerinas were the thing, we've adopted a preference for the ethereal "ideal" that George Balanchine, "father of American ballet," preferred.
But in recent years the dance world has invited a variety of body types into the fold. American Ballet Theatre soloist Misty Copeland, whose popularity is skyrocketing, thanks to an Under Armour ad, is a prime example of an excellent dancer with a body type and quality of movement that challenges conventional stereotypes.
And thank goodness for these welcome changes! In closing our minds to new and different ballet "looks," we risk missing out on formidable talents. Indeed, we might have passed up the extraordinary contributions of Mikhail Baryshnikov and his powerful leaps that hung in the air like we never imagined was possible.
Compare David Hallberg's long, thin, reedy body with Baryshnikov's hard, stocky build:
Renowned companies like Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre (left) and the Joffrey Ballet (right) celebrate diverse body types, from height and build to skin color.
Read more about the developing racial and cultural diversity among ballet dancers.
Marin Rose, Artistic Chair, Board of Trustees