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Thursday, June 23, 2005

Fat Ballerinas


At the risk of turning into the Jerry Springer Show for blogs, let's discuss Fat Ballerinas.

Now, my apologies in advance to all the fat people out there. I know you're the majority of America. And my apologies in advance to the Politically Correct crowd. I know you'd like it much better if we all pretended that fat was as equally acceptable as thin. But if Halle Barry or Nicole Kidman (who could use a sandwich, herself) suddenly put on 200 pounds, do you think they'd be landing all the movie roles that they're landing now? Fat is simply not attractive to most Americans. But if it makes you feel better, we'll do a column on anorexia in the future.

And please don't take me as being insensitive. My best friend in childhood was fat. But her fat (like the majority of Americans) was due to poor eating habits, not glandular or health problems. So (although I love her dearly) I must be honest here: her fat was due to poor self-control. And she's still fat, and very happy... but she isn't a ballerina.

And so, without further ado, let's begin our discussion.

I went to a ballet recital recently. I live in a big metropolitan area and so we have access to a large pool of people. This means that we get ballet recitals for children that are more like ballet productions. It also means that (in the case of this particular ballet studio) there are plenty of talented children to put on stage.

Therefore, imagine my surprise when I saw my first fat ballerina. Now, there are different levels of fat, so let's discuss this briefly. There's "pleasingly plump" (also known as chubby), "fat", and "obese" (also known as grotesquely fat). If there are more subtle levels in between, please enlighten me.

This fat ballerina was obese. Imagine Roseanne Barr at her largest in a tutu, and you get the picture. I later saw a couple other obese ballerinas in the troup. So now, picture Roseanne Barr and Rosie O'Donnell and Rikki Lake (pre-diet) in tutus and tight costumes that showed every ripple, jumping and prancing about. In deference to fat people everywhere, it was not a pretty picture.

Two of these obese ballerinas even did dance solos. Imagine the Hippo Ballerinas in Fantasia, but not as attractive. My retinas are still burning.

As one of my height-challenged friends said after the recital, "Look. I may be able to throw a ball into a hoop, and I may love to run around a basketball court, but there has to be some point in my life where I've gotta come to terms with the fact that I'm not going to be in the NBA."

What were they thinking? I know what the owner of the studio was thinking: easy money. That's a given. But what were the parents thinking? What were the fat ballerinas thinking? Perhaps their self-esteem is too good (yes, everyone, I also think we can have too much self-esteem). If they're intent on pursuing a career in ballet, there is no ballet company that I can imagine which will take them. And there is no serious audience that would want to see them. Are they being set up to fail? Are they being given high hopes with no chances?

You could argue that they're pursuing ballet just for exercise, but if that were true, they wouldn't be spending fortunes on costumes to leap jarringly across the stage next to their slender, agile contemporaries in front of hundreds of people. So they must feel that what they have is worth displaying. When is someone going to be cruel to be kind, and tell them that it isn't?

34 comments:

Tabasamu said...

Two of these obese ballerinas even did dance solos. Imagine the Hippo Ballerinas in Fantasia, but not as attractive. My retinas are still burning.


*ROFLMAO*

Thanks for a fun beginning to my day.

Anonymous said...

I went to a recital that my neice performed in recently. I was suprised to see a small girl who had cerebal palsy performing too. While she was not particularly suited for the role physically, she performed with joy and passion. I was impressed that she too was given the opportunity to participate. I could tell she was as happy as the rest of the troupe by the big, beautiful smile on her face.

Ernie Flapps said...

We're all beautiful...

Saur♥Kraut said...

Anonymous,

Cerebral Palsy is different. It is a true disability, not a lifestyle choice. I would applaud that little girl for trying (though, if I were her parents I would question putting my child on display like that).

Ernie,

Interesting comment. Does that mean that there is no room for improvement out there? No standards of beauty? Because if that's what you're saying, I would have to respectfully disagree. So would the folks at Revlon. Their spokesmodel is Halle Barry, not Rhea Perlman.

If you mean we are all of worth as human beings, I would agree.

Anonymous said...

A girl can dream can't she?????????

back-to-basics said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I've gone to places such as Walmart to sometimes sit and just watch people and have to wonder if any of them have mirrors. What's with the spandex shorts 2-3 sizes too small and belly baring shirts.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Re: "A girl can dream, can't she?"

Of course she can. But it takes a wise and loving adult to help her achieve that dream, or come close to it.

I didn't mention all the plump or even average weight girls that were in the troupe. There were only a couple downright skinny ones. If you're plump or average weight and you want to become a ballerina, it's a reachable goal.

But why encourage dreams to become a ballerina when you're obscenely obese? How about either introducing the child to Jenny Craig, or channelling her energies into something where size won't matter? If these kids don't want to diet, then they'd better start thinking of alternatives.

As my friend pointed out, our bodies sometimes limit us. For instance, I'll never have the ability to pee standing up.

Anonymous said...

I think we should establish some rules for fat children that they learn early in life. DO NOT, under any circumstances, polute my field of vision with your disgusting body.

Oh, and by the way, we are doing this because we are deeply concerned about your health.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Anonymous,

No, that's not the point. And you know that.

The point is that, like it or not, fat is not a lovely thing in our culture. Do you deny that? So how do you believe we can reprogram U.S. citizens to start seeing Big as Beautiful?

Sure, there are some people who think Big is Beautiful. They say there is someone out there for everyone. And that's a good thing, because we all can't be fighting over Jeff Goldblum.

But, the majority don't find fat as attractive.

So sue me for being honest, instead of politically correct.

There's plenty of room for people of all sizes in many professions. But ballet just isn't one of them.

snicksnack said...

I'm with you, Saur. Sharpeis encased in lycra aren't my idea of a ballerina I could take seriously. But - as I'll bet you agree - I've seen attractive fat people as long as they're appropriately dressed. And I have some friends who are fat yet have serious jobs...but not one of them is a ballerina. Or a stripper, either.

zinnia said...

*LOL* I understand where you're coming from, Saur. I cant imagine that anyone would be crazy enough not to level with those poor girls. I think they need to take up another hobby. Like cross stitching.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Can I also add that ballet is itself a form of destrcution of the female figure and involves a willingness to self-mutilate (the feet) so it's not really a art form of female empowerment.

Even if you're a lardass.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Daniel,

*LOL* Touche. It isn't as harsh as foot-binding (an ancient chinese practice that still continues in some remote provinces), but you are absolutely correct.

irritable chap said...

Oh come on, Prince Charles recently got heavily criticised for pointing out the obvious which was (and I'm paraphrasing) that some people are not able to do certain things. I'm 6'3" and as such regardless of my weight (skinny as it happens) I'll never be a horse jockey (which upsets me deeply but hey I'll survive).

Just a though...

Saur♥Kraut said...

Irritable Chap,

Funny, isn't it, how you can get into trouble for being truthful, but be applauded for lying? Such is political correctness.

The proper, and truthful way to handle it would be for the ballet instructor to take aside her charge and say,

"Helga, you are a wonderful and winsome girl. I enjoy having you in class.

However, you have expressed the desire to become a professional dancer. I think it is incumbent upon me to explain to you that there is not a big demand for overweight dancers on Broadway.

Therefore, we need to seek a solution for this together if this is going to continue to be your goal. I would recommend that you talk to your doctor, and also consult a weight loss expert such as a counselor at Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig.

As long as your doctor OKs it, I think x amount of pounds a month is a reasonable weight loss goal. If you exceed that, wonderful. I believe your doctor will agree with me that the charts show you should weigh no more than x pounds for your height. Let's make that our final goal.

Please get back with me next week to let me know how we shall proceed with this. Otherwise, I cannot (in good conscience) continue to take your parents' hard-earned money."

Anonymous said...

Saur, in the interest of fairness, please re-read your original post. It was highly derogatory toward kids with weight problems.

Dance studios do not survive in business because they cater to children who will some day be dancing in the New York Ballet. I am willing to bet that millions of little girls take dance lessons each year. The percentage who will be making a living through the art of dance is barely measurable. I think what is relevant is that girls typically dream of being a ballerina, or a princess, a movie star, etc. I would not tell my child that she could not take dance lessons because I don't think she has what it takes to become a professional dancer. I and my friends took dance lessons, piano lessons and lessons for all sorts of things without the expectation of becoming a professional. But, I know I was enriched by the experience.

It isn't about political correctness or speaking the truth. This discussion is disturbing to me because of the way it was framed and the fact that we are discussing kids and the essence of their spirit. I appreciated the person who posted "A girl can dream can't she?????????" I realize that the sight could have been different from what you expected, and you may be right that the sight was not pretty ( burning retinas and all), but being right and doing the right thing are not always synonymous.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Anonymous,

Thanks for your humorless contributions.

OK, seriously, there is no way that my blog was derogatory. I'm sorry you didn't like it, but you won't find anywhere in there where I say 'fat people suck' or 'fat kids are worthless.' In fact, I was very careful to phrase everything so that it would be clear that everyone has a place in life.

Some of my closest friends are fat. Yeah, fat, not charmingly chubby or pleasingly plump, just fat. But they also aren't ballerinas or, as someone else mentioned, strippers.

Life isn't perfect. If anyone could be a ballerina, then we'd have a heck of a lot more ballet companies than we do. The competition is fierce. Most Americans don't want to see fat ballerinas. So sue me for honesty.

I know that dance studios don't survive by training only ballerinas that end up in major productions. But that is the goal, and that's the way it's presented. Don't kid yourself.

And, aside from it not being pretty, fat isn't good for you, either. Why wouldn't the instructor want her charges to be healthy, at least?

If I'm wrong, please let me know, but I don't believe there is are studies that uphold the benefits of being fat.

Senor Caiman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Saur♥Kraut said...

*LOL* Point well taken, Mr. Gator.

Anonymous said...

Could they be taking ballet just for the mere fun of it, and I don't know... maybe EXERCISE!!

My son likes building rockets out of empty toilet paper rolls. But I'm the mom of the boy with a speech impediment, drenched bed, and yes, the convenient store cop episode. He won't be a rocket scientist!

Saur♥Kraut said...

Anonymous,

Sure
they could be taking it for exercise. As I already pointed out in the blog. As I also pointed out, if they were only taking ballet for exercise, they wouldn't be buying expensive costumes and prancing about onstage.

They also might try true exercise. The kind that actually builds up a sweat and burns fat.

Red Spice said...

This is hysterical!

Gina said...

well these are children , and hopefull the parents thought an activity may change their kid from being inactive , who knows ? at that age a child shouldn't be obese .. If it were my kid I wouldnt have signed her up so that hse could get ridiculed , most likely have signed her up for a different activity . Hopefully one that teaches how not to over eat ..

Saur♥Kraut said...

Gina,

Yes, you are right. I think that these parents aren't being real parents. They're letting their kids eat what they want, and it's probably indicative of their lives in general.

Anonymous said...

i am just infroming you of the ballet troope in russia that is made up entirely of obese women like 250 lbs so these girls do have a chance to live out their dream

Hausisse said...

To the person who left a comment about the Russian "Big Ballet Troupe":

Yeah, but those girls have to eat CONSTANTLY or they'll lose weight. That begs a question: why don't they just lose the weight and join a real ballet troupe?

sugarplum. said...

first,c'mon, they're just kids. they can loose weight and become ballerinas if they want. actually i was fat when i was a child and my parents didnt let me do ballet. now im thin, and im a perfectly appropriate dancer.
and second, do you seriously think you can blame them for being fat?! i mean, there's no way a child can be blamed for that. its their parent's fault.

Saur♥Kraut said...

Sugarplum Of course a parent contributes to a child's obesity. However, the parent isn't force feeding the child, so it's pretty obvious that if the child stopped putting food in her mouth, she'd lose weight.

And schools teach nutrition to the point of boredom, so kids know what they should eat.

As long as we excuse away fat kids, fat kids will remain. It's not good for them, and there's no reason to "sugar"coat it, sugarplum.

Just as little people (a.k.a. dwarves) can't aspire to be professional basketball players, fat people can't aspire to be professional ballerinas.

You want to be a ballerina? Then get smart and lose the weight.

Otherwise, take up Sumo wrestling.

mary said...

I am curious how old these girls were? A chubby five year old has years of development physically, but a chubby 15 or 16 year old may have to work harder to lose the weight. I used to dance, but I knew I would never be a pro. I wanted to own a bakery (which I do.) The ballet was great exercise, but when I started, I was thin already. It is taxing on your body, your feet, and your image of yourself at certain weights. And besides, ballet goes from little leather slippers to hard-as-a-rock pointe shoes, and if you are overweight, your teacher probably will not allow point, seeing as it's so hard on your bones and joints. If these girls are dreaming of being prima ballerinas, they WILL be disappointed. A good dance instructor simply will not allow it.

Anonymous said...

There are studios with recreational programs. Those are meant for "everyone" to dance. The girls that have "it" will eventually all end up in a professional program while the others can still enjoy a life time of dancing with their local "rec program". Oh, and by the way, if you have ever taken a ballet class it is really great exercise and yes, you do sweat and build more muscle/balance than with most other sports.

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's fair to argue that one should only take ballet dancers if they can become professional dancers. I only started seriously dancing a year ago, when I was 15. I realize that I will never be a professional dancer, at 5'2 I'm too short and at 100 pounds too fat. I've also started to late and don't have the natural talent to dance for the American Ballet Theatre. At the same time, I've worked hard to become a good dancer, and have gotten the strength to dance en pointe. Ballet is an art form that I love and that gives my life joy, though I have no illusions of becoming a professional dancer. You didn't say how old these girls were, but if they are teenagers, I would assume they don't think they can be professional dancers either; but they still enjoy it and should be allowed to dance.

Leilani said...

I'm obese due to a number of medical reasons(fibromyalgia,hypothyroidism, and PCOS). I also have bad feet and am naturally clumsy. And, I was one of the fat dancers in a children's dance class. My mom broke the news to me that 'not all little girls can be a ballerina,honey'. Devastating at the time, but you know what? I got over it. Learned how to sing and make theatrical costumes instead. Best advice ever!Kids are resilient. They'll get over it,and find another thing to excel at,with the right kind of parental support.

-Catsume Jinx- said...

This has been the absolute best aspect of my day. I have found validity and humor in many of the comments, for each stance. A rousing and credible debate in all regards. Thank you for this, I will be sharing it.