How ballerinas are 'literally fattening up' as industry moves away from tyranny of thinBallet critic Deirdre Kelly is the author of a new book, Ballerina: Sex, Scandal, and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection
She says dancers today are allowed to be curvier than they have been for 50 years
20:35 GMT, 19 October 2012
Much like models, professional ballerinas famously face low wages, early retirement, constant risk of injury and most notably, a tyranny of thin.
However, a new book which highlights the dance industry's morally objectionable practices also reveals how it is changing for the better, with ballerinas today allowed to be curvier than they have been in nearly 50 years.
Deirdre Kelly, the author behind Ballerina: Sex, Scandal, and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection, says ballet 'is literally fattening up,' overcoming a history of eating disorders that for years have gone unchecked 'for the sake of art and beauty'.
Symbol of perfection: A new book which highlights the dance industry's morally objectionable practices also reveals how ballerinas today are allowed to be curvier than they have been in nearly 50 years
'Ballerinas are today allowed to be curvier than they have been since 1963,' Ms Kelly, a ballet critic and mother to a nine-year-old ballerina, wrote in a blog for the Huffington Post.
She continued: 'When [George] Balanchine was granted the lucrative Ford Foundation grant, [it] allowed him to create ballet in his own vision – that is populated by long, lean, leggy ballerinas such as he had known and bedded in St. Petersburg.'
Mr Balanchine was one of the 20th
century's most famous choreographers, a Russian-born developer of ballet
in the U.S. and the co-founder of New York City Ballet, who, Ms Kelly
said, 'institutionalized starvation' through his 'thin ideal,' since 1963 until his death 20 years later.
Changing face of ballet: A ballerina in the Twenties (left) before George Balanchine popularized as ideal of extreme thinness; now, ballerinas are starting to move away from the tyranny of thin
However, since the Seventies, when 'Balanchine-inspired eating disorders first started decimating the ballerina population' and after the choreographer's death in 1983, medical experts have continued to determine that the ballet industry's 'tyranny of thin' has detrimental effects on dancers' health and well-being.
'Ballet has tended to make victims of the very women it looks to idolize on the stage,' she said.
'[But] ballerinas today are again embracing
the breasts and hips which first made them objects of desire way back in
Sixties prima ballerina: From 1963, long, lean, leggy ballerinas been the ideal shape for dancers, which according to Ms Kelly, is starting to change
'They are turning their backs on the radical cosmetic surgeries
and punitive dieting that stripped them of their identities as
full-fledged women in the modern era.'
The Australian Ballet is one of the many dance companies that now prioritize injury prevention.
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Ballerina: Deirdre Kelly, author of Ballerina: Sex, Scandal, and Suffering Behind the Symbol of Perfection, says ballet 'is literally fattening up'
Despite knowing the 'dangers lurking in the shadows of ballet,' the author said she encourages her own daughter to take twice-weekly ballet classes because she still believes it is 'a sublimely beautiful art form – the feminine mystique personified.'
'It is an outlet for female strength and autonomy. It is where women artists can lead and dominate. Where the ballerina is in control of her body in determining her own destiny,' she added.