Are American ballet students too fat? Before I answer that question, let me say that anyone reading this who may be offended by the topic of this article has my sincere apology. I decided to approach this topic because of my own research and observations online. One thing you should know about me is that I absolutely love ballet. I also love speaking the truth as I know it. This article is neither bashing the American system, nor any young girl that enjoys taking classes. No matter what anyone says, a professional dance career is one where weight will always be an issue.

Why Excess Weight And Ballet Don't Go Together

The ballerina is lightness and grace personified

Grace. Elegance. Lightness of form. Ethereal and delicate movements balanced perfectly on the tips of the toes. It is simply not possible to produce the appearance of weightlessness when too big. That isn't being mean; it is simply the law of physics.

5 Reasons Why A Professional Ballerina Cannot Be Overweight

  • Ballet is first and foremost a business. Theaters must sell tickets to make a profit. Tickets are very expensive and audience members expect to see traditionally slim and svelte dancers on stage.
  • An overweight dancer will put too much strain on her male partner during lifts and pas de duex variations.
  • Many theaters use stock costumes that can only be fitted up or down by degrees. You cannot expect a costume department to transform a size 4 Swan Lake tutu into a size 16 then back into a size 4 for the next dancer.
  • Any extra body weight will hinder a ballerina from acheiving the correct aesthetics.
  • Pointe work will suffer. Extra weight can not only wear out pointe shoes faster, but can cause permanent damage to the feet and knees.

American Versus Russian Discipline

In the quest for perfection, many countries outside the U.S. have much stricter standards when it comes to the type of children that are allowed placement in ballet schools. One such country is Russia. There is a reason why Russia turns out many of the world's most revered and technically perfect dancers and gymnasts. They simply do not allow children in that have the wrong body type to begin with. Even the very youngest children are scruntinized physically wearing only their underwear to make sure they have flexibility, poise, posture and the correct body proportions for ballet. Why? Because they want to pick winners from the start. The Russians take ballet training very seriously.

But There Are Slim American Ballet Dancers

Yes, of course. Many of the most gifted dancers in the world of the performing arts are American. However, if they were chubby at one time in their young career, you can be sure someone calledStudents In Ballet ClassCredit:, Port des bras a la barre by Bomba Rosa, (CC BY-ND 2.0) them out about it as they continued on with training. Once a student decides to follow the professional path, her weight will have to reflect those standards.

The most important point to remember about ballet training is the difference between professional training and recreational class for fun or fitness. There are thousands of privately-owned ballet schools in the United States. This is good and bad at the same time. There are many more privately owned dance studios than there are professional theater companies. This means that body weight standards are not going to matter to some schools.

American Ballet Schools Need To Trim The Fat

Why are fat ballet students allowed in America?

Have you ever gone to You-tube and noticed how many novice ballet students are uploading videos of themselves on their toes in pointe shoes? If you have, you may have noticed that many are overweight. Somewhere, a ballet instructor is allowing this at his or her school.  Here is the simple truth about fat ballet students; they are profitable.

Miss Daisy's Ballet School makes a few hundred dollars a month from each student and isn't about to turn away that student or that money. That's why many American ballet students look the way they do; no standards of entrance. This is great for recreational classes, but a real problem if a girl  wants to dance professionally. Discipline and ballet mean the same thing. That includes appearance.

If Ballet Can't Teach You Discipline, Then Nothing Will

Does democracy clash with the strict principles of ballet training?

Let's face it. American youths are free thinking, open minded individualists that have a hard time with matters that involve self-control, sacrifice and daily focus. Compared to the Russian culture where a youth can be molded without "rebellion" and shows great respect for a teacher,  we are used to eating what we want when we want and questioning authority at every turn.

A ballerina cannot eat pints of ice cream, piles of potato chips, mountains of french fries and large portions of food. Her weight is always a matter of concern. She cant spend hours playing Pokemon and staying out all night long at clubs. Ballet as a profession is a daily discipline that will find the dancer doing barre work and floor exercises almost everyday to maintain her strength and flexibility. Much of her time will be spent in rehearsals and learning new roles.

This is a huge reminder of the personal sacrifices of any professional ballerina. If  many American ballet students are indeed too fat who is to blame? The growing obesity epidemic? The schools that don't care if you weigh 300 lbs as long as you make them money? The lack of respect for the theatrical traditions of ballet? A real ignorance of the physical demands of a dance career? Most likely, a little bit of each.