The art world can be incredibly subjective and cruel, but when a New York Times critic chastised a ballerina for her weight, many said he had crossed the line.
After attending the opening of the New York City Ballet’s production of “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker,” critic Alastair Macaulay, of the Times, had some choice words for the dancers. Although he marveled at the theatrical nature of the original piece, he felt the dance company’s interpretation fell short. And their dancers, were, well . . . fat.
“Jenifer Ringer, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, looked as if she’d eaten one sugar plum too many,” Macaulay writes. “And Jared Angle, as the Cavalier, seems to have been sampling half the Sweet realm. They’re among the few City Ballet principals who dance like adults, but without adult depth or complexity.”
Almost immediately, his comments about the dancers’ bodies went viral. Ms. Ringer, who had recently been featured in Working Mother magazine discussing her struggles with eating disorders, was rightly upset that the critic would take a jab at her body.
Ballet dancers are known to be extremely thin yet very strong artists. Their bodies go through rigorous training sessions for hours each day, and there isn’t much room to hide when one is dancing in a tutu. So yes, commenting on a dancer’s body would be fair game if it somehow impeded her dancing. However, one look at Ms. Ringer’s fit body and it’s hard to even see what Macaulay was talking about.
Apparently, I wasn’t the only one confused by his comments. After receiving a “deluge” of angry responses, Macaulay again took to his New York Times column to explain his review.
“Which art requires more exposure of the human form than the nude in painting, photography or sculpture? Ballet, of course. Dancers — even when sheathed in tights, tunics, tutus — open their bodies up in the geometrical shapes and academic movements that ballet has codified, and so they make their bodies subject to the most intense scrutiny”
Ballet and eating disorders are strange bedfellows. The dance world has a history of holding its dancers to seemingly impossible weight standards, which have driven many to turn to anorexia and bulimia. The new film “Black Swan” highlights the impossible weight standards to which ballet dancers are held just to make it in the competitive field, but despite the dangers, many do not see the standards changing anytime soon.
Yesterday, Ms. Ringer was on the “Today Show” discussing the controversy surrounding the review in The New York Times and the unrelenting pressure in the dance world to stay stick-thin. Check out the video and tell us what you think.