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.

Do you think Ms. Ringer or any other dancer can be “too fat” to dance? You tell us!

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  • jamesfrmphilly

    is this why they got no black dancers?

    • Kema
    • Keebo

      I’m not sure what you mean but there are a lot of black/ethnic ballet dancers out there…perhaps not all in popular companies. One of them are Misty Copeland, who is a talented ballerina and the first black(biracial) female soloist for the American Ballet Theatre. She’s exceptional for someone who started late training at 13. I’m a heavy set gal who is not in the dancing industry yet I have to agree with some of the critics. While it’s sad, traditionally the ballet industry have expectations of their male and female dancers – It’s to be very lean, strong, have a good built, good technique and to work your ass off for a short span of career. Also this one critic of the Times who is known for being a colorful ass and accepted for such.

    • Keebo

      ” and accepted as such.”

    • smrtrgrl

      [email protected] That, and also because when a dancer joins the company she is part of the corps de ballet, or the “body” of the ballet. These girls are not the stars, but rather the “back-up” dancers. So, they are supposed to all look alike. I was trained by the first Latina allowed into the Joffrey Ballet, and she recognized that it was because she was light enough to pass .

  • African Mami

    He is a critic with absolutely no understanding of the woman’s body!

  • MP

    Yes, as a former hobbyist dancer, one can be too fat to dance with excellence. One’s girth could impede one’s movement. It would probably take being morbidly obese to get there though. We had thick girls and one obese girl where I took classes. All were talented, but only the obese one’s movement was hampered by her size. It was blocking her from kicking higher, leaning farther, etc. She was still doing her thing within her more limited range of motion though. She was still conditioned enough to keep up and not look like she was dragging.

    Clearly, that wasn’t the case in this scenario and dude is unqualified to write about dance. The dancers’ size was not affecting their performance, he was just taking potshots.

  • Clnmike

    Its the performance that should be judged not the body type unless the weight interferes with the dance than I would say some one is to large. But this guy gave the performance a thumbs up.

  • Emelyne

    This woman is not fat; she’s muscular and toned, the way the best dancers are and should be. She will have a longer career than most ballet dancers do (most women retire from it at 35) because she is built for the strenuous activity. The critic needs to read a few books on anatomy and physiology. Funny, he didn’t say anything about her performance. . .