I don't care if Margot is a Dame of the British Empire or older than myself. For me she represents eternal youth; there is an absolute musical quality in her beautiful body and phrasing. Because we are sincere and gifted, an intense abstract love is born between us every time we dance together.
How many of us look in the mirror and wish our thighs were smaller? Stomachs flatter, arches higher, achilles longer, legs more sway-back, bums smaller or bigger, hips more flexible or less, arms stronger, jumps higher, when are we ever satisfied?
I started dancing at 3 and a half but by 7 years old, I thought I could be a ballet dancer (hahahahaaaa!), I had the strength and the flexibility, I was in the National Youth Ballet, I came second in an all England dance competition and I use to love wearing my tutu's and running out onto that stage.
However after having teachers tell me that I am too big or that I have the wrong colour skin I came to accept that my dream was not within my reach...well at least that is what I was lead to believe.
Of course times and companies have changed and expanded - not to mention of course that I went through puberty and my body made a few changes. Anyway I say all this because it as all bought to the front of my mind as I read an article about a new channel 4 show called 'Big Ballet'.
A new three-part-series will be following 18 amateur, plus sized dancers as they re-inact Swan Lake. Do I think this this is a good thing?
Well how can I not? I think that it will make a bold statement to all (whether you are a dancer or not) and it will encourage those who may have been told that they were 'too fat to dance' to not give up and it will prove that you don't have to be skinny to do ballet. But it also interests me that there are some of us out there who have put in years of training and have the capabilities to be ballet dancers but will never have the chance to perform Swan Lake as a ballet dancer because we are 'too fat' as well. Or are we just in the wrong country?
Hmm wait...this isn't the first time we have seen a big ballet, there is The Big Ballet in Russia (of all places). Russian choreographer Panfilov established 'The Big Ballet' in 1996 consisting of 16 dancers and none of them weighing less than 200 pounds. So we already know that you can be big and beautiful and do ballet. But England hasn't caught on to that yet. Or have they? We shall see.
But then maybe I am wrong, maybe ballet dancers do need to have sloping shoulders and thin ankles, high arches and long lines. Maybe these are the aesthetics needed to portray a swan.
What I wish this program did is highlight dancers that have been told they are too big to be ballet dancers and prove that is it possible to be just as graceful and strong and beautiful without the thin aesthetic behind it. I would like to see technique performed well by dancers that the Royal Ballet considers to be 'too big', because I think it's important that the public understand that sometimes (unfortunately) it doesn't matter how good you are.
Parents should have a real representation of ballet showing that if you are putting your child through the gruesome masochistic (potentially soul destroying) elitist form of dance you also need to be made aware that your child might not make it because she is the wrong size, or the wrong colour and not because of her talent, fact.
Ballet is not easy, although be it not my favourite genre (anymore) I can appreciate the hard work that they all undertake daily, the stress on the body and the mind, (not to mention how much it costs).
Their careers start young and they finish young and the chances of being a soloist is probably less than the chance of being a footballer. It's not easy. But there are incredible dancers out there who have struggled and fought with the beautiful bodies they have been given but still fulfilled their dreams, Misty Copeland, Kathleen Rea, Michaela Deprince, Anastasia Volochkova, and Jennifer Ringer to name a few. You don't just have to have a certain body but you have to have a certain mind.
So on the other hand if this is just a program about plus-sized women having the opportunity to experience ballet then I hope it is conveyed well that you don't have to be a size to 6 to be able to do ballet or to be beautiful because you don't, but the viewers should see that dance is not an easy career choice. I hope the participants of the show understand that all dancers (not just ballet) are athletes.
It is a full time commitment and you need thick skin, you need dedication and you need to be able to handle negative comments, rejection and failures. It's not just difficult physically its difficult mentally and emotionally and on top of that we have the world judging us telling us that dancing isn't a 'real job'.
You have to love dancing to stick to it. It gives you nothing back, no manuscripts to store away, no paintings to show on walls and maybe hang in museums, no poems to be printed and sold, nothing but that single fleeting moment when you feel alive.
...Merce Cunningham said that
I have mixed feelings about this show and I'm not one to sit and watch television but I may have to take some time out on february the 6th to tune in to Channel 4's Big Ballet to see what it's all about.
I think the program could be a huge success and.. I think this could be the first ballet I don't fall asleep in.