Last month, Alastair Macaulay, dance critic for The New York Times,
was less than graceful in his review
of the New York City Ballet's production of "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker" when he expressed his opinion that two of the dancers were less than "ideal" for body size. Macaulay reported that Jenifer Ringer, who portrayed the Sugar Plum Fairy, "looked as if she'd eaten one sugar plum too many" and that Jared Angle, who was the Cavalier, "seems to have been sampling half the sweet realm." His comment regarding Jenifer Ringer, who has been open about her past personal battle with both anorexia and compulsive eating, caused an outcry from some of Macaulay's readership, who perceived his comment to be disrespectful and insensitive in light of Ringer's history of eating disorders.
Macaulay defended his position in a subsequent article
in which he pointed out that a ballet dancer's appearance is integral to the profession. He stated that "ballet demands sacrifice in its pursuit of widely accepted ideals of beauty .....[and, therefore,] if you want to make your appearance irrelevant to criticism, do not choose ballet as a career."
Fault lies in this mindset. It undermines the serious health risks that an eating disorder poses. Anorexia is not a lifestyle
for which you choose to make "sacrifices." It is a disease
During an interview
with the Today Show's Ann Curry, Ringer stated that she is now at a healthy weight. In my opinion, to suggest that she "has eaten one too many sugar plums" is irresponsible. It implies that health should be jeopardized for the sake of appearance. At Ringer's current weight, if she were to eat less, she could, theoretically, drop to an unhealthy low weight. As Ringer noted in the Today Show interview, when you are too thin, you are physically weak and, therefore, cannot perform well.
Macaulay shirks the blame of his stance onto the profession of ballet, stating that he may be severe, "but ballet, as dancers know, is more so." Perhaps this can serve as a wake-up call that "ideal" beauty should arise from a state of good health, not from unbearable sacrifices that compromise it. Ringer summed it up well when she told Curry that "in the New York City Ballet, we have every body type you can imagine...They can all dance like crazy, they are all gorgeous. I think dance should be more of a celebration of that--seeing these beautiful women with these different bodies all dancing to this gorgeous music and that is what should be celebrated."
Labels: Alastair Macaulay, anorexia, ballet, eating disorders, Jenifer Ringer, New York City Ballet, The New York Times, The Today Show