Dancing for Joy  - Celebrating Ballet in All Sizes

Dancing for Joy - Celebrating Ballet in All Sizes


At Butterfly, one of our core values is INCLUSIVITY . In previous blogs we have looked at how ballet can be beneficial for all bodies at every age and stage of life, and now we turn to the bodies themselves, in all their their shapes and sizes, to consider why size doesn't matter in adult ballet and how this timeless dance genre is a welcoming space for dancers of all backgrounds and body types.

Generally  associated with grace, poise, and elegance, professional ballet has a reputation for celebrating a certain body type. However, the beauty of adult ballet lies in its ability to transcend size, age, and shape, allowing dancers of all sizes to experience the sheer joy of this art form. 

Ballet as an art form is an artistic expression that has captured the hearts of audiences for centuries. It combines music, storytelling, and movement to convey emotion, beauty, and narrative. The foundation of all ballet lies in technique and discipline, but it's important to recognise that these elements are not exclusive to a particular body size.

Contestants in Wayne Sleep's reality show Big Ballet  

As adults, whether brand new beginners or more experienced dancers, our bodies are probably not ideally 'built for ballet', and there may well be injuries, wear and tear or general weaknesses that we have to work with. Whilst our older bodies may lack the strength and flexibility of our younger selves, dancing as an adult enables us to bring our lifetime of the emotional experience to our dance practise. Child dancers can achieve the moves correctly, but they do not have a range of emotional maturity.

This emotional maturity is where adult dancers of all body types can really come into their own. A beautiful seated port de bras can be as moving as any dying swan when the arms and hands, the tilt of the head and the expression can convey the happiness or sadness, yearning or despair of the artist. Whatever our body shape or size, keeping moving is important for health and wellbeing. As we have discussed in previous blogs, the physical and mental benefits of ballet are wide-ranging and ballet is completely scalable for everyone.  

Historically, ballet has been associated with a slender, sylph-like aesthetic. This stereotype has discouraged many talented individuals from pursuing their passion for dance. However, in recent years, slowly, slowly, some corners of the dance world have seen a shift towards embracing size diversity. Ballet superstar David McAllister was interviewed on Radio New Zealand and had some very insightful things to say about size and diversity. You can listen to the interview here 

Strength in Diversity: Ballet is not just about aesthetics; it's about strength, control, and the ability to convey emotions through movement. Dancers of various shapes and sizes bring their unique strengths to the art form. Some may have incredible flexibility, while others possess impressive strength and stability. By celebrating these differences, ballet becomes a richer, more diverse art form.'

"I was tall, I was black, and I was skinny," recalls Courtney Henry, dancer at Alonzo King LINES Company in San Francisco "I was everything that was really not cool from, like, the third grade."

Body Positivity: The body positivity movement has played a pivotal role in changing perceptions about what a ballet dancer should look like. Dancers of all sizes are increasingly challenging stereotypes and breaking barriers, inspiring others to embrace their bodies and pursue their dreams. Of course this is right on message for us at Butterfly as we exist to make all dancers look and feel beautiful by making body friendly  dancewear for everyone.

Skill Over Size: Ballet is all about technique and skill. For professional dancers it requires years of training, practice, and dedication, while for those of us who are dancing for pleasure, the input of passion and effort will reap ample rewards. whether we are tall or short, wide or narrow, busty or flat chested, size doesn't dictate our ability to learn the movements and techniques that make ballet so captivating.

Plus Size dancer Colleen Werner

Embracing Individuality: Ballet celebrates individuality. As dancers we each  bring own unique flair and personality. In this sense, ballet encourages self-expression, allowing each one of us to shine in our own way. Body type simply doesn't come into it. When we dance as adults we dance for ourselves, for personal pleasure and whilst we strive for common goals in class, we all take our own journey. 

Inclusive Training: If you are fortunate you will find adult ballet classes that you can attend attend in person as many ballet schools and studios now offer inclusive training programs that cater to dancers of all sizes and abilities. This ensures that aspiring dancers can access quality instruction and support to help them reach their full potential. If you ever thought (or were told) that ballet was not for you because of your body shape, that is certainly no longer the case. If you don't have a studio nearby, or are too shy to go, there are a multitude of online classes available on the internet, many of them are free, and there is something for everyone.

New York City Ballet Essentials Class

    Ballet is an art form that transcends physical appearance and size. It is about passion, dedication, and the joy of movement. Even the professional dance world is gradually evolving, becoming more inclusive and embracing size diversity. Dancers of all sizes can find their place in ballet, and their contributions enrich the art form.

    The most important thing for us as adult dancers  is to pursue our ballet passion with determination and joy. Ballet offers a world of beauty, expression, and fulfilment, regardless of our physical bodies. Size truly doesn't matter in adult ballet; what matters is the love for dance and the willingness keep on trying to learn and improve. So, whether we're petite or curvy, tall or short, remember that ballet welcomes us all with open arms, ready to share its boundless joy with all who embrace it.

     Happy Dancing xoxo



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