Dancers' Body Book

Dancers' Body Book

by Allegra Kent

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780061951794
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 06/09/2009
Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 1,113,313
File size: 263 KB

About the Author

Allegra Kent joined the New York City Ballet at the age of fifteen and was a principal dancer with the company for thirty years, during which time she created a number of starring roles in ballets by Balanchine and Robbins. The mother of two daughters and a son, she is also the author of Allegra Kent's Water Beauty Book.

Read an Excerpt

Dancers' Body Book
Chapter OneWhy Dancers Need to
Diet — You Can't Fool
Anyone When You're
Wearing Tights

The number-one reason dancers have to diet is the merciless exposure of their bodies in class and onstage. Even certain costumes can work against them, making them appear heavier or revealing an unattractive feature, and that's especially true of tights.

You can't fool anyone when you're wearing tights. Ounces become pounds under a leotard. Any extra weight is as easily noticed by the people in the back row as it is by the people in the front.

No question about it, a leotard is probably more revealing than nudity. A dancer can look pretty terrible in tights unless she's pared her weight down to the absolute minimum. There's no in-between.

That's why I worry less about my weight when I'm dancing the roles that call for nightgowns as costumes instead of tights. There is nothing like an upcoming performance in a leotard to put the fear of fat into you!

If a dancer really needs a reason to diet, tights will do it every time. Peter Fonseca, a dancer with American Ballet Theatre, says, "Suddenly I'm feeling ten pounds overweight and there's a performance coming up and they say, 'You have to wear tights.' You have to be skinny and you have to appear even skinnier, or you're going to look fat onstage.

"The management tells you this, you know. They'll say, 'You have to lose weight.' Even though I've already been trying to lose and maybe have lost about five pounds, getting down to the low hundred-forties, I'll just have to get down to rock bottom, which for me is about one hundred thirty-two."

It's pretty toughfor the poor dancer who works hard to stay slim and look good, and still feels fat in a white leotard.

But it isn't just the fear of tights that makes dancers try to be as thin as possible. The pressure to stay slim comes from everywhere: the audience, the management, even fellow dancers. In the New York City Ballet that encouragement came from George Balanchine and the teachers, but always as an unspoken wish. Dancers often know without being told that staying slim is what is required of them.

Isabel Brown, who danced with ABT in the 1940's and whose daughter Leslie, star of The Turning Point, is with the company today, talks about the differences in appearances. "When I was in the American Ballet Theatre, most of the dancers were really quite chunky, and in those days it was considered okay not to be skinny-skinny. But about ten years after I left American Ballet Theatre it was actually Balanchine who started with 'the stick' — you know, the very thin dancers."

Often the look of the modern ballerina is attributed to the influence of Balanchine. "In the early days, you know, everyone thought Mr. Balanchine wanted a string bean with a leg all the way up to here...." says Muriel Stuart, pointing somewhere near her shoulder to show what she means. As the last protegee of the legendary Anna Pavlova and an instructor at the School of American Ballet, Muriel is in a unique position to observe the comings and goings of ballet fads. "Well, of course, that wasn't even partly true. After all, he had to use the material that was at hand. But he wanted a body that was supple — a long, thin body. It can be the most beautiful."

Isabel Brown agrees. "That look still prevails today, and it's really a wonderful look, if they aren't too, too thin. I think that a heavy dancer onstage — not even heavy, but a normal 'heavy ' — takes away from the illusion of beauty that you expect from a dancer with great grace.

"Particularly with females, you expect them to look superior. A man might carry a normal weight. Because they're men, they don't have to be too thin."

(Unless of course they're wearing white tights!)

A new principal dancer with ABT, Cynthia Harvey, says, "Even though it's easier to know I'll be in a romantic tutu instead of a leotard, it really doesn't change the pressure much, because the line always looks better when it is long and thin."

But some dancers have an easier time of it than others. People with certain body types, those that naturally possess a long and slender line, can be casual about watching what they eat and still keep the right look, while the rest must constantly work to lower their weight and get rid of the fat that seems to cling to those terrible problem areas.

It isn't always just a matter of weight, either. A short, chunky girl, for example, might weigh less than a tall, thin girl. But the poor short dancer will have to diet twice as hard as the tall one to get a ballerina's ethereal took.

Cynthia tries to take that fact into account when she is dieting. "Even though I'm thin-boned, it doesn't always spread evenly when it comes."

Like most other dancers, Cynthia is practical and frank about her weight. She is conscious of any extra pounds and sets her own weight-loss goals accordingly.

"I still want to lose five pounds," she says. "My ideal weight would be ninety-nine to a hunded one pounds. I'm five feet four and a quarter inches — I look taller, but am not all that tall — and I usually have a working weight of a hundred six pounds. I feel strong at a hundred six.

"My partners might be more appreciative if I were thinner even the strongest of them. Baryshnikov lets me know without saying anything. He'll groan a little, or he'll grab at the area in question. That lets you know! And if you're going to be dancing with him, you certainly want to make yourself look good."

Dancers' Body Book
. Copyright (c) by Allegra Kent . Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Dancers' Body Book 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
librisissimo on LibraryThing 1 days ago
Substance: The text consists primarily of anecdotes from dancers on dieting and training which are only marginally interesting and not really useful, since they contradict each other and Kent does not resolve the contradictions. Most of the general advice is obtainable elsewhere in better format, and much is out of date.Style: An extended popular-magazine article, concerned mostly with name-dropping.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Does this book say anything about point or having bunions?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hi. Im sixteen and starting dance next tuesday. Would this book help? And can you give me some good ways to lose weight Im around 106pounds how can I loose about five pound in a week?
SarahKate123 More than 1 year ago
When I first checked out this book I wasn't sure what to expect. A lot of "dancer's body" books seem to be engrossed with false information, and not a lot of background on the true hardships of being a Ballerina. After getting through the first couple of chapters I seemed to be hooked on this read; the information was accurate and truly displayed how difficult a dancer's body must work in order to fit its daily needs. I enjoyed the way the author went over, in great detail, the strict diet of a dancer and how their company exercise is key. From reading this book I was able to grasp more of an outsider's outlook on the dancer's body and how it is maintained through vigorous work. I recommend this novel for anybody who has the desire to learn more about the dancer's body, how it is acquired, what foods to stay away from, and all other questions relating to a Ballerina's hard work.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
This book had a lot of good information about dancer's dieting. If you dance serously and intensively it is important you eat correctly and very healthy. This book may emphasize losing weight but the core idea is to be healthy and feel full and fresh. There are things in this book that may annoy a dancer. There are all sorts of columns comparing weights of different dancers to people. I just want to note that healthy weights vary from person to person and this book may make someone feel bad. Buy this book only if you dance. If you are a serious dancer I reccomend it because it gove suseful advice.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was great on advice on loosing weight and staying fit.