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Weighty Matters: You Call This Fat?

December 14, 2010

Jenifer Ringer

There is a firestorm brewing over comments made by a ballet critic from the New York Times named Alastair Macaulay.  In his review of the New York City Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker, Macauley made a quip about principal dancer Jenifer Ringer, who plays the Sugar Plum Fairy in the ballet.

Here is the direct quote from his piece:

“Jenifer Ringer, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, looked as if she’d eaten one sugar plum too many; and Jared Angle, as the Cavalier, seems to have been sampling half the Sweet realm.”

So, the writer essentially thought that Jenifer’s body, along with Angle’s, were so large and detracting that it was worth noting in his review.  I can’t really fault him for that without being a hypocrite, because I have certainly pointed out when actors have gained too much weight (Russell Crowe comes to mind) to be convincing in their particular role.

If you are a performer, and your physical appearance detracts from your art, then criticism is warranted.  Movie stars get paid millions of dollars to fit an image and sell a role, so I don’t exactly feel bad for them when they are criticized for not cutting it in their role.

Normally I wouldn’t give this comment about the dancer the time of day.  I assumed she must be quite overweight for it to be an issue for the reviewer, and he commented on one of the male dancers as well, so it wasn’t like he just singled her out.

However, Ms. Ringer was on the TODAY SHOW this morning (video embedded below) responding to the criticism and body-weight issues in the ballet world.  I was rather shocked to see that Ringer is by no stretch of the imagination even slightly overweight.  She looks amazing, and anyone I know would trade places with her in a minute.  It is disturbing that Mr. Macaulay is calling her overweight, because it clearly sends a very dangerous public message.

The Nutcracker is a family ballet.  I’m sure that there were lots of little girls in the audience who might have read the review.  How can you look at her photo and say she’s eaten one sugar plum too many?  It’s irresponsible, and simply untrue.

I will say that Ringer will definitely get the last laugh on this one.  She was poised, gracious, and classy on the show.  Ringer herself suffered from anorexia when she began professionally dancing, so I am sure the comments were doubly hurtful.

It is ironic that all this comes up right before Black Swan, the Darren Aronofsky movie starring a rail-thin Natalie Portman as a troubled ballerina, arrives in theaters.  Her drive for perfection breaks her body and spirit.  Sounds like it is not too far from the truth.

When I saw Black Swan, I was truly horrified by how thin Portman was.  Word on the street is that she lost twenty pounds for the role.  She has always been tiny, so you can imagine what she looks like twenty pounds lighter. Is that what Macaulay prefers to see?

Incidentally, he has stood his ground and not offered up an apology.  In a follow-up column, he concludes with,  ”If you want to make your appearance irrelevant to criticism, do not choose ballet as a career.”

I get what he is saying, I really do, but if you are going to call someone overweight in writing, they had better actually be so.  I just can’t wrap my head around why he thinks she is fat. What do you think?  He seems to think the public has blinders here, since no one is crying foul over his comments about the male dancer. What do you think of all this?

To read Macaulay’s original review, click here.

To read his follow-up column, click here.


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One Response to “ Weighty Matters: You Call This Fat? ”

  1. Maya on December 16, 2010 at 8:30 pm

    Well, just like the lady who does my fire yoga video, ballerinas have a lot of muscles. I definitely think the reviewer guy was confusing a muscular appearance for fat, which is a mistake on his part. He should own up. Also his statement makes him sound misogynistic, or at least impolite. A guy should never call a woman fat.