An Impermeable Monoculture

There is no question that this is an age of over-exposure between ‘reality’ shows, inappropriate genitalia tweets, and yes, blogs everywhere. In case you are wondering why I haven’t putting something up everyday, it’s because I do not want to be one those contributors that puts every thought and observation of mine up on the internet. So unless I think there is something worth saying or a picture worth sharing, I will be keeping to myself. You’re welcome.

That being said, I do have something exciting coming up. I am choreographing and dancing in a short performance on

Photoshoot with Tom Byrne in Pamela Ptak design (yes, the crazy lady fro 'Project Runway' season 7- I'm not smiling because I'm too busy concentrating on how I shouldn't have eaten breakfast before my photo shoot. just kidding! sort of.......

July 9th here in St. Louis and we are doing a photo shoot this weekend. I asked the dancers to wear light colors or white, which usually makes most already body-conscious people freak out about looking like a marshmallow, even if they are no where close to having to worry about that. It’s just a fact in the dance and modelling world that certain body types and fitness levels are expected.

I just finished the book ‘Swamplandia!‘ by Karen Russell. I have to be honest, reading this book was like riding a broken-down roller coaster. The beginning was I thought, awesome and exciting and right when it got to the point that it seems like it should take off, it just kind of rolled down the hill and didn’t go anywhere. I still found the writing superb and beautiful, and I was still invested in the characters, but plot-wise it kind of lost me. I was disappointed with the ending. Still a good read though.

I came a cross a term I didn’t know in the book: ‘ impermeable monoculture’- which means (as described in the book) a forest with only one kind of tree in it. Maybe it’s becaues my brain always reverts back to dance, this got me thinking about ballet companies and how diversity is finally being encouraged. And in terms of my upcoming photo shoot, I am thrilled to have a blonde, a brunette, a redhead, dancers that are, and look, incredibly different. But they all still look like ‘dancers’ to me. (I’ll post some pictures when they are ready, so check back for those next week.)

We’ve all heard the quote, ‘if everyone looked the same, the world would be boring’. Not usually so in classical ballet. The point of the corps de ballet is to look the same, in technique anyways. And directors of companies large enough to do the ballets with this kind of corps de ballet (Giselle, Swan lake, Bayadere, etc) usually have a standard of look. Some want girls between 5’2-‘7, some want taller, some still like the bony willowy look, others prefer a more muscular, athletic body. I have seen dancers in reputable companies with shorter legs or large breasts. It seems to me that restrictions on dancer bodies is more about technical limitations; all directors, I think, want nice arched feet and ankles and a good amount of turn-out and flexibility.  Still, my guess is that those dancers without the ‘typical body type’ have to work twice as hard to get noticed, or to get a job in the ballet world.

In small pieces, and in a small company, it’s great to have different looks because it adds a visual dynamic the way that set design adds to a performance. But different looks within a certain boundary, I don’t think the majority of the dance world is accepting heavy dancers. The goal is still ‘thin’ or ‘athletic’. People just seem to have different ideas of what that means.

In short, here’s the feeling that I get, and feel free to disagree; I think every dancer wants to be thin. You will never be turned away from a company if you are slender (within reason). It seems that ‘the mold’ still exists but it isn’t restricted to rich white girls. Your shape, size, and physical attributes like leg-length are more important than skin color. As far as the ‘cookie’ cutter’ ballerina goes, it seems you can be any type of cookie as long as you still come out in a perfect circle.

rehearsal at Butler University.One girl has a great body but a terrible foot going on. Can you spot it?

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