NY Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay probably should’ve completed one more revision of his choreographed commentary for NYC Ballet’s production of “The Nutcracker.” Perhaps if he’d chosen to edit his harsh view of the Sugar Plum Fairy—played by Jenifer Ringer—whom he stated “looked as if she’d eaten one too many sugar plums,” there wouldn’t be so many tutus and ballet pink tights in a wad.
As a therapist, recovering bulimic, and former dancer, I have mixed thoughts about the NY Times article. My therapist and recovering self is outraged by such insincerity; especially when Ms. Ringer has talked about her issues with eating and self-esteem, which were perpetuated by the ballet world. As a former dancer, albeit not primarily classical ballet, I was never told I was fat. However, there were a couple of times when I was told that my body would be perfect if I’d just “tone up” a little. What was difficult for me was living in LA and being criticized by agents or choreographers about my look or style, and the constant type-casting. The message was clear: You aren’t good enough. Period.
While it hurts to be judged in the dance world, it wasn’t unexpected. My years of taking classes daily, spending hours scrutinizing every movement, every body line, every inch of my body—while trying to get the ballet mistress’ attention and stand out more than your classmates—prepared me for the professional world of dance. I knew what I was getting into. It fed right into my naturally masochistic nature. Home sweet home.
Getting back to the article, though … I do find it RIDICULOUS that, of all things, knowing that Jenifer has had past ED and self-esteem issues, Macaulay had to comment on her body. Wasn’t it enough that he said she didn’t dance with adult depth or complexity? Tsk, tsk Macaulay.
As a therapist who wants to help those who struggle with food and body images issues, I can’t help but wonder how many more young girls and women will be triggered by his critique. So, he’s getting a lot of flack for his comments—the message is on point: You need to be THINNER.
Ms. Ringer responded on the Today Show about being criticized, stating that because of where she is in her life now, she can move forward from it. Here are some of her comments below.
“I was 16 when I became professional and I think I wasn’t prepared to cope with just being in an adult performing world, and so I think my coping mechanisms kind of turned into eating disorders and body image issues.”
“As a dancer I do put myself out there to be criticized and my body is part of my art form. At the same time I’m not overweight. I do have I guess a more womanly body type than the stereotypical ballerina.”
I agree with her comments. It’s clear that she has Grand Jete’d from her past insecurities to a life of health and sanity. BRAVO!