How Far Is Too Far?
Recently, the ballet world has been abuzz over Alastair Macaulay's controversial review of NYCB's Jenifer Ringer and Jared Angle's performance on the opening night of Nutcracker. He wrote that Ringer "looked as if she'd eaten on sugar plum too many" and that Angle "seems to have been sampling half the Sweet realm". I'm not going to go into the controversial and oft-discussed topic of weight as it pertains to ballet, but I do want to talk about what it feels like, and what to do when a critic has gone too far.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote in this blog that critics are everywhere, and that it's important to be able to tell the difference between those whose insight will benefit your dancing, and those who don't have anything constructive to tell you. However, more often than not, you will have a teacher or a fellow student who will step over the line between what is simply not useful and what is hurtful. A friend of mine once went to an audition for a company in New York City, but unfortunately didn't make the cut. Instead of just leaving it at that, though, the company director wrote "too heavy" on her resume, and then proceeded to give it back to her after the audition. Talk about crossing the line--wasn't rejection enough? Being able to influence the development and careers of young dancers is a responsibility that comes with a lot of power, and this woman certainly abused hers in this case.
I believe that the people that offer unnecessary and hurtful criticism only do it because they can, without having to be afraid of the repercussions. Teachers and newspaper critics alike, while they may be knowledgable and qualified to give instruction and analysis, are mostly uncensored in giving their opinions. When they go too far, and end up being hurtful, rather than constructive, you have to be able to see that the problem is with them, not with you. Their bad manners are not your fault, and you certainly shouldn't trust the judgment of someone who cares so little about how you feel about yourself and your dancing. You should feel inspired to improve your dancing--not shamed into it.