Ovation's "Big Ballet" Confronts Body Stereotypes

How many aspiring dancers have given up because their body type failed to conform to ballet’s ideals? The Ovation network’s new series, “Big Ballet,” which had its American premiere last week, takes weight out of the equation for 18 plus-size dancers. The show follows Wayne Sleep, a former Royal Ballet principal dancer, and Monica Loughman, artistic director of the Monica Loughman Ballet in Ireland, as they prepare the dancers for a production of Swan Lake.

 

While the concept of “Big Ballet” seems ripe for humiliating its stars (as reality shows often do), the show insists its intent is to change the perception that ballet dancers must be thin to be beautiful. In fact, most of the participants (who range widely in age) have prior dance training, but quit in discouragement after being told they were too heavy. Last week’s episode showed many of them grow emotional talking about it. For them, the opportunity to perform gives them a chance to finally fulfill a lifelong dream.

 

The next two episodes follow the chosen dancers through a five-month rehearsal process, culminating in an abridged version of Swan Lake at the end. Wednesdays at 10 pm ET/7 pm PT, Ovation TV.


Latest Posts


Getty Images

The History of Pointe Shoes: The Landmark Moments That Made Ballet's Signature Shoe What It Is Today

Pointe shoes, with their ability to elevate a dancer both literally and metaphorically to a superhuman realm, are the ultimate symbol of a ballerina's ethereality and hard work. For students, receiving a first pair of pointe shoes is a rite of passage. The shoes carry an almost mystical allure: They're an endless source of lore and ritual, with tips, tricks and stories passed down over generations.

The history of pointe shoes reveals how a delicately darned slipper introduced in the 1820s has transformed into a technical tool that offers dancers the utmost freedom onstage today.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
La'Toya Princess Jackson, Courtesy MoBBallet

Join Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet for Its 2020 Virtual Symposium

Memoirs of Blacks in Ballet, founded in 2015 by writer and activist Theresa Ruth Howard to preserve and promote the stories of Black ballet dancers, is offering three weekends of interactive education and conversation this month through its 2020 Virtual Symposium. The conference, titled "Education, Communication, Restoration," encourages participants to engage in candid discussions concerning racial inequality and social justice in ballet. While it is a space that centers on Blackness, all are welcome. Held August 14, 15, 21, 22 and 28, MoBBallet's second annual symposium will allow dancers to receive mentorship and openly speak about their personal experiences in a safe and empowering environment.

The first event, For Us By Us (FUBU) Town Hall, is a free community discussion on August 14 from 3:30–4:30 pm EDT via Zoom, followed by a forum for ballet leadership. The town hall format encourages active engagement (participants can raise their hands and respond in real time), but the registration invoice also contains a form for submitting questions in advance. The following discussions, forums and presentations include topics like company life as a Black dancer, developing personal activism, issues of equity and colorism in ballet companies, and more. Tickets range from free to $12 for each 60- to 80-minute event.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Revisiting Pointe's Past Cover Stars: Adji Cissoko (August/September 2011)

We revisited some of Pointe's past cover stars for their take on how life—and ballet—has changed.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks