Hamid hamido via Unsplash

Ask Amy: How to Deal When You're Not Cast Because of Your Height

I'm 5' 11". A répétiteur told me that I was too tall for the work she was setting because tall people can't move fast. This was before she had ever seen me attempt the movement. Why is that still an acceptable reason not to cast someone? —Deanna



Ballet has always been slow to move beyond old-school stereotypes. And, unfortunately, it's not uncommon for artists on both ends of the height spectrum to get typecast or feel stuck because a director, choreographer or stager has a rigid idea of what certain dancers are capable of. While shorter dancers may seem naturally suited for fast movement, I've seen many tall ones conquer the speedy choreography of George Balanchine, Alexei Ratmansky and Justin Peck. I myself was a pretty fast dancer, and I'm 5' 8".

The stager may have preconceived notions based on her past experiences, or perhaps the costumes were created for a shorter cast. If she is in charge of casting—and the artistic staff isn't stepping in on your behalf—I'm not sure you have much control over the situation. But what you can do is assert yourself: Respectfully ask to learn the ballet, even if it's in the back of the room. Tell your director that you'd like to be considered for these types of roles in the future. Sometimes speaking up confidently and showing what you can do—and how much you want to do it—will make artistic staff take notice.

Have a question? Send it to Pointe editor in chief and former dancer Amy Brandt at askamy@dancemedia.com.

Latest Posts


From left: Alaina Broyles, Courtesy Werner; Courtesy Underwood

Gaynor Minden's Latest Dancer Lineup Features a Body-Positivity Activist and Its First Guy

Pointe shoe brand Gaynor Minden recently welcomed 32 young dancers to its coveted roster of Gaynor Girls. But this year, the company included two applicants who push the boundaries of what it means to dance on pointe. While both Mason Simon Underwood and Colleen Werner are longtime GM wearers, they stand out from the rest of this year's group: Underwood is the first ever Gaynor Guy, and Werner is a body-positivity activist.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Dylan Giles, Courtesy Festival Ballet Providence

Festival Ballet Providence's New Leap Year Program Gives Dancers Facing a Gap Year a Place to Grow

A new training program at Festival Ballet Providence called Leap Year is welcoming pre-professional and professional dancers who don't have a studio or company to dance for this season.

The endeavor is the brainchild of Kathleen Breen Combes, FBP's executive and artistic director. "I kept getting these emails of dancers saying they just need a place to train this year," says Combes. "I thought, What if we could provide a space for dancers to get stronger, experiment and try new things in a nonjudgmental and no-pressure environment?"

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Talbot Hall, Courtesy Linnea Swarting

Dancing With Eczema: More Than a Minor Irritation

For dancers dealing with eczema and skin sensitivity, ballet poses some unique challenges. I have struggled with both my whole life, and sometimes my eczema is all I can see when I look in the mirror. The condition causes dry, irritated, rash-like patches on the skin. American Midwest Ballet dancer Rachel Smith, who also suffers from eczema, can relate. "It's hard to feel confident in yourself or your dancing when you have itchy red spots all over your body that you should leave uncovered so they can heal quickly."

Dry, sensitive skin and eczema are very common—according to the National Eczema Association, about 10.1 percent of Americans have some form of the skin condition. Sweating all day, tight-fitting dancewear and high levels of stress make dancers with eczema more likely to experience bad flare-ups and daily symptoms. While treatments vary, below are some simple steps dancers can take to ease raw, itchy skin.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks