Thank you for the question, Saralykkemadsen
This is a very honest and brave question. Quite frankly, it’s a question that almost all professional and non-professional dancers ask themselves.
There is a lot of pressure on ballet dancers to be thin. You want to feel light to your partner, you want to be proud of how you look in that unitard.
Our “habitat” doesn’t exactly help the situation. Being surrounded by mirrors for hours a day, keeps that pressing question in the front of our minds, Am I too big for ballet?
Firstly, I want you and all aspiring to be ballerinas out there to know, that you are not alone. Even if your friends don’t admit it, they all feel the pressure and have the same worry.
I remember when I was in my teens thinking, “If only I was thinner, then I wouldn’t even have to think about my weight. How nice that must feel to come in to work and just dance without that worry.”
Secondly, I want all you beautiful, young people to know that being a teenager is tricky. Your body really is going through changes and it will take some time for you to figure it out. And that is ok.
Listen to your body. It is giving you hints of what it needs. Everyone will have advice. EVERYONE. You will have to filter that advice, which is the trickiest part, especially because you are still young and finding your way. But the more you believe in that gut feeling you have, the more you pay attention to yourself, you will find your confidence in yourself which will pour out of you and this question will no longer exist. You’ll learn how to love yourself.
I was always told that running was bad for me, so I never did it. I wish I hadn’t listened. I love to run and it makes me feel fit. I feel, I need the cardio to stay at a ballerina weight. If I had discovered that in my teens, maybe I could have erased so many of those depressing thoughts of feeling too big.
Thirdly, the goal is to be healthy. Try not to get obsessed with a number or a goal weight. I would recommend to stay away from a scale. The goal should be to be a strong, satisfied, healthy and happy human being.
Educate yourself about what types of food fuels the body and what types are purely empty calories. You can learn a lot on a google search on the internet or even on Netflix’s, there are many ways to learn more about your body that is fun! Then, be smart about your choices but without being impossibly strict.
Discover ways to be excited about eating healthy. Maybe that means finding fun recipes. Experiment with smoothies. Pick up a vegetable from the store that you’ve never cooked before and spend the evening figuring out how to add it to your dinner. I find that when I eat healthy, I already feel better about how my body looks because I know I am giving it the nutrients that it really needs.
If you feel happy, and proud of who you are and what you look like, this fear of being too big for ballet will disappear.
Personally, I needed to find an extra form of exercise that made me feel fit. My answer is Running. Some people enjoy biking more (biking always gave me a heavy feeling in my thighs) some enjoy the elliptical (great invention!) some prefer the rowing machine (impressive!) swimming (oooh I love to swim) and some would rather do hot yoga. It’s completely individual.
It also helps to find a second passion. Maybe you also enjoy to sing. Or you love to write stories… read, hike, cook…whatever it is, it is always a good idea to have a more rounded life. When ballet becomes your entire identity, you put yourself in a very vulnerable position. What happens when you get injured? Or when your dreams weren’t quite what you thought?
It’s never fun to feel like you are falling apart. By keeping a life full of curiosity for many things, you will give yourself the biggest gift.
So, how to not feel too big for ballet… learn to love yourself. Be realistic, and honest but use it to encourage yourself to become the best version of yourself.
By having this question, this thought, it just shows that you care. That you are dreaming to be a ballet dancer and that is amazing! Never lose this. You are going through a natural phase of becoming a ballerina. You are figuring out how to be proud of your hard working body. Never stop dreaming.