March 12, 2012

Live your dream: Anastasia Volochkova, the "fat" ballerina


 In today's feature, as promised last week, I wanted to tell the story of THE ballerina that is changing the current ballet world - Anastasia Volochkova. Known as , probably, the most scandalizing ballerina of modern day, Anastasia, nonetheless is making a change. The criticism , so willingly poured over her by Russian ballet-masters  and some of the current stars, I believe is there because of the unsightly exposure that a daring ballerina brought to the king of ballet schools.



Here is her story.

Russians love fairy tales. One could go so far to say it is their favorite type of fiction. What else is there to believe in, some Russians ask? Volochkova is Russia's living, indomitable fairy tale princess.

In her book "A Story of a Russian Ballerina," Volochkova compares the chapters of her life with the plots of 12 major Russian ballets she has starred in. Of course, the heroine triumphs again and again and again. 



As a teenager, Volochkova heard from her teachers at Vaganova Academy, the notoriously harsh ballet school that also trained Vaslav Nijinsky and Rudolf Nureyev, that a big-boned ballerina like her would never dance on the best stages. The provinces, they said, beckoned.



A few years later, Volockhova debuted as the Mariinsky's prima ballerina in Swan Lake at the Metropolitan Opera house in New York.
A longtime survivor of backstage battles, surrounded by what she called "jealousy and evil insults," Volochkova describes the drama of the movie "Black Swan" as "little flowers" compared to the intrigues of the Bolshoi Ballet.



It was the Bolshoi Theatre that threw the next "never" at Volochkova, firing her in 2003, a year after she won the prestigious Prix Benois de la Danse. The executives of Moscow's most famous theater pronounced Volochkova the "fat ballerina," too heavy to ever appear on the theater's stage again. She cried under the marble columns of the Bolshoi, she said. "Nobody had a word of support," she said.

The ballerina remembers with bitterness the day she had to step onto a scale that a New York Times reporter brought to an interview for an independent measure of her weight - without fear or favor. That scale showed 109 pounds, a fine dancing weight for a 5-foot 6-inch woman.



But her Bolshoi career was over in the most embarrassing fashion, after performing as a soloist in six major ballets and touring the world for more than five years.

Here is a little "how it happened"

Bolshoi insists that Anastasia Volochkova is simply too fat and and insists on a  story, yet to be confirmed, that her regular partner has required hospital treatment for a hernia. 



Revealing that she now exists on a diet of not much more than spinach leaves and vegetables, Volochkova says : 'I don't even eat my favourite ice cream now. The situation with the Bolshoi is not about height or weight ... these are not the test of a great ballerina.' 


The dispute unfolded on September 4 when Miss Volochkova was informed by phone that she had been replaced in the following night's performance of Swan Lake. 

" Volochkova's partner, Yevgeny Ivanchenko, has resigned during the northern summer after suffering an injury. Iksanov said that other dancers had refused to dance with Volochkova.

"I can't risk the artists' condition," he said, according to the daily Gazeta.

Bolshoi's spokeswoman, Yekaterina Novikova, said that the problem wasn't rooted in Volochkova's excessive height or weight, but her skills. "A tall ballerina could be easy to lift," Novikova told The Associated Press. "The problem is that male dancers complained of her height and weight and refused to dance with her."

As the dispute went on, Volochkova has resorted to political arguments, pointing at her membership in the top pro-Kremlin political party, the United Russia. The statement has drawn acerbic comments in many Russian media. The daily Vremya Novostei played on the United Russia's symbol, a bear, with a headline: "Not even bears could hold [her]."


Some compared Volochkova's ambitions to those of Matilda Kshesinskaya, the famed Russian ballerina of the early 20th century and a favourite of Tsar Nicholas II. Kshesinskaya was so powerful that she once forced the tsar to fire the director of imperial ballet. Ballet lovers ... started making guesses on whether Iskanov would be able to hold onto his job for long.

But the cold-headed manager apparently remembered that we no longer have a tsar and the president wasn't seen at Volochkova's performances - and fired her." 


This feature is not about motherhood - though Anastasia has a daughter, and just as many others, came back to the bar just a few short months after the birth ( some do it after weeks , or ... days) , the story of this ballerina stirred the oh-so-traditional world of Russian Ballet. It unfolded the ugly - in my opinion - side that is so well-hidden: those too skinny to live ballerinas ARE true, the pressure to be thin IS there. Nobody knows how many broken LIVES and MINDS are produced by the best of the best Russian school of Ballet, simply because of their view of ballerinas as dainty little fairies, rather then ... actual women. And this is not even touching a subject of severe discrimination of those choosing motherhood, of those that are not of the standard look even if extremely talented, and more. 

Ballet schools of the former Soviet Union, while producing exceptional dancers, are also the source of anguish, tears, illness, disorder and broken lives. While I may or may not like Anastasia's personal dancing style ( and , honestly, there is nothing bad too it - we all have our preferences ) I admire her for that she is doing now for the world of Ballet. I admire her loud voice, her promotion of HEALTH and opposition to ridiculousness. I hope that many will take after HER.

And to Anastasia Volochkova I wish success in all she does. Because she is creating a nation of healthy ballerinas. In every way.  

 anastasia today with her daughter, arina 

 


What do you think about dancers and weight? Dancer or not - I'd love to know your thoughts.

14 comments:

  1. Their behavior is totally unacceptable. If their men can't hold a dancer that has muscle then they need to lift weights and get stronger. Urgh! So frustrating!

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    1. Isn't it just awful? For the longest time I wanted to post her story, and I am glad I did. I am very glad that she has what it takes to go through all of it, and is vocal about it. She is a beautiful woman, and does NOT have an issue that she is being chewed out for. She is my height and weight - she has slightly different frame, but nonetheless - do I look like I'm THAT bad? I hope not... but this way or the other, the 5' tall 85lb ballerina stigma has to go. It's time for HEALTHY dancer appearance, just like it was 100+ years ago. Before the craziness started.

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  2. As a former dancer, I find this story utterly unbelievable and yet completely believable - Anastasia still looks to thin in my opinion - and the idea that a male dancer couldn't lift 109 pound woman is just absurd. I'm sure there was a lot of politics involved in the firing, too, but the fact that weight was used as the justification just makes it worse because it leaves the dancer even more scarred! How awful. But good for this woman for speaking out.
    xox,
    Cee
    http://cocoandvera.blogspot.com

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    1. As unbelievable as it may seem, it's the unfortunate truth. This issue with anastasia has been going on for years, I finally felt that it was time to bring it into discussion too. She's above all now, but the stigma of a "fat" ballerina will probably always what she'll be known for - russian school is mercy-less ( from first hand experience...) I think russian number ONE problem is that they pick men that are very small themselves ( in general , there are always exceptions , of course). Anyway. I'm so glad you shared! Thank you!

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  3. I agree. If the men were taller and stronger lifting a woman 5'6" 109 lbs should not be difficult AT ALL. Not to defend the issue against her weight in any way at all but I am also 5'6" and have been 108 before in extreme times of stress in my life and I have to say I don't think in many of the photos she could have been as low as 109. But even at 115 or 118 she is by no means at all fat?! I do think, like mentioned, there must have been some serious politics going on. I think she is gorgeous. It's really too bad for all the drama and mental anguish. Maybe she will go dance for NYCB and show them how wrong they were. I have seen many documentaries and photos of bolshoi students and some do look way too thin to be healthy. Not all but some for sure. They lack muscle tone and I don't see how that can be good for ballet. It's impossible if you are not strong and healthy.

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  4. Geez, perhaps you guys did not know that if you train at the Bolshoi (the "real", russian class, if you are 5'6" and weigh more than 96 pounds you have to sit on the sideline and watch while others get to do the partnering class.

    But if you think this is unique to Russia, look up on the Website the requirements to be accepted into the Paris Opera Ballet School. There are strict requirements by age, hight and weight.

    That being said, I think that this dancer is beautiful and statuesque. I whole-heartedly agree that the male dancers must be wimps, here in the U.S. many young men lift weights and can easily lift up to 200 pounds. Many boys in high school can repeatedly lift girls of their own age that weigh more than 110 pounds easily! I have seen it time and again and my husband lifted me overhead when we were 23 and I was 120 pounds!

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    1. it is not unique to Russia , and of course it is same/similar with France, because Russia and France share a lot of the same culture. In 1800 and 1900s, all the way to early 1930s, French, not russian, was considered the proper language for aristocrats. Russian was the commoners language, but even they knew enough french to get around. If you were in France and Russia, you should've seen how much of the same culture they share as well. And since ballet was for the cream of the society, it is natural that they share much of the same.

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  5. Geez, perhaps you guys did not know that if you train at the Bolshoi (the "real", russian class, if you are 5'6" and weigh more than 96 pounds you have to sit on the sideline and watch while others get to do the partnering class.

    But if you think this is unique to Russia, look up on the Website the requirements to be accepted into the Paris Opera Ballet School. There are strict requirements by age, hight and weight.

    That being said, I think that this dancer is beautiful and statuesque. I whole-heartedly agree that the male dancers must be wimps, here in the U.S. many young men lift weights and can easily lift up to 200 pounds. Many boys in high school can repeatedly lift girls of their own age that weigh more than 110 pounds easily! I have seen it time and again and my husband lifted me overhead when we were 23 and I was 120 pounds!

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  6. I am an artist painter ...in my opinion Anastasia is a PERFECT woman and ballerina ...All my respect and congratulation for HER ART !!! I like to paint Her in the future ...All my best for now and for the future !!! With much respect - painter Gheorghe Astileanu from Romania. ( astileanu_gheorghe@yahoo.com ). 21 march 2013.

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  7. She is beautiful with that body, still amazing. Those male dancers who criticized her are pathetic and delicated.

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  8. She has a beautiful and amazing body. She is unique and different compared to other ballerinas (this make her unique), those male dancers are delicated and pathetics, they remind me a male dancer in my class. AGHHH Love her so much, she is a beautiful ballerina and she has a beautiful daughter too.

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  9. Oh PLEASE! I could lift that woman and toss her around like a beach ball, and I am not a big guy or professional athlete.

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  10. Oh PLEASE! I could lift this woman and toss her around like a beach ball (you wouldn't even have to pay me, as she is drop dead gorgeous) and I am neither big nor a professional athlete.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Oh PLEASE! I could lift that woman and toss her around like a beach ball, and I am not a big guy or professional athlete.

    ReplyDelete

 
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