Monday, December 13, 2010

Ballerinas and Holiday Tip #10

As I was eating my breakfast this morning, I sat down to watch The Today Show on NBC. Just before I finished my oatmeal and walked away to shower, a new story made me sit right back down. I learned that a principal dancer of the New York City Ballet, and star of the Nutcracker as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Jennifer Ringer, had been criticized by New York Times writer, Alastair Macaulay, for "looking as if she'd eaten one sugar plum too many." I was shocked to hear this, as the woman sitting across from reporter Ann Curry looked like a typical ballerina: trim, fit, long, lean and beautiful. (Ms. Ringer is pictured to the left.)

This criticism by Mr. Macaulay has sparked an outpouring of anger on the web from commentators who believe it was "disgusting" and "cruel." It's made worse by the fact that Ms. Ringer had to leave the New York City Ballet in 1997 due to an eating disorder. She over
came her battle with body image issues and returned in 2000. She has since been promoted to principal dancer.

When asked if she wanted an apology from Mr. Macaulay, Ringer said she didn't. Instead she responded, "As a dancer, I do put myself out there to be criticized, and my body is part of my art form. At the same time, I'm not overweight. I do have, I guess, a more womanly body type than the stereotypical ballerina." Ringer said that she believed that different body types should be celebrated in ballet, not criticized. "It did make me feel bad about myself, but I really had to tell myself it was one person's opinion out of the 2,000 people that were there last night."

As someone who grew up in the theater world with a dance background, I know the pressures that dancers can face. I know that a dancer's body is her/his instrument and should be cared for properly. Looking the part is important and ballerinas have been known to maintain slim frames. But they've also been known to harbor eating disorders to keep that slim figure. For a critic to (basically) call a principal dancer of the NYCB fat does nothing to alleviate the body-image pressures ballerinas will continue to face. In my opinion, Macaulay should stick to what he knows: writing. It's my guess that he knows nothing about the bodies of women.
And I'll focus on what I know: Fitness and health.


To continue with today's theme, I'm suggesting that you try ballet as a way to further your fitness. Ballet is a great way to stay long and lean, just like Jennifer Ringer. If you live in New York, try Steps, my favorite place to take dance class. They have ballet classes for all levels and great teachers to keep you on your toes (pun intended). If you live outside of New York, try searching on for dance studios in your area that offer classes for all ages.

A client of mine loves dance and took ballet as a child. To renew her skills after not taking class for some 20 years, she looked on craigslist and found a reasonably priced private teacher. For a year, she has been seeing this teacher once a week and she told me that she's feeling more flexible, coordinated, and elongated. Why not follow her lead and try something different

If you're too shy to go to class and you don't have the funds to hire a private instructor, try the New York City Ballet Workout on DVD. It features real NYCB ballerinas and it's really inspiring to see them work. I used to follow the dvd myself, before I lost the disc in a move. It's a great toning workout. The best part? Since you'll do it at home, you won't have to wear a leotard and tights in front of anyone!


Because I would like to say GFY, Alastair Macaulay, I've decided to offer you a very unhealthy holiday indulgence. It's a "Gingerbread Boys and Girls" recipe from Paula Deen. Eat these cookies joyfully, enjoy, and Be Well!


  • 3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 stick butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • 1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons milk
  • Food coloring, as desired


Using an electric mixer at low speed, cream the sugar and butter until thoroughly combined. Add the eggs and molasses and mix until combined. Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the buttermixture and combine with a spoon or spatula.
Remove the dough from the bowl and wrap in plastic wrap; place in the refrigerator until firm, about 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Allow the dough to sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes, until pliable. Take about 1/2 cup of dough at a time and roll onto a floured board until about 1/8-inch thick. Cut out with gingerbread boy and girl cookie cutters. You can re-roll the scraps. Using a spatula, transfer the cookies from the board to the prepared cookie sheets.
Bake for 10 minutes, until just beginning to brown at the edges. Transfer to wire racks to cool.
To make the icing, combine the confectioners' sugar and milk. Divide the mixture into thirds; leave 1/3 white, and color 1/3 green and the final third red. Decorate piping eyes, mouths, buttons, and bow ties.

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