The Born-Again Balletomane's Blog

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The Tall Ones March 21, 2012

Filed under: ballerina,ballet — theworstat @ 5:47 pm
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I realize I’m at least 3 months late in announcing this, but Keenan Kampa is joining the Maryinsky in June.  (I don’t know what level she’ll be at.) Great for her.  I don’t know what else to say except that she looks Maryinsky.  It’s possibly where she was meant to be.

I was startled to read about her height: 5’8″.  Here I go again, but back in the day, that was about 2″ too much height for most companies except the New York City Ballet and Ballet West.  Even 5’6″ was stretching it a little.  Oh, what poor Cynthia Gregory went though at ABT…and she only ever admitted being 5’6″.

I remember ending up standing by the stage door after an ABT performance in Chicago in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s and seeing a stream of  tiny creatures waddling out.  That’s a bit of an exaggeration, of course, but only a bit.  In those days, ballet folk were little.  Generally, that is.  Of course there were exceptions, but ABT was not among them.

A memory just came to mind of one incident when I was buying a pair of pointe shoes.  Forever frightened of slipping, and too lazy to darn and rasp, I asked for the Capezios that had the sueded tips and was told, “they don’t make them that big.”  And so I settled for a pair of English shoes that wrenched my big toes out of alignment and were dead within a month, (and no, I’m NOT saying that all English pointe shoes will mangle your feet and be dead within a month) because those were the only shoes the store stocked that were “that big.”  That’s a tiny example of what it was like to be a tall dancer with “tall” feet back in the day :-).  Later I started using Capezio Contemporas, which did come “that big” and were the dawn of the trend toward bigger platforms.  Alas, they too were all wrong for my feet — but they were all I could get.

Times change.  Years after I left ballet behind, and while I was attempting to become an adult figure skater (another feat I never quite managed, as I could jump but could not spin), one of my former coaches and I were discussing our ballet training and I mentioned that, even if I’d had the talent, I never could have gone pro as a ballet dancer because of my height (I’m fairly tall).  The coach was Russian and rather young.  Instantly I read shock in her eyes.  Another skater, a young American, was also shocked.  Both took my statement as evidence that I didn’t know what I was talking about.  In terms of current ballet, which I had at that point completely lost touch with, yes — I was absolutely wrong.  But back in the day, trust me, my young friends — you had to be under 5’7″ or else go into show dancing, where you were probably too short if you were under 6′.

So it does my heart good to see that a promising young dancer can be 5’8″ and still have a career, just as it did good to see that a tiny ballerina (Obraztsova) could be short (I don’t know how tall she is; read one estimate that she’s only about 5′), and still become a principal in Russia.

I’m still trying to overcome some negative impressions I’ve had of Kampa, but those were not dance-related and were the result of seeing snippets of video that were probably badly edited or something.  None of my problems have been with her dancing.  She is magical.  I wish her the best.

Next up:  I’m planning on discussing the current indiscriminate use of the title “ballerina.”  Let’s see if I actually get to it.

P.S. — Just deleted a comment that attempted to make an issue of my supposed “personal problems” with Kampa.  I do not know her and have no “personal problems” with her; note that nowhere did I say “personal problems.”  Do not pursue the subject; it is a flame war in the making and that will not be tolerated on this blog — which is, after all, for casual conversation and enjoyment.   Know that not everything I say is going to be sunshine and roses.  It’s my blog and that’s my right.  There will be no further comments allowed on this post since I don’t have the time to deal with insinuations, and if I see comments on it elsewhere, they will be deleted.  Thank you for your cooperation.

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