Not too long ago, a friend shared with me her experience during the
end-of-term viewing week at her 4-year-old daughter's ballet class.
The ballet teacher, as many do, corrected the young dancers with a
common cue, "tummies in." This phrase, though often seen as a simple
postural adjustment, sparked concern in my friend. She worried about
the potential long-term implications this comment could have on her
daughter's self-perception and body image. Yet, the thought of pulling
her daughter away from a ballet class she loved was equally
While some may brush off such a comment as trivial, others may
internalize it, exacerbating feelings of body consciousness or
self-comparison. A seemingly innocuous remark like "tummies in" can
add to a dancer's discomfort, particularly when they are already
feeling self-conscious in their leotard, scrutinizing their reflection
in the mirror. We've all been there, and we know it's far from a
As teachers and mentors, we have a responsibility to shape our
students' experiences in a holistic, creative, and nurturing
environment. We should consciously strive to achieve this by adopting
innovative methods to educate our dancers about posture without
resorting to potential body shaming.
Creative cues can foster a positive mindset while effectively teaching
ballet techniques. For Chloe Angyal, the author of Turning
Pointe-How a new generation of dancers is saving ballet from itself.
Turning Pointe is a book about the future of ballet and a reckoning
with all the forces – racism, sexism, elitism, and more – that
endanger that future.
Chloe originally hails from Sydney and is now based in Iowa in the US.
In 3 words, what does ballet mean to you?
Tradition, progress, potential.
What would be your favourite ballet to dance?
I'd want to be a Wili! The corps work in the second act of Giselle is
so intense and beautiful, and who doesn't want to belong to a sorority
of vengeful ghost brides?
Do you believe that ballet is a readily accessible art-form?
No. It's exclusive in so many ways: it's expensive to train and to
watch, it's unaccepting of those who fall outside of a strict gender
binary, and it's generally a hostile environment for dancers of
colour, especially Black dancers and most especially Black girls and
What do you believe is a typical misconception about ballet that you would like to set straight?
Inside the ballet world, I think there's a misconception that ballet
cannot and does not change, and that's simply untrue. The history of
ballet is a history of radical change; it's what has allowed the
artform to survive as the world around it changes. Those inside the
ballet world are too willing to call stagnation or oppression
"tradition," and that threatens the future of the art form.
What are you reading right now?
Heartbreaker, by Sarah MacLean. I love a good romance novel.
Ballet without Borders aims to allow children from disadvantaged
backgrounds to experience ballet- if you had ultimate power for a day
what would you do to make this happen?
Strip tuition down to what's actually essential to pay teachers well
and make sure kids get a safe and fulfilling experience. Put teachers
of colour in every dance school, regardless of the racial makeup of
the students, so that all ballet students grow up seeing people of
colour as dance leaders and as sources of knowledge about the art
form. Commission dozens of new story ballets that tell new stories
from around the world, not the same old European fairy tales ballet
has been rehashing for the last two centuries. Design and bring to
market a safe, affordable, durable pointe shoe in as many skin tones
After hearing my friend's story, another friend expressed her
hesitance to enroll her daughter in ballet classes due to horror
stories about eating disorders. This comment underscores the urgent
need to break away from the 'old school' teaching methods and harmful
narratives associated with our industry.
We must strive to change this generational cycle of body shaming that sadly lingers in ballet.
Every student deserves to learn in an environment where they feel safe, nurtured, and free to grow as dancers without any fear or shame about their bodies.
It is indeed time to change the cycle for our future dancers. By doing
so, we create a healthier, happier dance community where everyone,
regardless of body type, is celebrated for their passion and skill.
So, let's bid goodbye to the "tummies in" correction and welcome a new
era of body-positive ballet teaching. Because our dancers deserve