Can a Short Girl Make It as a Ballerina?

June 12, 2009

Yesterday I visited the NY International Ballet Competition, now in full swing at the Ailey studios. As I was sitting watching Deborah Wingert’s excellent technique class, a young dancer from Colombia took my eye. She had beautiful lines, assured presence, and a strong but limpid quality. Her body looked perfectly proportioned for dance. But when I stood up, I realized that she was the shortest person among the 48 contestants. Her name is Diana Catalina Gomez, and I would place my bets on her to win the gold this year. For silver, I am rooting for a dancer just an inch or two taller, Hayeryn Kim from Korea. Will these two exquisite dancers have the gleaming dance careers they deserve?

During the class, Eleanor D’Antuono, artistic director of NYIBC, leaned over and whispered to me that she, being just as short as this new beauty from Colombia, would never have had the career she had if she’d been subjected to today’s standards. Eleanor danced with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and had a long career as a principal with American Ballet Theatre from roughly 1960 to 1980.

Do short dancers have less of a chance today?

Last night I watched Sarah Lane, one of the glories of ABT
 (and our cover girl in June, 2007) in the peasant pas de deux in
thankful that she is getting featured roles, but wondering if her height is holding her back from getting more lead roles. Yes, she dance Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty, (and she was everything you’d want Aurora to be) but that’s a small-girl part. When will she get to do Giselle? I know a lot depends on finding a partner who matches. Certainly Herman Cornejo is a wonderful partner for Sarah Lane.

So I am asking you, What you think? Do very small girls, even if they are top notch ballerinas, have the same opportunities as taller girls? Email me your opinion at [email protected].