The Joffrey Ballet's Fabrice Calmels was recently named Tallest Ballet Dancer by Guinness World Records. Standing at 6' 6", his presence onstage is striking. Dance Magazine talked with him about his record, his height and his history.
DM: Tallest Ballet Dancer in the world! That's quite a record. How does it feel?
FC: It's coming up at a really appropriate time. I get lots of messages from other tall dancers who quit because they're told they're too tall, who are happy to hear that I was successful, who are inspired to keep going in their training. I want them to know there's no such thing as the wrong height.
DM: Have you always been taller than your peers?
FC: I had a huge growth spurt when I was about 16 or 17. I was growing an inch a month! It was really painful, because your bones grow fast but the muscle mass doesn't follow as quickly. You have to learn how to dance again, to relearn your coordination and strength and flexibility. Everything I'd been working with was gone; it felt like a totally new body.
DM: What made you decide to ignore your teachers when they said you were too tall?
FC: It's difficult to hear the people you trust tell you something like that, because you've spent years listening to their opinions. It feels like your whole world is falling apart. My mother (who is a very short woman) helped keep me on track. My family doesn't understand the dance world and I think that outside perspective helped her have a steadfast belief in me.
DM: What is the biggest challenge of being a tall dancer today?
FC: People don't understand how much having this much extra mass and this higher center of gravity impacts movement. I have to dance in an ensemble with the Joffrey, and most of them aren't my size. Adapting to a group that dances in a different, faster scale because of their size difference is a challenge. But it's also exciting, because when you do it, it feels like such an achievement.
DM: What is the best part of being a tall dancer?
FC: My stature makes expression and readability on stage easier. I feel that my stage presence is much stronger as a result.
DM: Do you do specific exercises that are necessitated by your height?
FC: Oh, yes! My spine definitely takes a toll, as do my limbs, because they're longer. I work out all the time, I run to keep up my endurance and cardio. I've had injuries due to my height, so I've learned to really focus on stretching and strengthening my spine.
DM: Any advice you have for other tall dancers?
FC: I look back at how stressful what I did was for me, because there were no examples to follow. I had to make that path on my own, but it taught that you can make your own journey. If you believe in yourself, you can make it happen.