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Monday, April 19, 1999 Published at 14:26 GMT 15:26 UK


'Stocky' ballerinas left at home

Girls at the English National Ballet school - too fat for a future in ballet?

One of the UK's top ballet companies is to tour abroad with a cast of foreign performers after its artistic director said British ballerinas were "too pear-shaped".

The BBC's Rosie Millard: "British-bred dancers haven't got the graceful look"
Although its dancers may appear to have perfect physiques, Derek Deane, the chief executive of the English National Ballet has rejected them, saying they are "too stocky" because of their "poor eating habits".

"Why are we not producing British talent to stand alongside the greats like Margot Fonteyn? The shape of the British body is to blame," Mr Deane said in an interview in the Sunday Times.

[ image: Dame Margot Fonteyn is regarded as one of the greatest ballet dancers of all time]
Dame Margot Fonteyn is regarded as one of the greatest ballet dancers of all time
"An English dancer with a stocky body, not such good feet and broader shoulders can do all the steps, but the aesthetic look is not as pleasing as an American, a French or even a Russian dancer."

"They don't have that line of leg and that slimness and elegance of body."

One dancer who does measure up to Deane's exacting standards is Darcey Bussell of the Royal Ballet. He said she combined physical beauty with artistic brilliance.

British male dancers did not escape criticism either.

"They don't have the power that Russians, Americans, French or Cubans have. The training for dancers in this country is too effete," Deane said.

[ image: Darcey Bussell appears to be the exception to the 'stocky' British dancer]
Darcey Bussell appears to be the exception to the 'stocky' British dancer
But the ENB's stance has surprised other dance directors.

Christopher Bruce, artistic director of the Rambert Dance Company said: "I haven't noticed that British dancers are any more well-built than foreign dancers.

"What I have noticed is that I am having trouble finding enough good British dancers. I don't particularly want dancers that are like beanpoles. I like all shapes and sizes."

The ENB is taking its productions of Swan Lake on tour to Australia and Hong Kong in May. British dancers have lost out to Estonians Agnes Oaks and Thomas Edur in the lead roles.

But the ENB could be fighting a losing battle by insisting on such slender women dancers - the weight of the average British woman has increased by more than 16lbs since the beginning of the century.

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