Credits: Go For Perfection
Willowy, toned figures are a norm in the female ballet scene as ‘lighter’ often equates to more agility on their feet. Tall, thin limbs and sharp jawlines are generally associated with the gracefulness of a ballerina.
Average Height and Weight of Female Ballerina
So far, the average height of a female ballerina is around 5'12 to 5'8 (157 cm to 175 cm), corresponding to an ideal weight of 84 pounds to 129 pounds (38 kg to 58.5 kg). Maria Kochetkova, the principal dancer with the San Francisco Ballet, was one of the shortest ballerinas at 5'0 (153cm) while Maria Kowroski, the principal ballet dancer at the New York City Ballet, was one of the tallest ballerinas at 5'8 (175cm).
However, the average weight of ballerinas falls far below this ideal range. For instance, a 160 cm ballerina weighs an average of around 39 kg while a 172 cm ballerina weighs an average of around 48 kg. Ballerinas above 110 pounds (50 kg) have very limited access to partnering dance routines as they might cause injury to male ballerinas who would be carrying them regularly. This even applies to the taller ballerinas!
Indeed, most ballerinas have a body mass index (BMI) that is much lower than the average female’s BMI. Although there are those with high metabolisms or an active lifestyle that keeps them slim, such a mentality has trapped 1 in 5 ballerinas in the death throes of eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa, as shared by top Italian dancer Mariafrancesca Garritano who has been sent off by the La Scala opera house in Milan as a result. She claimed that many ballerinas are pressured to hit low-weight numbers to fit in with the rest of their thinner-looking counterparts.
Fortunately, body positivity movements have been gaining traction due to the rising popularity of curvy and hourglass figures, catalyzed mainly by the Kardashians. During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the virtual dance company Black Sheep Ballet was set up to make professional ballet more inclusive to all body types and sizes. Even plus-sized individuals such as dancer Colleen Werner have managed to be part of this company to challenge the strict weight requirements of ballet.
Credits: Eating Recovery Center
Credits: New York City Center
In comparison, the expectations of male dancers are rather different and less stringent or dangerous. Elegance is still a desired feature, but traditional male ballerinas need to have a more muscled, defined look to display strength in lifting female ballerinas while performing physically demanding moves, such as temps levé and sustained sautés.
Average Height and Weight of Male Ballerinas
As such, the average height of male ballet dancers ranges from 5'7 to 6'0 (170 cm to 183 cm), corresponding to an average weight that is below 200 pounds (91 kg) which is still considered healthy by the BMI criteria. Wayne Sleep, the principal dancer of the Royal Ballet, was around 5'2 (157cm) while Fabrice Calmels, principal dancer at Joffrey Ballet stands at 6'7 (199cm) and holds the Guinness World Record for the tallest ballet dancer.
Today, more artistic directors at ballet institutions are hiring taller, beefier male dancers. For example, Fabrice Calmels may stand at a whopping 199 cm weighing nearly 100 kg, yet he has been employed as a lead dancer at Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet. Nonetheless, bigger male ballerinas usually face lower flexibility, speed, and coordination than their shorter, lighter counterparts. You can also read about our popular post on what is a male ballet dancer called or famous male ballet dancers.
Despite unhealthy weight requirements and expectations imposed on the ballet community, more and more ballerinas are prioritizing their health over the numbers they see on some scale. This is thanks to social media which has been an effective tool in spreading awareness about the perils of disordered eating and body dysmorphia in the otherwise beautiful world of ballet.