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Big Is Better 

Who says large women can't be ballerinas?

Wednesday, May 16 2001
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For many little girls (and probably boys) fantasies of being a ballerina are practically a rite of passage. But for big girls, that dream must seem like an impossibility. Stringent size and weight expectations are par for the course: Dancers are tall, impossibly thin, lithe, and muscular -- period. But that could now change. Body size is currently a hot topic in the dance community, thanks in part to the size-discrimination complaint filed by local dancer and choreographer Krissy Keefer against the San Francisco Ballet, which rejected her daughter Fredrika for its professional training program. The conversation continues with "Bodies in Motion: The New Shape of Dance," a concert performed by three troupes to celebrate size diversity.

Big Dance, a Canadian company composed of self-described "large" women, makes its U.S. debut at the show, serving up nine repertory pieces. Choreographer and Artistic Director Lynda Raino founded the group, which blossomed from a class for women without size 6 bodies (taught at Raino's studio in Victoria, British Columbia). Raino's evolving process of teaching dance to larger women takes safety into consideration, adapting bends or modifying leaps to suit her dancers' bodies. But she didn't expect her work to be so therapeutic; for many women, big and small, dancing means overcoming self-consciousness and gaining confidence. In her classes Raino found herself tackling issues of body image and self-esteem as much as concentrating on technique.

"Bodies in Motion" also includes American contributions to the movement. Fat Chance Belly Dance and the Kendra Kimbrough Dance Ensemble both bash size stereotypes by celebrating all body types among their dancers. It doesn't take a genius to recognize that women come in all shapes and sizes. It's about time the dance world did, too.

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Lisa Hom

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