Urban Crusing

Live your dream: Anastasia Volochkova, the "fat" ballerina

Anastasia Volochkova, arts, fat ballerina, live your dreamlivingnotes14 Comments

 In today's feature, as promised last week, I wanted to tell the story of THE ballerina that is changing the current ballet world - Anastasia Volochkova. Known as , probably, the most scandalizing ballerina of modern day, Anastasia, nonetheless is making a change. The criticism , so willingly poured over her by Russian ballet-masters  and some of the current stars, I believe is there because of the unsightly exposure that a daring ballerina brought to the king of ballet schools.

Here is her story.

Russians love fairy tales. One could go so far to say it is their favorite type of fiction. What else is there to believe in, some Russians ask? Volochkova is Russia's living, indomitable fairy tale princess.

In her book "A Story of a Russian Ballerina," Volochkova compares the chapters of her life with the plots of 12 major Russian ballets she has starred in. Of course, the heroine triumphs again and again and again. 

As a teenager, Volochkova heard from her teachers at Vaganova Academy, the notoriously harsh ballet school that also trained Vaslav Nijinsky and Rudolf Nureyev, that a big-boned ballerina like her would never dance on the best stages. The provinces, they said, beckoned.

A few years later, Volockhova debuted as the Mariinsky's prima ballerina in Swan Lake at the Metropolitan Opera house in New York.
A longtime survivor of backstage battles, surrounded by what she called "jealousy and evil insults," Volochkova describes the drama of the movie "Black Swan" as "little flowers" compared to the intrigues of the Bolshoi Ballet.

It was the Bolshoi Theatre that threw the next "never" at Volochkova, firing her in 2003, a year after she won the prestigious Prix Benois de la Danse. The executives of Moscow's most famous theater pronounced Volochkova the "fat ballerina," too heavy to ever appear on the theater's stage again. She cried under the marble columns of the Bolshoi, she said. "Nobody had a word of support," she said.

The ballerina remembers with bitterness the day she had to step onto a scale that a New York Times reporter brought to an interview for an independent measure of her weight - without fear or favor. That scale showed 109 pounds, a fine dancing weight for a 5-foot 6-inch woman.

But her Bolshoi career was over in the most embarrassing fashion, after performing as a soloist in six major ballets and touring the world for more than five years.

Here is a little "how it happened"

Bolshoi insists that Anastasia Volochkova is simply too fat and and insists on a  story, yet to be confirmed, that her regular partner has required hospital treatment for a hernia. 

Revealing that she now exists on a diet of not much more than spinach leaves and vegetables, Volochkova says : 'I don't even eat my favourite ice cream now. The situation with the Bolshoi is not about height or weight ... these are not the test of a great ballerina.' 

The dispute unfolded on September 4 when Miss Volochkova was informed by phone that she had been replaced in the following night's performance of Swan Lake. 

" Volochkova's partner, Yevgeny Ivanchenko, has resigned during the northern summer after suffering an injury. Iksanov said that other dancers had refused to dance with Volochkova.

"I can't risk the artists' condition," he said, according to the daily Gazeta.

Bolshoi's spokeswoman, Yekaterina Novikova, said that the problem wasn't rooted in Volochkova's excessive height or weight, but her skills. "A tall ballerina could be easy to lift," Novikova told The Associated Press. "The problem is that male dancers complained of her height and weight and refused to dance with her."

As the dispute went on, Volochkova has resorted to political arguments, pointing at her membership in the top pro-Kremlin political party, the United Russia. The statement has drawn acerbic comments in many Russian media. The daily Vremya Novostei played on the United Russia's symbol, a bear, with a headline: "Not even bears could hold [her]."

Some compared Volochkova's ambitions to those of Matilda Kshesinskaya, the famed Russian ballerina of the early 20th century and a favourite of Tsar Nicholas II. Kshesinskaya was so powerful that she once forced the tsar to fire the director of imperial ballet. Ballet lovers ... started making guesses on whether Iskanov would be able to hold onto his job for long.

But the cold-headed manager apparently remembered that we no longer have a tsar and the president wasn't seen at Volochkova's performances - and fired her." 

This feature is not about motherhood - though Anastasia has a daughter, and just as many others, came back to the bar just a few short months after the birth ( some do it after weeks , or ... days) , the story of this ballerina stirred the oh-so-traditional world of Russian Ballet. It unfolded the ugly - in my opinion - side that is so well-hidden: those too skinny to live ballerinas ARE true, the pressure to be thin IS there. Nobody knows how many broken LIVES and MINDS are produced by the best of the best Russian school of Ballet, simply because of their view of ballerinas as dainty little fairies, rather then ... actual women. And this is not even touching a subject of severe discrimination of those choosing motherhood, of those that are not of the standard look even if extremely talented, and more. 

Ballet schools of the former Soviet Union, while producing exceptional dancers, are also the source of anguish, tears, illness, disorder and broken lives. While I may or may not like Anastasia's personal dancing style ( and , honestly, there is nothing bad too it - we all have our preferences ) I admire her for that she is doing now for the world of Ballet. I admire her loud voice, her promotion of HEALTH and opposition to ridiculousness. I hope that many will take after HER.

And to Anastasia Volochkova I wish success in all she does. Because she is creating a nation of healthy ballerinas. In every way.  

 anastasia today with her daughter, arina 


What do you think about dancers and weight? Dancer or not - I'd love to know your thoughts.