If you're planning to see the New York City Ballet's performance of The Nutcracker, be warned: According to the New York Times review, the Sugar Plum Fairy looks like she's "eaten one sugar plum too many."
Though Alastair Macaulay enjoyed the performance in general, he laments that he was forced to look at a less-than-svelte dancers, writing:
This didn't feel, however, like an opening night. Jenifer Ringer, as the Sugar Plum Fairy, looked as if she'd eaten one sugar plum too many; and Jared Angle, as the Cavalier, seems to have been sampling half the Sweet realm. They're among the few City Ballet principals who dance like adults, but without adult depth or complexity.
While it's the reviewer's job to critique the dancer's performance, commenting on their debatable weight gain just seems cruel. Particularly because in a recent Working Mother magazine profile, Ringer revealed that she once struggled with anorexia and compulsive eating. After gaining weight, she was forced to leave the New York City Ballet in 1997. Ringer says she only decided to return after James Fayette, her dancing partner and future husband, asked her to do The Nutcracker with him in upstate New York:
"At the time I was about forty pounds overweight, and I said to him, ‘I'm huge, and you're not going to want to do this with me.' And he said, ‘No, I really want to do this with you.'" So she said yes.
"It was a miracle that they could find a tutu that fit me!" Jenifer says, laughing. "That was the first time I had been onstage since I quit. I made peace with myself, and I know it's corny, but I looked in the mirror and said, ‘You know, I'm beautiful.'" It was then, when she accepted herself at the weight she was, that she recaptured her joy in dancing. "James sweetly looked at me with eyes that were not the eyes of the ballet world," she adds. "He was a real friend to me."
In 2008, Ringer gave birth to their daughter Grace. Later that year she appeared in "The Man I Love" from Who Cares?
It's not as if Macaulay is noting the ballet's decision to feature a plus-size dancer. In this photo taken last summer, Ringer looks like any other ballerina.
But then again, like Ringer's husband, we're looking at her with "eyes that [are] not the eyes of the ballet world," while apparently the New York Times is looking at her with the eyes that make ballerinas hate their bodies.
Timeless Alchemy, Even When No One Is Dancing [NYT]
Real Mom Stories — Ballerina Jenifer Ringer [Working Mother]
Opening Night @ New York City Ballet [Oberon's Grove]
Philip Neal Farewell: ‘Serenade', ‘Who Cares?', ‘Chaconne [Ballet Magazine]