In a release distributed this morning, The Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director David Hallberg has taken aim at a recent review published by the Sydney Morning Herald of its staging of Études/Circle Electric, a double bill of works by choreographers Harold Lander and Stephanie Lake.

“Last week the Sydney Morning Herald reported that The Australian Ballet dancers were looking ‘unusually thin this season’.  Commentary regarding body image is not acceptable and I am compelled to address this,” said Hallberg.

The Circle Electric. Photo © Daniel Boud

The review, by Sydney Morning Herald dance critic Chantal Ngyuen, was published on 5 May. It was largely negative, awarding the production only one-and-a-half stars. Nguyen likened Lake’s Circle Electric to “a banal hour of channel surfing”.

The “too thin” comment was qualified by an acknowledgment that “perhaps this was the lighting”. The qualification cut no ice with Hallberg, however.

“Comments about weight, shape and body comparisons can have a serious negative impact on a person’s self-esteem and body image and can be detrimental to individuals’ mental and physical health,” he said, adding that professional ballet dancers are identified as a high-risk group for the development of body image concerns, disordered eating and eating disorders.

“At The Australian Ballet, we are committed to fostering a supportive and inclusive environment that encourages healthy minds and healthy bodies, which is vital for us to be a successful and dynamic artform,” said Hallberg.

“This is why over the last couple of years, our Artistic Health team have been working with the National Eating Disorders Collaboration (NEDC) to develop our Body Image and Disordered Eating Guidelines.”

David Hallberg

“Commentary regarding body image is not acceptable.” David Hallberg, Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet. Photo © Pierre Toussaint

“We believe that by taking the steps outlined in this plan, we can create a safe and supportive environment for our dancers to thrive both on and off the stage, build long and fulfilling careers, and excel in their post-dance lives.”

“As these guidelines are the first of their kind in professional ballet, our commitment extends to continued evaluation and improvements of our efforts to prevent and manage eating disorders, so that we may provide the best possible care for both the artists of today and years to come.”

“The Australian Ballet stands firm in our commitment to prioritising the welfare and health of our performers and hope that by shining a light on this topic that body image comments, like the one reported last week, will be eradicated in our artform, in sporting codes and in society.”

The Australian Ballet’s Études/Circle Electric is at the Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney, until  May 18 and the Regent Theatre, Melbourne, from October 2-9.

Read Limelight’s review here.

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