Ballet has been around for centuries and has oft been criticized for its lack of diversity — especially in terms of body types. But these ballerinas from all over the country are speaking up and shining as champions of body positivity in ballet.
Whether starting hashtags to confront body issues, hosting inspirational workshops or just showing how they excel in the craft no matter their size, these dancers are changing the shape of ballet.
Colleen Werner is a New York City-based dancer who started a hashtag movement, #Bopoballerina — which stands for body positive ballerina — to help others who are fighting for acceptance in the ballet world. "There is no wrong way to have a dancers body," she wrote. "Dancers come in all shapes, sizes, ages, and ethnicities, all dancers deserve to love their bodies."
Lizzy Howell became an internet sensation when the Delaware teen posted a video online doing fouetté turns. When she went viral, she denounced being called "plus-size" and insisted she's just a dancer like anyone else. "It feels good to represent the diversity in dance," Lizzy said. "But there shouldn't need to be a diversity. We should all be equal."
Dance.com interviewed Erik Cavanaugh, a dancer from Pennsylvania who strives to spread his message: Dance is for every "body." His videos have caught the eyes of millions, including Ashton Kutcher. Erik continues to post his contemporary dance routines with the hashtag #dancerscomeinallsizes and has a teaching tour in the works.
Frostine Shake from Texas is a model, a makeup artist and a burlesque dancer, who incorporates ballet into her routines. After training her whole life in ballet, she gave it up when she was discouraged because of her size. She did a ballet photoshoot that went viral, telling Buzzfeed dancers should not give up because of pressure.
Jessica Bell is a dancer in the UK who stands up against stereotypical sizes. She appeared in a documentary on Channel 4 called "Big Ballet," following her as she worked to get the lead role in a production of "Black Swan." Bell, who calls herself "The Body Positive Ballerina" on Facebook, also has a degree in dance and teaches ballet at a local studio.