It's no secret that a stereotypical image comes to mind when we think "ballerina." We're usually thinking of someone tall, slender (read: skinny), and with fair skin.
Needless to say this can be daunting for anyone looking to get into ballet, or any form of dance. What if you don't fit that mold?
For starters, you're in good company. Let's take a look at a few dancers who are breaking stereotypes.
1. First up is Misty Copeland, the first African American prima ballerina for the American Ballet Theatre. As we all know, the United States has something of a race issue (to put it lightly). That makes Misty Copeland's promotion to prima ballerina doubly impressive when you consider the racial barriers that must have been in the way of her achieving that title. She also has quite a muscular physique, something you may not expect from a ballerina.
2. Maria Tallchief (1925-2013) - the first Native American to break into the ballet scene, she's remembered as a revolutionary dancer who broke barriers for Native American women. She was prima ballerina for the New York City Ballet from 1954-1955 and enjoyed a long and illustrious career. After she retired from performing, she founded the ballet school of Lyric Opera and served as artistic director of the Chicago City Ballet. She was also inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame - and she's truly deserving of that honour!
3. Kajiya Yuriko broke barriers by earning a prestigious scholarship to Canada's National Ballet School at the young age of 15! She has also danced with the American Ballet Theater and was principal ballerina for the Houston Ballet.
But that's only part of what makes her so special. What's truly remarkable about her in her attitude. In an interview she wrote, “The teacher would say, ‘You know who’s the worst one in class? It’s Yuriko. But she works the hardest.’” That level of dedication, that commitment to hard work even when you know you aren't the best and might never be the best, is a truly amazing quality that we love to see in anyone.
She also truly values her fans. She takes the time to write back to every fan email and letter she receives, giving out advice to question such as, "why can't I pirouette properly?" or, "why won't my parents let me do ballet?" She's dedicated to inspiring a new generation of Japanese ballerinas, and that really is something special.