In Cuba, the Obese Can Become Ballerinas
Wonderful stories like this are commonplace in Cuba - whether it is sports leagues for the mentally disabled, good jobs for the physically disabled, exercise for the elderly. The State assures the all marginalized sectors are given ample opportunities to the rights of work, study and play.
This dance troupe does not hide from the reality of obesity in Cuba, while giving the obese a chance to express themselves through dance, something denied in most places. It is hard to even consider something like this being taken seriously in the United States - let alone funded and being so well recieved. The market does not even allow obese people to be on TV or the theatre, let alone dance.
New York Times
HAVANA, July 28 — The prima ballerina of the Danza Voluminosa troupe weighs 286 pounds, and as she thumps gracefully across the floor, she gives new meaning to the words stage presence. Her body is a riotous celebration of weight — of ample belly and breasts, of thick legs and arms, of the crushing reality of gravity.
“I always liked to dance,” the dancer, Mailín Daza, said later. “I wanted to dance in the classical ballet, but my mother told me fat girls could not dance. I always dreamed of being a ballerina. With this group, I feel I am a ballerina.”
Formed a decade ago by Juan Miguel Mas, this company of obese dancers has become a cultural phenomenon in Cuba, breaking stereotypes here of dance, redefining the aesthetics of beauty and, along the way, raising the self-esteem of heavyset people.
For the dancers, working with Mr. Mas has changed their lives. Several said they suffered from constant embarrassment and guilt over their weight before they began dancing. But dancing has taught them to accept, if not love, their bodies. They also say that after a performance, they feel self-esteem that is foreign to most them, having suffered from the gibes of their peers since childhood.
The reaction of audiences has been immensely positive. The government lets the troupe practice and perform in the National Theater of Cuba. Mr. Mas now receives a state salary to continue his work. The dancers who have been with the troupe for years say that when the group started in November 1996, they faced ridicule and laughter. These days, people take them seriously.