How Tall Are Ballerinas? Ideal Ballerina Height

The top ballerinas always appear on stage as slender and graceful figures, so much so that they have become synonymous with elegance.

This is because their weight, height, diet, and physical training regime are carefully monitored to give them the most “perfect” proportions possible.

So, how tall are ballerinas? Specifically, how tall do they need to be considered professional?

This article can tell you all about that and more.

How Tall Are Ballerinas Supposed To Be?

According to most sources, the average height of a ballerina is around 5’4” to 5’5” (around 167 centimeters). Most people won’t consider this as tall.

This has more or less debunked the myth that ballerinas have to be tall. This myth came to being mostly because ballerinas’ costumes are designed to accentuate their legs. 

The puffy skirt exposed most of the ballerina’s legs, and the ballet tights made them stand out even more. The result is that the audience is made to think ballerinas are taller than they are!

Do Ballet Dancers Need To Be Tall?

Taller dancers typically have longer limbs and a larger range of motion. This means their movements can appear much smoother and more graceful than a ballerina with a shorter stature. 

A taller form may also allow them to achieve certain positions and movements more easily.

But height isn’t a deciding factor in ballet dancers’ careers (typically). Ballerinas with the right height simply have a better advantage in the dance world. 

Many successful ballet dancers are not particularly tall. Whether a ballerina is successful or not only boils down to their dedication to the art, hard work, and talent.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of Short Ballerinas

Many people seem to think having a short stature for a ballerina is career-breaking. Not quite! 

Shorter ballerinas often possess a unique advantage in ballet over taller dancers. They tend to be more agile and lighter on their feet thanks to having a lower center of gravity

This means they can execute certain moves better than their taller counterparts!

Their smaller frame can also help them in jumps and turns, as they require less force to propel their bodies into the air and rotate.

We must also consider the aesthetical effect of having a shorter-taller pair in partnered performances. Ballerinas that are shorter than their male partners can give the performance a more pleasant visual effect.

But that doesn’t mean shorter ballerinas aren’t challenged. 

They may struggle to achieve certain positions or movements that require a longer reach or larger range of motion. Certain roles or productions that require a taller dancer may skip over them during casting. 

Dancers with shorter stature who pursue a professional career in dancing may experience pressure to maintain a lower body weight. It’s because their smaller frame can make even small weight fluctuations more noticeable.

Advantages & Disadvantages Of Tall Ballerinas

Taller ballerinas are a bit more favored. Their longer limbs give them a much wider range of motion, so movements can appear more graceful and fluid with less effort

During partnered dances, taller and larger ballerinas can work better with male dancers as they have more surface area for their partners to hold onto.

There are still some challenges of being taller than average that ballerinas have to deal with, though.

For example, movements requiring a lower center of gravity or a smaller frame, such as certain jumps or turns, can be difficult to get right. 

Taller dancers may also be more susceptible to injuries or strain on their joints, particularly in their ankles and knees. 

Ballerina Height Requirement Varies By Company

In America, the average height for a female is around 5 feet 4 inches. Most ballet companies in the country also put the requirement for their ballerinas around this limit (about 167 centimeters, or 5 feet 4 inches). 

But when you go to Europe and look at the height requirements there, some companies will demand their ballerinas to be as tall as 173 centimeters (5 feet 7 inches!)

So, the height requirements will be massively different depending on the country and the company that you’re looking at.

Let’s take a few examples.

The New York City Ballet’s height requirement is that female dancers need to be between 5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 10 inches to qualify as a candidate for one of the roles.

In Europe, most ballet companies, such as the UK’s Royal Ballet, require their female dancers to be at least 5 feet 4 inches tall. 

If the student and dancer are any shorter, they must acquire an exemption from their ballet school or prove themselves in other ways (such as by excelling in their auditions) to be accepted.

Check more: Leotard Vs Unitard Differences 

Body Proportion Is More Important Than Height 

While height can be a factor in ballet, many dancers and instructors agree that body proportion is actually more important than height alone. 

Particularly, a ballerina must have a long neck, short to medium-length torso, and long legs with complementary long arms, and high insteps.

People graced with such nice physiques will stand out better among others due to their proportions alone if we look at it from an artistic and aesthetic angle.

But many studies have shown that a well-proportioned body can help a dancer endure the incredible stresses and strains of a professional ballet routine better. 

Thanks to their balanced physique, they can move more efficiently and can stretch themselves farther without injuring themselves.

But it’s hard to find ballerinas that can perfectly meet these “golden ratios”. 

In the past, studios have pushed their ballerinas (many to their breaking points) to slim down and control their weights to achieve the perfect body proportion. Needless to say, it’s incredibly damaging to these ballerinas’ health.

That’s why, in recent years, there has been a movement among studios to accept ballet dancers with a more diverse range of body physiques. If you look at audition notes, you’ll find many more companies are looking for “Diverse” body types now.

That doesn’t mean they’ll accept just about anyone. There will still be a scale that they’d use to decide who’s the best person for each role. 

But the rules have become more relaxed these days (which is a net improvement for the industry as a whole!).

Famous Female Ballet Dancer’s Height

So, how tall are some of the industry’s most famous female ballet dancers? Here’s our top-ten run down.

  • Natalia Makarova (5’)
  • Anna Pavlova (5’)
  • Gelsey Kirkland (5’1”)
  • Misty Copeland (5’2”)
  • Margot Fonteyn (5’4”)
  • Alicia Alonso (5’4”)
  • Maya Plisetskaya (5’6”)
  • Svetlana Zakharova (5’6”)
  • Darcey Bussell (5’7”)
  • Maria Tallchief (5’7”)

Final Words

So, how tall should a ballerina be? Anything over 5 feet, it seems, will do the trick.

Keep in mind that while height is definitely a factor in ballet, as you can see above, it’s not a deciding factor in your success as a professional ballet dancer. 

Many famous ballerinas, such as Natalia Makarova, had found great success and garnered critical acclaim while being “barely 5 feet tall”.

So, what’s really going to count toward your success is whether you possess the right proportions (which can be trained) and technical skills (you may master with practice and persistence) or not.

In other words, your success will boil down to your passion for ballet and perseverance!

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