Dancers that you see gracing the stage often look tall and poised. Their long lines are stunning. You may be wondering how tall the average ballet dancer is and if they are taller than the average person.
Female ballet dancers average about 167 cm or just under 5’5’’. This is around the average height of females in general. Male ballet dancers average around 5’8” to 5’10”.
Unfortunately, many ballet companies do discriminate against height, opting for average to above average height dancers with certain characteristics and proportions. However, dancers of many heights have successful careers in ballet.
How Tall is the Average Ballet Dancer?
Female ballet dancers range in height. However, there is an average range of about 5’2” and 5’8’’, with the average being just under 5’5”. Male ballet dancers average in height around 5’8” to 5’10”, however less data is available for male dancers.
Typically dancers of different heights excel at different styles of movements and having a range can be beneficial. However, too much of a range can cause the company to look less similar when dancing in a large group, such as the corp de ballet.
One roadblock for shorter male dancers and taller female dancers is partnering. These individuals can run into difficulties when finding a partner that is the proper size for them. This can be a contributing factor to some companies having strict height ranges for hiring.
The Height of Famous Ballet Dancers
Famous Female Ballet Dancers’ Heights
- Misty Copeland, a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre in New York, is 5’2”.
- Natalia Osipova, a principal dancer with The Royal Ballet in London, is 5’6”.
- Tiler Peck, a principal dancer with New York City Ballet, is 5’5”.
- Sylvie Guillem, often described as one of the greatest ballet dancers and known for her long lines, danced with the Royal Ballet and Paris Opera Ballet. She measures 5’8”.
- Isabella Boylston, a principal dancer with American Ballet Theatre, is 5’8”.
Famous Male Ballet Dancers’ Heights
- Robert Fairchild, a former principal dancer with New York City Ballet, is 5’10”.
- Rudolf Nureyev, widely regarded as one of the greatest male ballet dancers to ever live, measured 5’8”.
- Carlos Acosta, a former dancer with English National Ballet, Houston Ballet, The Royal Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre, is 6’3”.
- Daniil Simkin, a principal dancer with both Berlin State Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, is 5’9”.
- Mikhail Baryshnikov, a former principal dancer and later artistic director of American Ballet Theatre, is only 5’6”.
- The tallest professional ballet dancer, Fabrice Calmels of The Joffery Ballet in Chicago, measures just over 6’6”.
As you can see, successful dancers range in height greatly. You can have a successful career in ballet regardless of your height. However, there is quite a bit of discrimination against height in the ballet world, which can sometimes hinder your chances.
Height Discrimination in Ballet
Many ballet companies have strict height requirements. Some companies only hire male dancers that are 5’9” or taller for partnering purposes and others have a maximum height as well for continuity. A lot of companies have a range of heights for female dancers that is around 5’5” to 5’8”.
Companies also discriminate against body shape, proportions, and weight. This can be separately or in conjunction with the height factor. Their reasoning is often for aesthetic purposes on the stage.
In reality, taller dancers have long beautiful lines, excelling in adagios. They also make better male partners, and look larger and more commanding on stage. However, shorter dancers are fantastic at quick footwork, petit allegro, jumping, and turning. They also make better female partners.
A company needs a range of height in their dancers to be able to have a more balanced skill base. However, they want their dancers to all look similar on stage. There are pros and cons to both from the standpoint of the company, but more opportunities for different heights of dancers is always better for the dancers.
While there is a pretty small range of heights that are commonly seen in the professional ballet world, there are some dance companies that actually look for taller dancers, for example, such as Alonzo King LINES Ballet in San Francisco.
LINES looks for taller dancers, who often have a harder time finding a job or are fired due to their height. Both Adji Cissoko and Madeline Deveries, dancers with LINES, are 5’10”, which is tall for a female ballet dancer. Deveries has expressed how hard it was to find a job as a tall dancer.
Why do Dancers Look So Tall On Stage?
Dancers often look much taller on stage than they do in person. In fact, many people are shocked to find out their favorite dancer is shorter than them or similar to them in height. It is common for dancers to look tall on stage, thus the misconception that ballet dancers are really tall.
In female dancers, this is partly due to pointe shoes. Pointe shoes make you quite a bit taller, which can skew height perception, especially from a distance.
In both male and female dancers, stage presence plays into this height perception. Dancers purposely make their movements wide and tall, commanding the stage. Their high jumps, long extensions, and lively stage presence makes them appear much taller than they are off stage.
How to Embrace Your Height in Ballet
Dancers of any height can learn to embrace their natural height and lean into their strengths. There isn’t a height that is impossible. It might be harder to find a job as a ballet dancer who is significantly taller or shorter than average, but it’s never impossible, especially if you have learned to use your height to your advantage.
Taller dancers are typically better at slower choreography with lots of extensions and long lines. This means that improving strength and balance can be key to excelling as a taller dancer. Strengthening your core, working on your balance, and paying extra attention to your alignment and positions can push you ahead.
Shorter dancers are usually better with faster choreography, jumps, and intricate footwork. Making sure to take extra care of your muscles and improving the strength in your legs can help make you even better with quick jumps. Another thing to work on is lengthening transitions to fill up more of the stage.
No matter what, hard work always pays off. Embracing your height is all you can do. Don’t try to shrink your tall body or give up because you’re too short. There is always room for improvement and companies are only becoming more accepting of height differences over time.
Remember, there are successful dancers of all shapes and sizes. While many dancers do face discrimination, you can still be a beautiful and successful dancer if you put your mind to it. Embrace your height and keep working hard.
Dancers always appear taller on stage than in real life. This is due to pointe shoes, stage presence, and years of practice. While there are professional dancers of a variety of different heights, the average female dancer is around 5’5” and the male average is around 5’9”.
Ballet dancers do face discrimination in company selections and even at their home studios. Dancers need to realize that their height makes them unique, not unable to have a career or dance full-time.
No matter your height, dancing is a beautiful and athletic activity. There are dancers of all heights that have or have had successful careers in ballet. Never let your height stop you from pursuing ballet or another style of dancer.