Big is no problem at the barre as Wayne’s TV show proves

The Mary Rose's timbers

ZELLA COMPTON:The Mary Rose’s contents and people reach down the years

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OMG, it’s a Sugarplum Heffalump on Eastney beach.

That was me in 1961, a chubby 10-year-old performing what I thought was an elegant balletic arabesque pose for my Pa to photograph.

That photograph haunted me all my teenage years, and brought great joy to my parents.

Anyway, more about that later.

What prompted that memory was watching last Thursday’s first episode of Channel 4’s Big Ballet.

Former Royal Ballet dancer Wayne Sleep came up with the idea to cast plus-sized women in a version of Swan Lake.

Mr Sleep, who at 5ft 2in also faced sizeism in his career for being too short for a ballet dancer, wanted to show that larger ladies could be beautiful and graceful.

Wayne auditioned over 500 women (some up to size 24) to find his 16 swans.

When one first hears the title Big Ballet, one may conjure up the scene of hippos in tutus from Disney’s Fantasia, or Rudolf Nureyev with ballerina Miss Piggy in The Muppet Show.

But titter ye not. Big these Brit babes may be, with tums and bums that wobble a bit, but they are graceful to the end of their extended fingertips.

Of course darlings, Big Ballet is nothing new.

Though Channel 4 may want you to think it is.

I reviewed the Russian Big Ballet at The Kings Theatre in October 2008.

The show was fabulous, all these large ladies performing both classical and comedic ballet routines.

The Russian Big Ballet was established in 1996 by choreographer Panfilov, who wanted to create a troupe of big ballet dancers with no previous experience.

The last episode in the series of Big Ballet is next Thursday.

Now back to the Sugarplum Heffalump photo.

Ma and Pa rediscovered it when I was in my teenage years and starting to have boyfriends.

With great guffaws of glee, if I was late home or didn’t do my chores, they’d wave the photo in front of me, chortling, ‘If you don’t behave, we’ll show this to your boyfriend.’ Nightmare!

So, to our modern yoof who post outrageous ‘selfies’ on Facebook, beware as those photos may come back to haunt you.

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