Jenifer Ringer talks about leaving New York City Ballet

New York City Ballet principal Jenifer Ringer talks about her new memoir, the sugarplum saga and her retirement from the company

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And by putting weight on, you couldn’t hide that something was going on.
That’s true.

You were very candid in your conversations with [ballet mistress] Rosemary Dunleavy and Peter Martins. Why did you decide not to cover anything up?
I wanted to do an honest portrayal, and so I felt like I needed to show the good and the bad, and in terms of the book, they’re in it very little, but I wanted to show some of the more difficult conversations I had just because I felt like it was important in terms of showing my own growth. I was able to learn how to finally be an adult. Part of it was that I stayed very much childlike for a long time. I felt like I needed to show the good and the bad. But that being said there’s a lot more positive in there about Peter than negative.

Absolutely—and his humor is there.

He did some wonderful things for me.

Like what?
He gave me so many chances when I was heavy to get it together, and he did take a chance on me and took me back even after all of our history and then he promoted me to principal. And both times I got pregnant, he was extremely supportive and very kind about it. I’ll always be grateful for that.

He said something that really cracked me up: When he was trying to lose weight, he just stopped eating cheesecake.
Right, right. James was the same way. He would give up pizza, and he would get in shape like that. [Laughs] Very irritating.

Did you run a lot of this by James as you were writing?

I let him read it, and I did want to make sure that he was okay with some of the stuff that I wrote, but he was very supportive and would say, “Honey, this is your book and you write what you want to write.” He actually was uncomfortable because he thought I made him look better than he is. He said, “You should have included some of my worst characteristics.” He’s an amazing man, and I wanted to show that.

How did Peter react to the New York Times review?

You know, we didn’t speak—it was during Nutcracker and I was gone on gigs. I was gone a lot. The next performance that I did at State Theater, Peter was there. He said that he thought I had handled it well. The whole thing was so crazy. I don’t think I was at the thinnest I’ve ever been, but I was at a weight that I’ve certainly performed at many, many times. It’s funny: When people talk to me about it, they get this look of gloom on their face—seriously, it ended up being a great thing for me. I was criticized in public for something that had almost crippled me.

It forced you stop dancing.
Exactly! And instead of it destroying me, I was absolutely fine, and it actually affected me very little. It was such a huge personal moment where I realized that I really was okay. I was healed. I could be okay with even that happening. I have perspective. So many worse things could happen. It’s something that I look back on; it’s not like I look back on it with joy, but it was a good thing that happened.

How did the second article affect you?
I was surprised that [Alastair Macaulay] wrote it. [Laughs] Again, it was kind of like, well…I just had to laugh it off at that point. It felt a little silly that a second article needed to be written. What do you do when somebody does that? You can’t take it seriously. So I just had to let it go, and he was dealing with whatever he was dealing with, I guess.

It was good that you talked about how a dancer’s body is relevant when you were speaking out in the press: It’s a delicate issue, but it’s not a non-issue.

No, of course not. And I think it opened up a really healthy debate. And a dancer’s appearance—our body is our canvas, so it does have an impact, but I just think it’s a really complicated issue, and there are so many things that would need to be discussed. I don’t know if a definitive answer can be found, but I think it’s a really healthy thing to think about and for reviewers to think about as they watch. But again, it’s subjective, and there’s no way you can be objective about it and make a hard and fast rule; different people are going to find different things appealing or not and will have opinions based on their own criteria. You would hope that the dancing is the primary thing: We are dancing, and we are dancers, and I’ve seen people with all different body types being so beautiful and moving so amazingly and my hope would be that would be the primary focus. But you can’t deny the fact that there is going to be that element to it.

I heard something really funny: That Jared Angle, who had also been singled out in the review, but the attention was only directed to you, which is so sexist—
Somebody should interview Jared about that.

True. But I heard he was going around saying that he wanted to call his memoir something like But I’m Fat Too.

[Laughs] I don’t want to quote him, but somebody should totally talk to him about it. It’s something that so many women care so much about. And it’s not something traditionally that men have—although supposedly now it’s getting to be a greater problem with young men.

Skinny jeans.
Exactly! I think it is becoming a bigger issue. But I would have loved for there to have been an outcry in Jared’s defense as well.


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