Morning Story: Loving ballet through thick and thin


I love ballet.

Until seven years ago I'd have doubted ever penning that intro to a column.

Blame it on the film Billy Elliot perhaps, but more directly blame it on my first ballet, Dracula, in 2005.

One gruesomely athletic production at Hawke's Bay Opera House - one ballet convert.

I've managed to head along to almost every ballet that's made its way here since.

Yet despite losing myself in the spectacular reverie of mime, I always leave the theatre feeling distinctly moribund.

This of course is due entirely to the dancers' physiques.

Theirs are the bodies of supreme sportspeople: lithe, lissom and limber.

I chose adjectives beginning with "L" as it's the softest sounding letter in the alphabet. (Think "lullaby").

I used them also to illustrate that on the flipside of the coin, out-of-breath fatties like me find such dynamism breathtaking.

While taking up all of my seat and part of my wife's, I watch as these angelic figurines fly across the stage for three hours before the curtain drops. That's my cue to stand and flick potato chips from my lap.

On the way to raising my pathetic tonnage from the seat, a few errant Jaffas role from some belly-fold onto the theatre floor.

So yes, ballet is both uplifting and depressing. A tragi-comedy if you like.

Truth be told I was once a skinny kid. Too skinny.

Photo albums of the 70s and 80s depict a fat-free me. All ribs, elbows and knees. My upper arms the same girth as the forearms; thighs no thicker than calves. A 65kg ironing board with four adjoining stove pipes.

Raised semi-rural in Central Hawke's Bay and an active participant of contact sports, this wasn't cool.

It was an era and area where brawn was currency.

Putting on weight was impossible. Despite wanting to beef up to come off best in on-field collisions, I just couldn't do it. The scales were stubborn.

And therein lies my present problem: Teased and frustrated for being so slender as a youngster, these days I don't see the label "fattie" as disparagement. To me, it's complimentary.

That said, my 108 kilograms has come at the wrong time. Brawn is no longer an asset in my everyday life, and neither do I continue to play the national game.

To boot, these days I prefer to watch ballet over rugby.

Someone's laughing very hard somewhere.

But it's not all bad. I blame my vocation. Those of us in the fourth estate are simply too stressed and busy to eat well. That's why the estate leaves a legacy of obesity and alcoholism.

Anything greasy at arm's length of the keyboard is fair game.

Sausage rolls, pies, meatballs, anything that once had eyes, tends to catch my eye. As do items with the word "melt" on the cafe's chalkboard.

I know what Dr Phil would say. He'd say my nutritional torpor was emotional displacement: "Stop dealing with your emotional problems nutritionally," I heard him once berate a fattie.

I say drivel.

Nothing irritates us fatties more than those who regard food and fitness as the new moral proxy.

Portly people, in my experience, are non-judgmental, jolly folk.

Besides, no anthropologist worth their salt would argue humans dominated the food chain fuelled by salad. Our species successfully arrived here today by literally living off the fat of the land.

We ate fruit, grain and vegetables regularly only after farming began - which in evolutionary terms was essentially yesterday.

At least that's how I justified yesterday morning's sausages and bacon breakfast while camping with my boys at Te Awanga.

This compared with a young couple caravanning next to us, whose breakfast consisted of eating some sort of sawdust from bowls with fruit.

I may never dance as principal in Swan Lake, but like one media commentator, whose name I forget, said last week: "I'd rather die with fat dripping down my chin than with lettuce in my teeth".

Eat that, Dr Phil.

Mark Story is assistant editor at Hawke's Bay Today.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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