Assessing Dancers – Body Types

Body types vary from dancer to dancer.

In a text book written by William Herbert Shelden, called The Atlas of Men, (1954) he designates three body types. He called this body classification; somatotype, and is defined as: The structure or build of a person

Shelden’s deffinitions of body types follow:

Ectomophic is characterized by long and thin muscles and limbs and low fat storage; usually referred to as slim. Ectomorphs are not predisposed to store fat or build muscle.

Mesomorhpic  is characterized by medium bones, solid torso, low fat levels, wide shoulders with a narrow waist; usually referred to as muscular. Mesomorhs are predisposed to build muscle but not store fat.

Endomophic is characterized by increased fat storage, a wide waist and a large bone structure, usually referred to as fat. Endomorphs are predisposed to storing fat.

Body tissue types are Sheldon’s foundation for his theory of classification. No one completely adheres to these three body types and I personally do not like categorizing people, but in a dance classroom, this little bit of knowledge may help, not only the dancer but the teacher, to see and realize what the difficulties may be in technique and allow correction. These categories can give a dance teacher useful insight to certain tendencies, or technique problems a dancer may have.

The Ectomorph dancer, with her long, narrow, lean and slender body has an almost delicate structure. This type dancer is usually very flexible and has great mobility. Beautiful arabesques, high grand battements and flexibility are typical with this body type. When she overstretches, though, there may be a loss of control, but she can perform quick movements well. Strength and muscular endurance activities are difficult for her but strength, endurance and relaxation exercises can improve her performance.

The Mesomorph dancer, has a solid square muscular arrangement, usually athletic in appearance. This type dancer usually excels in muscular strength and endurance activities. She can perform large energetic movements over a long period of time. Jumps and grande allegro are typically her strong points. Some of the major qualities of this type of dancers body are strength endurance and power. The degree of flexibility can present a constant struggle. The dancer needs to try extremely hard to maintain her flexibility through daily work out.

The Endomorphic dancer, has a rounded body shape with an excessive amount of fatty tissue. This dancer performs petit allegro combinations well because of the body type has the inclination to move quickly. This dancer possesses, strength, flexibility and endurance and can maintains this ability. Weight control is often a problem for an individual with this body type, so endurance exercises should be part of the daily workout routine.

From the 1930s to the 1960s the Mesomorph dancer was the most common body type in ballet. From the 1970s to today the Ectomorph dancer has been the popular choice of ballet choreographers.

Regardless of the dancer’s body type, ballet teachers must take into consideration the dancer’s other physical abilities. Each dancer has something special to give to an audience. Body types should not categorize your opinion of a dancer, you never know when she may surprise you. It happens quite often…….

One thought on “Assessing Dancers – Body Types

  1. I like how you highlight both strengths and weaknesses in each body type. Im an endomorph and so want a tall slim dancers body. I sometimes feel my shape and fat gets in the way of my stretching.

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