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Classically Framed

April 23, 2001

Brava, Toni Bentley, for your rebuttal to Lewis Segal's plea for diversity on ballet technique ("Critic's Argument for Heftier Dancers Is Thin," April 16). And I use the term "technique" advisedly. An important point omitted by Segal is the issue of the intent of the original creators, such as choreographers and composers. The beauty of line and technical requirement envisioned by 19th and 20th century choreographers is no less fundamental to their creation than the technique and speed required of musicians by composers. Does Segal wish to hear fistfuls of wrong notes or slow tempos from the pit orchestra in order to accommodate the "needs" of technically challenged would-be musicians? I imagine not.

JOHN WRIGHT

Los Angeles

Toni Bentley's article is full of holes. "Tone deaf" applicants to Juilliard and academically unqualified applicants to medical schools are simply not comparable to "round" (Bentley's cogent diminutive) young girls or boys applying for entry-level dance training. The former are higher-learning institutions that determine entrance on levels of achievement attained through years of previous study.

Bentley then goes on to refute her own argument that an individual with the "wrong" body type is "subjected to" (rather than challenged by) "a competitive discipline for which they are at a disadvantage" by ignorantly suggesting that "short guys" not be hired by the NBA, where point guards well under 6 feet (Muggsy Bogues is maybe 5-foot-5) often excel.

JOSHUA HELLER

Los Angeles

Thank you, thank you, Toni Bentley, for your clear and honest thoughts on the physical standards for ballet dancers. As someone who has danced for all but the first six of her 60 years, I appreciate any and all who participate in this most glorious form of artistic expression. However, although I may appreciate those of all shapes and sizes in my ballet class, onstage I still want to see the lovely, elongated and slender (not emaciated) forms, as this illustrates the line of the dance best.

With the exception of some new choreographers such as Mark Morris (a genius and my current favorite), classical ballet is best served onstage by those who are physically built by Mother Nature or genetics, or whatever, to carry out its arabesques, leaps and turns.

MARSHA E. HUBERMAN

Los Angeles

As usual with people who defend their prejudices, Toni Bentley plays the political correctness card. The rebuttal to her argument is simple.

Critics aren't calling for ballerinas who can't perform. They're calling for ballerinas who can perform but who look different.

ROB SCHMIDT

Culver City

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