Ballerina Ashley Bouder claims she was body shamed by NYC Ballet board member
A New York City Ballet (NYCB) principal dancer has revealed she was ‘strongly encouraged’ not to perform at the famed troupe’s star-studded Fall Gala this year due to her ‘appearance’.
Ashley Bouder, 38, has been a principal dancer at NYCB since 2005 and began her journey as a ballerina more than three decades ago at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet.
The 38-year-old reflected on her career in an explosive social media video posted to her Instagram in which she realized little had changed since the start of her professional career.
Telling a story from the start of her career, at the age of 16, Bouder said she first faced her weight in Saratoga, New York, during a three-week summer season as she danced minor roles.
“One day, as I was walking down the hall between rehearsals, I was pushed aside by an influential ballet mistress who said the big boss really liked me,” she said.
‘[She said that she] wanted to use me in bigger roles right away, but for that to happen I would have to think about losing five to 10 pounds.
Ashley Bouder, 38, posted a video on Instagram that revealed she was “strongly encouraged” not to perform at NYC Ballet’s Fall Gala this year due to her “appearance”.
The 38-year-old reflected on her career in explosive video realizing that little had changed since she started her professional career at 16.
Sulking wondered what would have happened if she hadn’t lost weight, adding that body shaming was “institutionalized” and “systemic”.
“Now that I’m reaching the twilight of my career, body shaming is still a big thing and it still happens to me, which is heartbreaking,” she said.
“If you all remember the New York Ballet Fall Gala, when it was announced that I was being replaced at the last minute in Symphony in C, people thought it was due to an injury, but This was not the case.
“I was too embarrassed to reveal the truth at the time, but was strongly encouraged not to play because of my appearance.”
Instead, Bouder appeared at the gala, having to watch another ballerina dance in her role after the last-minute change.
She said she had a brave face for her daughter, Violet, who sat with her at the event with husband Peter de Florio.
“I respectfully sat in the audience and watched another ballerina dance for me as I sat next to my daughter who is taking ballet lessons,” she said.
“There was no one to protect me, the systems, the social norms, the institution of ballet, that was the problem.
“I had thought or maybe hoped we would be past that, but clearly that’s not the case and now I’ve had a situation that brings me back to that embarrassment.”
Sulking ended by saying that the term “fat” was common and often used in a detrimental way against dancers.
Sulking was embarrassed to reveal why she was cut at the last minute from the fall gala instead of appearing in public with her daughter Violet and husband David H. Koch.
Bouder did not name the board members who made the comments, but slammed the industry, saying body shaming is ‘institutionalized’ and ‘systemic’
“As ballet dancers, we really hear the word fat, whether it applies or not. And that’s how toxic the culture around bodyweight really is,’ she said.
In the fall of 2021, she tore the plantar fascia in her left foot and was sidelined for about a year, gaining around 10 pounds, the New York Post reported.
Bouder chose not to identify people who commented on her appearance and said she only speaks for future generations entering the industry who deserve transparency.
“But honestly, as I sat there and even especially now thinking about his mental health going forward, I fear for all of our children,” she said.
“I’d like to move beyond the appeal of ‘corps de ballet’ and move on to the idea of ’healthy body’.
This year’s gala honored New York City Ballet Vice President Sarah Jessica Parker for her vision and leadership of the Fall Fashion Gala.
High-powered gala chairs included Georgina Bloomberg, daughter of former mayor Michael Bloomberg; Kudos to host/producer Andy Cohen and actors Laverne Cox and Claire Danes.
Following her nearly career-ending injury, Bouder enthusiastically took to social media in September to announce her return to the stage.
‘Don’t call it a comeback, I’ve been here for years! Lol, over 22 to be exact,” she wrote.
“This is my 23rd season with @nycballet and in just one week I will be back on stage at Lincoln Center on October 12, 2021.
She danced in ‘Casse-Noisette’ and ‘Sérénade’ and in 2019 she won the prestigious Prix Benois de la Danse for her role as Swanilda in ‘Coppelia’
Bouder insisted she has no plans to quit or sue NYCB and hopes to end her career with positive changes
“This injury, after the long COVID break, has sent me for a loop, both physically and mentally. It’s been a tough year for me in terms of choosing a career, but I’m finally coming out on the other side.
In her revealing Instagram post, she said the pandemic and her injury had left her with extremely poor mental health, and that she would often feel judged by other dancers.
Bouder danced with the ballet on September 20, 23 and even September 30, two days after the flagship event, the gala.
She made a point of stressing that her 21 minute and 11 second message was not intended to “throw anyone under the bus”.
But said: ‘I can’t keep quiet anymore, I’m past the embarrassment. I’m tired of him. I want to normalize talking about body-shaming.
Bouder said she has received “hundreds of messages” of support so far.
“Thank you for your openness and honesty on such a difficult and taboo subject that so many of us have faced in the dance world,” one person said.
“You are a true ballet icon, an inspiration and a force to be reckoned with on and off the stage,” said another.
Bouder was apprenticed to New York City Ballet in June 2000 and became a member of the corps de ballet in October.
She was promoted to soloist in February 2004 and in January 2005 became a principal dancer with NYCB.
Bouder danced in ‘The Nutcracker’ and ‘Serenade’ and in 2019 she won the prestigious Prix Benois de la Danse, the ballet version of the Oscars, for her role as Swanilda in ‘Coppelia’.
The ballet competition is held annually in Moscow.
She also runs her own company, The Ashley Bouder Project, an artistic collaboration “dedicated to advancing women and diversity in creative and leadership roles in the world of performing arts.”
Bouder insisted she had no plans to quit or sue NYCB.
“My goal is to end my career, but to make positive changes in the dance world as a whole,” she said.