Cathleen Meredith is a plus-size performer who's started her own talent agency for fellow plus-size dancers (photo by Elliott Ashby, courtesy Meredith)

Meet 5 Performers Who Are Tackling Dance's Body-Diversity Issue

For Decades, Thin has been very In in the dance world. The stereotype is especially prevalent in ballet, where young dancers can feel huge pressure to be as skinny as possible. But dance's body-diversity problem isn't limited to the realm of leotards and tights—it's an issue that dancers of all genres encounter. Those who don't fit the thin ideal often find themselves shut out of professional dance, sidelined not because of a lack of talent, but because of a body directors and choreographers deem "too big."

Thankfully, long-overdue change is—slowly but surely—coming. And we'd like you to meet five of the gifted, determined, stereotype-shattering performers leading the way. They're living proof that talent knows no size.

Allison Buczkowski

Allison Buczkowski (photo by Danny Dicesare, courtesy Buczkowski)

Growing up, commercial dancer Allison Buczkowski never faced body-image issues. At her studio, she was accepted and treated the same as everyone else—just as she should have been. "Nobody said anything about me looking different, nobody made me feel any type of way," she says. That supportive environment helped her develop a deep-seated confidence in her abilities.

But once Buczkowski entered the professional dance world, rejection became an everyday battle. In those times of frequently hearing "no," her strong sense of self served her well, reminding her that opportunities would come her way when the timing was right. And her perseverance paid off: She became a staple in choreographer Tricia Miranda's YouTube videos, performed with Ariana Grande, and is currently on tour with Janet Jackson. "There is no normal," she says. "We're all just people. I think there's actually a spot in the industry for every single person and every single dancer, believe it or not."

A version of this story appeared in the November 2018 issue of Dance Spirit with the title "Dance Is For Every Body."

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Enter the World of the Knicks City Dancers with 2 of Their Newest Rookies

Auditions rarely fail to deliver on suspense. But this? This was the nail-biter to end all nail-biters. Hayoung Roh and Chelsea McCloskey, both professional dancers based in NYC, had made it through what felt like endless rounds of cuts, both on Zoom and in person. Out of the nearly 500 dancers (from 30 states and nine countries) who'd answered the Knicks City Dancers' open call for video submissions, just 20 remained—McCloskey and Roh among them. "We were separated into six holding rooms, where we kept trying to figure out the math," Roh recalls. "How many girls are there in total? Who was called back?"

Finally, the women returned to the audition room to dance one last time—or so they were told. Instead, KCD head coach Alyssa Quezada dropped her bombshell: All 20 women had made the final cut. They would be 2021–22 Knicks City Dancers: the latest and greatest edition of one of the most prestigious NBA dance teams. "It was the biggest celebration and the coolest moment of my dance career so far," says McCloskey now. And that was just the oh-so-perfectly-dramatic beginning.

Chelsea McCloskey stands on her left leg while kicking her right leg up with her arms crossed, a smile on her face. She is auditioning for KCD. Chelsea McCloskey Photo by Tess Mayer

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