New York dancer Jenifer Ringer recalls life in ballet 

Former New York City Ballet principal dancer Jenifer Ringer is ready to play in the snow.

“I’ve only been retired for 10-ish days, and already it’s such a revelation for me,” says Ringer, who will appear in the Bay Area this week to read from her memoir “Dancing Through It: My Journey in the Ballet.”

“There’s a lot of slush in New York right now,” Ringer says. “I was going to jump over it, and then I hesitated, worried about injury, but then I realized I don’t have to think about it. I don’t have any performances! My body is my own now, completely.”

Ringer’s dancing had a particular warmth, a rarity at NYCB, which was founded by George Balanchine, a choreographer with a penchant for statuesque ice queens.

Ringer’s qualities come through in the book, which dishes on her professional and personal life, including her dedication to her Christian faith and struggle with eating disorders.

She made headlines in 2010 after New York Times critic Alastair Macaulay said in a review of “Nutcracker” that she “looked as if she’d eaten one sugar plum too many.”

Despite national outrage, Macaulay never apologized.

Ringer handled “Sugar Plumgate,” as she calls it in the book, with poise, allowing Macaulay his opinion while standing her ground, affirming she was at an acceptable, healthy and strong dancing weight.

She says ballet is not alone in its focus on being uber-thin.

“It’s an aspect of our cultural in general right now,” Ringer says. “The images of female beauty that we see in magazines and advertisements show an unnatural emphasis on people being too thin.”

Among her motivations in writing the book was to help others by sharing her story.

“A lot of what I went through with self-esteem issues and eating disorders was so shame based and not talked about,” Ringer says. “My problems were healed when I started to talk about it and share with other people who suffered the same problems.”

In addition to staying busy being a mom (Ringer and her husband, dancer James Fayette, have two children), Ringer’s “retirement” includes teaching dance at the Colburn School in Los Angeles in a program affiliated with Benjamin Millepied’s L.A. Dance Project.

Her advice to striving dancers?

“Dance because you love it and remember your beauty,” she says. “Keep an identity that is separate from dance so that you always have that.”


Jenifer Ringer

Where: Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd, Corte Madera

When: 1 p.m. Sunday

Admission: Free

Contact: (415) 927-0960,

Note: Ringer also speaks at 7 p.m. Tuesday at A Great Good Place for Books, 6120 La Salle Ave., Oakland.

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Lauren Gallagher

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