Russian 'Big Ballet' Bends the Boards

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With dancers averaging 220 pounds and a combined weight of two tons, the Big Ballet Company is adding new weight -- literally -- to Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake."

The plus-sized Russian ballerinas perform in tutus and on point, just like their slim counterparts, but they have a rule that a traditional prima ballerina only dreams of: If you lose weight, you're out.

The dressing room at a Big Ballet performance resembles a fast-food counter.

"They must be eating and eating and eating," said Natalia Liensky, the company director.

The Big Ballet dancers train three times a week to keep themselves supple. They are not professional dancers, but dance as a hobby. They all hold day jobs and the company includes doctors, nurses and engineers.

They have no body image problems and welcome laughter from the audience.

"I'm not ashamed of what I am," said Tatiana Gladkih, the slimmest of the ballerinas, at 200 pounds. "We expect people to laugh when we show them something funny."

And the women certainly strive to be funny. The second half of the program is pure slapstick when the girls are paired with male dancers who are a fraction of their size.

But the work that goes into the performances is no joke. The women practice as hard as any dancer to keep their bodies limber and strong.

"I really enjoyed it," said Helen Marrison after taking in a performance. "It's refreshing to see big people who are so fit. It's something so fantastic."

The Big Ballet Company takes big liberties with the classical repertoire, however, and that doesn't impress many professionals.

"Do we really need to have 'Swan Lake' performed so badly?" asked choreographer Julia Simonne. "That's the bottom line."

But for this company, the bottom line is to change public perceptions about big people. After all, who's to say tutus can't come in XL?

ABC News' Hilary Brown reported this story for "World News."

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