When you think about ballet, you probably imagine slim and graceful women doing pirouettes and leaping through the air on stage. As harsh as it may sound, almost nobody associates ballet with bigger or overweight girls dancing. However, this doesn’t mean that there are no big girls who dream about being ballet dancers. Unfortunately, there are many girls who want nothing more than to be given a chance to dance, but are unable to fulfil their dreams because of their weight.

This is where Big Ballet comes in. This new television program by Channel 4 does something that has never been done before, and that is to bring plus-sized women to the ballet stage. The dancers were handpicked by two of the most important figures in the ballet industry: Wayne Sleep and Monica Loughman. Sleep has been a prominent performer for the Royal Ballet Company since the 1960’s and is also the founder of DASH, a company that managed to bring ballet to a wider audience by combining classical ballet with contemporary style. He serves as the Big Ballet choreographer.

The show’s mentor will be none other than Monica Loughman, the most well-known Irish ballet dancer who has also started her own ballet company in Ireland.

Of course, the most important part of the show is the group of women who have courageously stepped forward to don costumes and dance on stage in front of a national TV audience. One of them is Hannah Baines, an 18-year-old who wanted to attend a Performing Arts College but was turned down because of her weight. Another dancer is Stella, 31, who in fact started to train as a ballet dancer as early as age 3. At 16, she stopped dancing not only due to her size but because she felt too tall and therefore did not fit the standard ballet dancer body type. All the girls have different back stories that have a common factor: they dreamed of dancing but were discouraged by other people (as well as by themselves) because of their size.

Sleep and Loughman insist that unlike other reality TV shows, Big Ballet does not intend to make fun of the women nor will it push the women to lose weight. Instead, the show wants to put out the message that even big women can become graceful and elegant dancers if they wish to be.