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Meet the Plus-Size Male Dancer Challenging Ballet Stereotypes

American ballet dancer Erik Cavanaugh is proving to the world that plus-size performers can be just as agile and graceful as their slim counterparts. His Instagram is filled with photographs and videos of himself performing ballet and other contemporary dance routines. He hopes to appear in music videos and on the Ellen Show, and his ultimate goal is to “change the mind and shape of dancers”.

Erik, 23, works at a pizza parlor by day and spends all his spare time dancing and choreographing. He learned the basics of dance at the Pittsburgh Creative and Performing Arts School when he was much younger, and was encouraged to post videos of his performances online by his dance coach at his alma mater, Slippery Rock University.

Some of his short video clips feature him pulling off incredibly difficult and impressive moves, like multiple pirouettes, set to contemporary music like Justin Bieber’s Purpose and Jordan Smith’s Settle. The New York Post featured a compilation of Erik’s moves in a Facebook video, which went viral, inspiring millions around the world.

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Photos: Erik Cavanaugh

“It’s been kind of insane,” Erik said, speaking to Forbes Magazine. “I know that I don’t look like a typical dancer. The internet isn’t expecting me to jump high and things like that.”

But that’s exactly what he does, with apparent ease, and he’s amassed thousands of followers on Instagram who regularly leave him comments expressing their admiration and gratitude. “You’re literally an inspiration for me and I don’t even know you, but your passion for dance had just made me fall in love with your personality,” a fan wrote to him. “You’re so amazing and thank you for helping me realize that the size and shape doesn’t determine the dance but it’s the passion and determination that does.”

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Photos: Erik Cavanaugh

Erik also uses his Instagram account to post inspirational messages and quotes. One of his captions reads: “ Barriers are only put in place by people who give up on themselves, every wall can fall as long as you push hard enough.”

He also wrote: “Be who you want to be and not what someone else tells who you can’t be,” and “Dreams are possible for those who work and push themselves.”

 

There have been a few negative responses as well, but Erik said that he tries not to let them bother him. “I am not ashamed of who I am,” he said. “I’m just trying to inspire children that may look like myself that all dreams are capable.”

 

Sources: The Telegraph, Daily Mail

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