Big Ballet is a 2014 British documentary programme that follows Wayne Sleep and prima ballerina Monica Loughman[1][2] as they help a troupe of amateur plus-size dancers realise their dream of dancing Swan Lake.[3] The three-episode series, produced by Rare Day[4] and broadcast on Channel 4, premiered on February 6, 2014.

Big Ballet
Directed byKirsty Cunningham
Anna Llewellyn
Narrated byOlivia Colman
ComposerMat Davidson
Country of originUnited Kingdom
Original languageEnglish
No. of series1
No. of episodes3
Executive producersPeter Dale
Emma Loach
EditorSteven Barclay
Running time60 mins
Production companyRare Day
Original networkChannel 4
Original release6 February (2014-02-06) –
20 February 2014 (2014-02-20)

The dancers, referred to in the show as "fat" or "real women", range from UK size 12 to 24 – significantly larger than the norm in classical ballet. Eighteen dancers were selected from a pool of more than five hundred applicants to participate in the series.[5]

Big Ballet also features Matthew Bourne, Derek Deane, Patricia Doyle, David Plumpton, Tamara Rojo, David Nixon and the English National Ballet. It was predominantly filmed at the Northern Ballet[6]; its final performance was staged at St George's Hall, Bradford,[7] in front of 1,500 people.[8]

Advertisements seeking dancers for the series read: "Have you ever dreamt of being a ballet-dancer but feel your size holds you back? Have you ever imagined dancing on a big stage in front of an adoring crowd? We are looking for talented dancers aged 18-55 to take part in our new series about ballet. No previous ballet experience necessary. If you're interested to hear more, we'd love to talk to you!".[9]


No. Title Original airdate Viewers (in millions)
from BARB
1Episode 16 February 2014 (2014-02-06)1.1
Over 200 auditionees are whittled down to 18 men and women, to form the Big Ballet troupe. Can Wayne and Monica harness the dancers' passion, teach classical ballet and put on a performance the likes of which no one has ever seen before?
2Episode 213 February 2014 (2014-02-13)1.1
Wayne and Monica audition the dancers for the parts in Swan Lake, and the pressure is on to see who is cast as the lead White Swan and her evil counterpart the Black Swan. Having whittled down hundreds of auditionees to form their unique ballet company, Wayne and Monica - and the dancers - realise the size of the task ahead of them. Monica is a stickler for pure ballet discipline and training. She's set on turning the amateurs into an impressive dance troupe, but with just five months until the curtain goes up, the pressure is on.
3Episode 320 February 2014 (2014-02-20)1.2
The Big Ballet dancers have just five weeks to perfect their own 25-minute version of Swan Lake. But this is not a full-time ballet troupe. Classes on evenings and weekends must fit around work and home lives. The pressure on the dancers begins to mount, as the physicality of the task ahead and the enormity of what they have taken on begin to take their toll. Monica and Wayne feel the pressure too; as well as getting the dancers ballet-ready, they have to design a performance of Swan Lake that will confound the critics. The set, the costumes and the music all have to be spectacular. Wayne and Monica have drilled the dancers in basic ballet technique and cast all the roles. After months of training, injury setbacks and nerves, with less than five weeks to go before the dancers perform their supersize Swan Lake in front of an audience of 1500, including the great and the good of the ballet establishment, can they realise their dream of dancing on stage?


In 2021, an American series based on Big Ballet premiered on Fox called The Big Leap, which ran for 1 season. The show adapted the premise of Big Ballet into a fictional comedy-drama.[10]


  1. ^ Wayne Sleep Blog - Big Ballet on Channel 4 (11 July 2013)
  2. ^ Independent - Channel 4's new 'Big Ballet': Defying ballet’s body politics (26 January 2014)
  3. ^ Channel 4 - Episode Guide (January 2014)
  4. ^ Rare Day - Channel 4 commissions Big Ballet
  5. ^ Huffington Post - Channel 4's Big Ballet: Will Plus-Size Ballerinas Change The Status Quo? (6 February 2014)
  6. ^ Northern Ballet - Big Ballet at Northern Ballet
  7. ^ Yorkshire Evening Post - Leeds stars of ‘Big Ballet show to appear on Channel 4 (5 February 2014)
  8. ^ What's On TV - Big Ballet (20 February 2014)
  9. ^ The Guardian - Big Ballet's plus-size swans step out to prove dance suits all shapes (3 February 2014)
  10. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (28 April 2021). "'The Big Leap' Ballet Dramedy Starring Scott Foley and Teri Polo Picked Up To Series by Fox". Deadline. Retrieved 20 September 2021.

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