The Third Leader: Big is beautiful

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The Independent Online

Despite the usual grim toll of events, and the usual gloom retailers and doom wholesalers, 2007 is not shaping up entirely badly. Yesterday we had the delight of a teenage hero, the young sailor Mike Perham; today we have the equally unexpected turn-up of good news from Russia: 17-stone ballerinas.

Indeed: the Big Ballet, a distinguished company from Perm, home of Diaghilev, is making its first visit here, determined both to entertain and keep every little bit of imposing avoirdupois.

A timely reminder, then, as dieting Britons prepare to shed nine million stones this month, that grace, elegance and style are not qualities exclusive to the determinedly and often smugly concave. We should not lightly dismiss other slightly more slender divas, but I'm sure many balletomanes will agree that the finest dance we have preserved on film is the remarkable interpretation of Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours" by that fetching hippo in Fantasia.

In other spheres, too, the spherical lend a gravity-defying enchantment unavailable to the dully lithe. Have you ever seen the great Oliver Hardy dance? A thing of touchingly nimble beauty, nearly matched by, say, Oscar Peterson at the piano, or Andy "The Viking" Fordham at the oche, or, almost, the Deputy Prime Minister at the mallet (by a neat coincidence, the Big Ballet begins its tour in Hull).

I myself am in full training for Burns Night, where my reeling excites awe and a wide berth for better admiration. And can it also be a coincidence that this is the Chinese year of that most pink, perky and prejudice-prone creature, the pig? We say: big is back!