Keith Lin's "Ballet Monsters" Capture #DancerLife

November 28, 2001

You know a ballet meme is good when it makes you chuckle to yourself and think, “So true.” The most recent meme to capture what it’s really like to be a ballet dancer is Ballet Monsters, a series of cartoons created by artist Keith Lin that are now circling the internet. Last year we spoke with Taiwan-based designer Lin about his leotard line, KeithLink; recently we got him to talk about the inspiration for his spot-on cartoons.

You’re originally a costume designer. What made you decide to create these cartoons?

It all happened out of the blue! I was testing a new sketch pad I got for my computer and randomly drew a monster in a plié position. When I posted the cartoon on my Facebook page, it received a lot of positive feedback—and I knew I had revived my long-lost skill of comic drawing.

What is a “Ballet Monster”? Why a monster?

Ballet Monsters are actually me! I really love ballet, but I’ll never be a ballet dancer. When I draw, I can make myself a monster with high extension and perfect turnout. I can even create a whole ballet company!

How do you come up with your ideas?

Ever since high school, I’ve been surrounded by dancers and people in the dance world, so I understand the way they think. In fact, all my best friends are dancers, and the stories they tell me about their lives—the fun, the crazy, and the silly—are all inspirations for Ballet Monsters.

What are some challenges you have faced in drawing these Monsters?

It’s hard for my characters to communicate emotion because they don’t have mouths and their eyes are shut. Some people joke and say that they look like Hello Kitty—but that’s just my distinct style of drawing. I rely on ballet positions to express feeling. Dancers speak with their bodies onstage, and to me the closed eyes show how they are enjoying the moment. Sometimes I feel like I’m choreographing on paper.