True Life: I Had Breast Reduction Surgery to Help My Dance Career

October 31, 2019

Kylie Morton Berry, principal dancer and ballet mistress with the Appalachian Ballet Company, shares her story.

I developed breasts late—around age 15—but it happened fast. By senior year of high school, I was wearing a DD-cup. I didn’t grow or gain weight anywhere else, so I was very uncomfortable. I felt out of proportion. Also, I’m hypermobile, and having that much weight on the front of my body gave me lower back pain.

Berry performing prior to receiving her breast reduction surgery (Calmes, courtesy Berry)

During senior year, I started talking with my mom about having breast reduction surgery. Since she is also in the dance world, as a former ballerina and now teacher and studio owner, she understood. But it wasn’t until I became an apprentice with Charlotte Ballet in Charlotte, NC, that the time felt right. In the spring of my apprentice year, I had a conference with the company’s leadership, and they agreed that the surgery might be a good idea if I wanted to pursue a professional path. It wasn’t just about how I looked. Because I had a lot of back pain, I would limit myself on certain movements. I also held back because I felt self-conscious.

After talking with the doctor about my needs as a ballet dancer—most breast reduction patients don’t aim to reduce as much as I wanted to—I booked the surgery for the beginning of summer break. The surgery itself took about five hours. Afterward, I was uncomfortable, but not in too much pain. I had an eight-week recovery period, during which I wasn’t supposed to really use my arms. I couldn’t dance or do yoga. I couldn’t swim, because that can affect your stitches. I did do some Pilates for core strength. I was able to take one ballet class before Charlotte Ballet asked me back to rehearse with their second company.

In the end, the surgery took me from an E-cup to a B-cup. I felt lighter—it was literally a weight off my chest. I also found I was able to use my core muscles more effectively, after years of focusing on holding my body in a certain way. I didn’t have chronic back pain anymore, and I felt more confident. Breast reduction surgery isn’t for everybody, but it was the right choice for me.