Top 10 Surprising Facts About Ballet Dancers

May 2 / OnlineBalletClass


Did you know that some dancers prep their pointe shoes with a hair dryer? And that a principal dancer's shoe is only enough for half a performance? Ballet is often described as a graceful and delicate art form. It is stereotyped as feminine and is sometimes even called light. But in the oft-misunderstood ballet world, there's a lot more to it than meets the eye. Discover ten amazing facts about ballet dancers and their craft in this article.

10: In the beginning the ballet was danced only by men

The art form originated in Italian courts in the 15th century. Catherine de Medicis, one of the ballet's earliest patrons, married King Henry II of France. France became a central part of its development. In the first few centuries, the work was mostly done by courtiers, and professional dancers did not play the leading role. In addition, most of the performers were male. The first principal dancer did not appear until 1681, and it was not until 40 years later that women began to compete with the technique of men. And although today ballet is often considered a women's domain. But there are still more men than female choreographers and directors.

9: Ballet dancers train harder than most professional athletes

It takes up to ten years to train a professional dancer, and many of these years are spent in more than twenty lessons per week. Dancers not only learn ballet, but also have to take contemporary and characterful dance lessons, learn to work together and create short fragments of famous ballets, known as variations. And it is not only the number of hours that is demanding. Ballet is the hardest part of his training program, according to NFL footballer Steve McLendon. Despite McLendon's bulky muscles, his dance teacher urges him to acquire some strength and grace from this art form. The mix of aerobic and anaerobic exercises in a ballet class results in a total body workout that builds muscles that are rarely used.

8: Most professionals maintain a healthy diet

A dancer's ideal body type often consists of long, slender legs, a short torso with narrow hips, and a slender neck. This has inspired countless young dancers to focus on an unhealthy amount of weight. Contrary to popular belief, not many dancers are anorexic. While aspiring dancers often have an unhealthy relationship with food, and some are affected by the disease, most professionals don't. In recent years, companies have been trying to attract healthy looking dancers. The Royal Danish Ballet is known for talking to staff using unhealthy eating habits to save their careers. In addition, many professional troops, along with physiotherapists, have hired nutritionists to keep their dancers' bodies in good shape.

7: Wearing lace-up shoes is a rite of passage

An up-and-coming ballerina's biggest milestone is en pointe. The graceful movement of the ascension in the satin shoes inspires many young girls to ballet. But Pointe isn't as harmless as it seems. If introduced too quickly, the student risks serious injury. In general, bones are too malleable before the age of ten or eleven, and many experienced teachers choose to wait even longer. In addition, a girl's technique must be strong enough to use the shoes safely. The exact number varies, but most professional teachers agree that two or more years should be trained several times a week.

6: New pointe shoes need to be broken

New pointe shoes are very difficult and dangerous to dance in. Over many years of training, each dancer decides how to adapt or break in, her shoes fit her foot better. Some of these measures are exceptional. For example, some dancers scratch the bottom of the shoe so that it slips less, fall to the floor to reduce the noise on stage, cut off part of the shaft - the inner part of the sole - to make it more malleable, or apply shellac to harden it. One particular brand even requires the dancer to melt the shoe with a hair dryer and adjust it to the foot and then put it in the fridge to harden.

5: Some shoes only last for an hour

Contrary to complicated burglary methods, professional dancers' shoes only last a very short time. In a season that usually lasts only a few months, a dancer can wear up to 120 pairs of shoes. Since pointe shoes are very expensive at 60 to over $ 100 a pair, this is one of the most important costs of professional companies. One company, the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, reports that it spent nearly $ 100,000 a year on women's-only dance shoes. Some lead dancers have been known to use different pairs during a performance, especially when dancing in ballets such as Swan Lake or Sleeping Beauty.

4: The male equivalent of a ballerina is a dancer

While classical ballet places great emphasis on the dancer, the dancer is equally important. He supports the ballerina in some of the most beautiful and refined parts of the classical repertoire. Many Danseurs, such as Marcelo Gomes of the American Ballet Theater, pride themselves on being a good partner. This means that the ballerina feels safe on stage and displays the lines of her body in a flattering light.

Most men, meanwhile, have been forced to fight the stereotype of femininity in ballet. The art form is often seen by the general public as a domain for women. In smaller dance studios, there are usually only a handful of boys mixed with the girls. Many of these schools don't have the resources or the knowledge to properly train young men, especially when it comes to partnership and more complicated jumps and turns. Therefore, many successful dancers, including Gomes, left their homes to train at a young age in prestigious schools.

3: A live pianist conducts daily ballet lessons

When you think of a ballet company, the companion is not the person that comes to mind. However, the pianists play a vital role in daily lessons as well as rehearsals and performances. Since the replacement of the violinists in the late 1800s, the pianists have helped shape the musicality of young dancers, accompanying countless rehearsals and even performances. And her job is by no means easy. Not only do you need to be able to play a wide variety of pieces at different tempos for each part of the class, you also need to master ballet terminology. When a teacher says, "We're from the glissade," each dance partner can know which part of the music to start.

2: Not all ballet dancers are young

As ballet is referred to as female art, it is also considered young. And while most professionals retire between the ages of 30 and 40, some are run by larger companies as drawing artists. These are generally dancers in companies such as the Royal Ballet in London who have been classified as soloists or directors during their main careers. They now play roles that are less physically demanding but artistically demanding. For example, a male character artist will no longer be able to play the prince in Sleeping Beauty, but he will portray Rothbart's evil wizard.

1: Tutus are handmade

Aside from lace shoes, a ballerina tutu is essential to its performance. This is also a big hassle for professional companies as a single high quality tutu can cost $ 2000. But they also last a very long time - sometimes up to 30 years - and can include several generations of dancers. It is common for dancers to write their name in the tutu so that future performers know who is wearing it. The top layer of a classic tutus protrudes about 13 to 15 inches from the hips, but at the bottom there are more than ten extra layers of tulle supported by a metal hoop. Sewing all this tulle onto underpants is extremely time consuming and scratchy. A single tutu can last up to 120 hours!
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