By Hanna Yamato
Dance is one of the oldest and most prominent art forms today. The variety of dance genres are endless, varying from contemporary to lyrical to hip-hop. However, as a ballet dancer for about 12 years, I can say that ballet is the solid foundation for all types of dance. Although many of the myths and preconceptions about ballet have become notions of the past, many people still have confusing perceptions of ballet dancers. Here are a couple myths I have uncovered about ballet dancers from my personal experience.
- Ballet is expensive.
This is actually 100% true! The add up of tuition fees, production fees, leotards, tights, stage makeup, and costumes are endless. Moreover, one of the most important accessories a dancer utilizes on a daily basis are pointe shoes. These range anywhere from $70-$120 a pair, and often “die” (wear out) quickly and need to be replaced at least two to three times a month.
- Ballet is only for girls.
This is 100% false. Although it is evident that girls outnumber boys in a vast majority of famous dance companies around the world, the most well-known productions, such as The Nutcracker and Swan Lake, cannot be performed without males. If you have ever watched a live production, you would know that male ballet dancers often have the important job of supporting and partnering with the woman in their pas de deux (French for “dance for two people”). In other words, they are the ones lifting, turning, and holding the woman’s hand, and also help to expand and accentuate the female dancer’s lines. While women and men perform different steps onstage, the foundation of their technique remains synonymous.
- Ballet is “easy.”
This is also false; one may perceive ballet as “easy” because that is what we train endlessly for: to make difficult steps look effortless. However, the amount of work that goes into making something look light and airy requires years of practice, cross-training, and dedication.
- Ballet is boring.
This is false, but can sometimes be true depending on the dancer. To preface, a typical ballet class consists of warming up at the barre and then slowly progressing into harder combinations in the center. Because the structure of class remains the same, ballet can at times get boring. However, one of the most frustrating yet rewarding aspects about ballet is how one can never be perfect at it. There is always room for improvement, whether that is a pirouette or a grand jete, thus making it very challenging. In addition, different productions allow dancers to explore different roles that require different skills in artistry and character aura, allowing room for growth in not only the technical aspect, but also in expression.
- Ballet dancers have gross feet.
I would personally say that this is true. Due to how dancers train for hours in their pointe shoes, our feet become prone to blisters, calluses, and even ingrown toenails. Although transitioning to dancing on pointe can be a painful process, you eventually get used to the pain and often do not think about it while dancing.
- Ballet dancers are frail and delicate.
This is completely false. Although our performance and artistry can make us look somewhat “delicate,” ballet dancers are quite strong both physically and mentally. In a physical aspect, we learn to train and develop muscles so that our body can handle such complicated steps. Additionally, dancers learn to memorize choreography from a young age, which requires a lot of mental focus and concentration while maintaining musicality.
- Ballet dancers are prone to injuries.
This is unfortunately very true and can sometimes even end a dancer’s career. Since dance requires repetitive practice of many movements, almost every dancer will get injured at least once throughout their journey. Moreover, ballet is extremely physically demanding on the body; for example, our feet and knees were never meant to be in a turned-out position, thus putting a lot of stress on our joints and muscles. These injuries vary on their location and severity; for example, while many dancers have fractured their ankles, I on the other hand have suffered permanent damage to my lower back. Whilst injuries can be debilitating, there is often an important lesson and take-away we get from the experience, which we utilize to become smarter dancers.Although ballet is very demanding, it is, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful art forms to exist. Even if you are a non-dancer, it is worth going to see a live performance at least once in your life. My personal recommendations include: Giselle, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Paquita, and Don Quixote. Even though I do not wish to pursue dance after graduating, ballet is a very important aspect of my life and identity, and will always have a special place in my heart.