[my senior year of high school]
Do you like ballet? I have a deep, undying love for it. If I could help everyone in the direction of loving, or at least appreciating, ballet, I would consider it an honor.
You know how when you have an idea or a feeling that comes to you over the span of only a fraction of a second, but when you try to vocalize it, it takes several minutes? Some things cannot be expressed in words, which is news to no one. Ballet is one of the many ways humans are able to communicate, and in my humble opinion, it is no less important than any other form of self-expression.
I started taking ballet in second grade, and quit during my freshman year of college. Although I never danced professionally, my eleven years of training taught me the love of expressing myself through dance, as well as many, many life lessons. The discipline of the art, the musicality, the personification of music–every bit of it moves me. The professional dance world is a place I cannot personally comment on, other than what I know from other people’s experience. I know it has its drawbacks, but take away the negative aspects that come with striving for perfection in a competitive atmosphere, and you are left with the art of grace and beauty set to some of the most beautiful music ever written.
I am thankful that ballet has taken more of a spotlight in pop culture today, with shows like Breaking Point, Dance Academy, and mini series like the ones produced by aol.com and Teen Vogue. Despite the occasional cheese and drama in these portrayals, I think it is good for the average Joe to know a little more of what it takes to be able to wear a tutu and pointe shoes. Speaking from personal experience, it takes a lot of bloody toes and blisters, for starters. Professional ballet dancers make very little money, and ballet as a whole relies mostly on the generosity of private donors to survive. Yet somehow it’s all worth it. The more publicity, the more appreciation ballet receives, the better off everyone will be. Yeah, I actually believe that. Even if you never take a ballet class, you can experience the joy of ballet as an engaged member of the audience.
Whether or not you love ballet, or you are being dragged into the experience because someone you know loves it, the more you know, the more you will enjoy it. If you don’t know much about ballet, and you have a desire to learn, let today be the day your education begins…
Here are a few things you may or may not know about ballet:
1) Dancing on pointe is painful
If you guessed that balancing the weight of your body on your toes is painful and challenging, you would be correct. While it definitely gets easier with practice and time as callouses form, wearing the shoes all day for class and rehearsal is the recipe for sore and blistered feet. The shoes are covered in pink satin, but on the inside they are canvas (and blood-stained…have I mentioned blood?), which rubs against your toes. Pointe-shoe-technology changes as ballet evolves, and improvements do come with time (for instance, more shoes are being made with other materials lining the inside, such as suede), but the overall structure is the same.
2) Pointe shoes are expensive
Most professional ballet companies provide pointe shoes to their dancers, but if you do purchase them they cost between $50-$80 a pair. For a principal dancer, pointe shoes can become “dead” (unusable due to wear) in the course of one performance. So, yeah, that’s a lot of pointe shoes.
3) There are a lot more aspiring dancers than there are open spots in ballet companies
Despite the fact that ballet dancers aren’t paid very much, the amount of dancers working toward a professional career is far superior to the number of positions available. The perfection that ballet requires, combined with the competitive professional world, means that a ballet dancer’s survival goes beyond just her talent and ability. It requires a great deal of mental stamina, as well.
4) Ballet has its own vocabulary
Every move a dancer makes can be broken down into a series of steps that he or she has been learning since the first day of class. As a dancer’s technique progresses, she/he continues to build upon what she/he has already mastered, until the entire vocabulary is learned. The ballet vocabulary is in French, and is universal. An American student could take a ballet class in Russia, and be able to follow the teacher’s instruction based on the French terms and demonstration.
Below are some videos to get you hooked on the art and beauty that is ballet: