Shocking Facts About Ballet Dancers

There are lots of wrongful stereotypes and biases about ballet dancers that need to be challenged. They simply don’t get enough credit for all the hard work that goes into not only perfecting their form and technique, but making it look effortless and graceful as well. So let’s give ballet dancers the credit they deserve. Let’s have a look at these five shocking facts about ballet dancers that will blow your mind.

1. Initially, Ballet Was Danced by Men

Despite being stereotyped as an overly feminine art form, female ballet dancers did not appear until 1681. Originating in the Italian courts during the 15th century, the main roles were initially performed by male courtiers not professional dancers. Even though ballet is now dominated by women, the majority of company directors and choreographers are actually men. Male dancers or danseurs, still hold great importance as it’s their job to ensure that the ballerina feels safe and that the lines of her body are displayed in a positive light.

2. Ballet Dancers Train Harder Than Most Professional Athletes

Sure, they look like gentle, floating butterflies, but ballet training is not for the faint of heart. It turns out that it takes up to ten years to train as a professional dancer, during which they spend over twenty hours in class every week. There’s also the insane training regimen that combines both aerobic and anaerobic exercises that strengthens just about every muscle in the body. Just ask NFL football player Steve McLendon who has been taking classes since high school. Apparently it’s harder than anything else he has ever done!

3. New Pointe Shoes Have to Be Broken In

You can’t just randomly slip into a pair of pointe shoes and start dancing. Apparently, they must be adapted to, or broken into after several years of training. How exactly this is done varies from one dancer to another. Some will bang them on the ground to reduce sound on stage, or even scrape off the bottom of the shoe to reduce the slip. While others prefer to cut out a section of the shank or inner part of the sole, to make it more malleable. There’s also this special brand that can be molded by melting it with a hairdryer, then placed in the fridge to retain its shape.

4. Some Shoes Only Last One Hour

All that time spent breaking into pointe shoes and they barely make it half-way into a single show, especially those who dance lead roles. In fact, most dancers go through several pairs in one performance and up to 120 in a few months. This means that professional ballet companies are forced to set aside a huge chunk of money for pointe shoes alone since they are expensive, costing anywhere between $60 to over $100 a pair. Take for instance the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater who spends nearly $100,000 annually on pointe shoes.

5. Tutus Are Handmade

Another essential part of a ballerina’s costume is her tutu. Like pointe shoes, they can be rather costly especially those made by professional companies who charge up to $2,000 for just one. But the good news is that high-quality tutus last a really long time, sometimes up to 30 years. It also costs so much because creating a single tutu may take up to 120 hours and consists of several layers that are supported by a metal hoop. There’s also the tradition of dancers writing their names inside the tutu so that future performers will know who the previous owners were.


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