Written by Miruna Candea
“Ten minutes until the show starts.” My hands are shaking and my heart is beating faster than a child running to buy chocolate. I look again at my bun and make sure it won’t fall during the dance. I take a deep breath and close my eyes. Fear, pain but also excitement and a lot of happiness are running through my body. So many feelings…so many ways everything could go very wrong or…so many ways I could shine and get remarked by a big dance company.
While I am waiting for the beginning of the show I start remembering all the hours of hard work, all the exercises I had to do, all the time I had to practice to be able to be a part of this amazing dance. Sometimes I think how hard the life of a ballerina can be. But then, in moments like this, I am 100% percent sure that it’s worth all the pain, work and tiring moments.
“One minute. Be ready!”
“I’m coming” I reply. I put a smile on my face; I step on the stage waiting for the long expected show to start.
Nutcracker, Swan Lake, Giselle … you have surely seen or heard of at least one of these ballet performances. But what you see on the stage is only the top of the iceberg. There is a lot of work and exercise behind the shows we see. This article presents what is going on behind the curtain and how the real life of a ballet dancer is.
So what does it take to be a ballet dancer in today’s world?
If you had asked me seven years ago, my answer would have sounded something like this, “Well, you just need to train a little, to learn the splits and the choreography of one or two dances per year.” But by now I have come to realize how wrong I was. Full time ballet dancers have one of the most challenging and physically demanding careers in the world.
Head up, tight butt, stern stomach, straight back, knees stretched, attitude, grace and all while doing the splits in the air or 10 pirouettes without stopping. And these are just two moves, 10 seconds from a dance that lasts for an hour. And if that’s not enough, you need to do everything while wearing Pointe shoes, which make a normal dance 10 times harder. Being a ballet dancer requires much effort both physically and mentally. You need to train daily, to have an amazing flexibility, grace, balance and not only. You need to overcome all the stress and emotions not only on the stage but also in the everyday life.
Dancing is not the same thing as practicing.
Some people might think that all that a ballet dancer does is to repeat a dance for a show and some easy stretching exercises. Well this is totally wrong. Ballet is not only a sport, it is an art. Being able to dance requires a lot of work, dedication and passion. A ballet dancer works daily somewhere 7 hours. And it is not just a dance; it’s a complex training with a lot of different exercises. Some of them are for grace, some are for strength, some are for flexibility, some are for balance and those are just the well known ones. A ballet dancer needs to learn a lot of choreographies, to remember all the moves and then in a very short amount of time to be able to perform them on the stage while making everything look easy and effortless for the public. Then s/he needs to learn to listen to the music, to follow the rhythm and to synchronize with the team mates.
And this is only the physical part. On the other hand, ballet dancers need to know how to control their emotions and pain, to smile and make it seem effortless on the stage. It is really stressful to search and train to be part of a well-known company before finally getting there. Besides, there is a good amount of financial issues, lack of free time and a lot of injuries.
Pointe shoes…what are those?
People call them Pointe shoes but we, the ballet dancers, like to call them a torture method. On the outside they look gorgeous and give the dancer an out-of-this-world grace. But on the inside … they are secretly foot killers. It is very challenging to keep balance while wearing them and being able to “stand” on them requires a lot of strength and well developed muscles. The ballet dancers have almost always their feet injured. Did you know that on average a professional dancer buys a new pair of Pointe shoes once a week?
Outside the studio
Not only are the trainings sessions hard but the whole life of a ballet dancer is really tiring and painful. Finding a good studio and starting a career is really challenging, the financial resources are pretty small compared to the time, effort and work it takes to train, keeping the body in the right shape. Dealing with weekly injuries from training and waking up with your muscles hurting are just one of the smallest issues one is confronted with. Not having free time to go out because you need to train for the next show is a well known fact … but as long as it is your passion, you love dancing and it makes you happy, being a ballet dancer is more than sure worth it!
My personal ballet story and view
There is not much to say about it, the thing you should keep in mind is that I am a ballerina myself, dancing is not only something I like, it is my passion, my dream and my life. I started practicing because I had a problem with my back and the doctor said ballet will help me. Not after much time ballet became one of the things I loved doing the most in the world, my life and my happiness.
Yes, being a ballerina is really hard. You need a lot of work, constant stretching, classes and training. But, when I dance I release all the sadness and pain I had to face that day. Ballet is my way of charging batteries and for sure it is my happiness. There is no greater feeling than moving to a piece of music and letting the rest of the world disappear. And this is only the beginning. The feeling you have on stage, when everyone is clapping their hands for you, for all the work and effort you’ve done, for that moment for which you’ve trained so much, it’s just the best feeling in the entire world! For me, life without ballet would be just pointless.