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Myths, Stories & Misconceptions about Ballet and Ballet Dancers | Beyond the Barre

10 Things you Thought were True about Ballet, but they aren’t!

Thanks to movies like Black Swan and the Step Up series and shows like So You Think You Can Dance, ballet is more accessible to masses. But despite a modern twist, pop culture references, ballet remains elitist, especially amongst young people and more particularly, boys and men.

Here is a simple fact for all the skeptics, those who have never watched a ballet and don't intend to, and also for those who went to watch the " The Nutcracker" once and decided they will never do it again- Ballet is not just a dance form performed in satin shoes. It is all about inexplicably moving stories articulated by a muscular dancer in the most graceful, delicate and fluid dance moves possible. Ballet requires inexplicable vigor and stamina, and its beauty lies in the display of restrained strength, boundless energy, and extreme muscular prowess.

Let’s call out some of the most common myths surrounding ballet.

Myth #1 Only Girls do Ballet

myth 1

Blame the satin and tutus for this one! Can anyone forget Mikhail Baryshnikov and the grace and poise he brought to the genre as well as the way he lit the screen in "White Night (1985)”?

This myth has kept many potentially promising male dancers out of ballet. Ballet is an extremely athletic dance form that goes beyond men in tights and sparkly tutus worn by female dancers. From surreal leaps to breakneck turns, men and women train tirelessly to perfect every move.

Ballet has a considerable role to play in fitness, and more and more men are getting attracted towards it because it helps in building muscular strength, stamina, and agility while teaching you some graceful, yet bold moves and poise.

Ballet is a solid base for all other types of dance. Young dancers can choose any different dance style later.

Myth #2 Ballet is Old-Fashioned, Nothing has Changed

Before you decide ballet is “so not me” and “not so cool," try at least a few different styles. Maybe you didn’t like a classic or a romantic ballet, but you may enjoy a narrative ballet? Sure, ballet has its roots in the 1700s, it has continuously been evolving.

By blending other dance styles, introducing modern costumes to support characters, even LED effects and backdrop projections have changed ballet a lot. Even the music has evolved, from performance music, ballet has moved to classical, baroque orchestras.

Ballet costumes are now a part of regular streetwear style, and no, ballet dancers don't always wear tutus. Unitards, leggings, and leotards are a rage now.

Ballet is not just about Nutcrackers, Sleeping Beauties, and Swan Lakes. Although most ballet companies swear by the bankability of old classics, many modern routines have been introduced and are being performed around the world.

Myth # 3 Ballet is an Expensive Hobby of the Rich

First of all, it’s not a hobby, for most ballet enthusiasts, it’s a way of life.

Secondly, you don't have to burn a massive hole in your pocket to learn, perform or appreciate ballet. At the most, ballet is as expensive as any other sport or entertainment. Neither do you need to attend a big ballet school to make it big in ballet?

Ballet tickets have never been astronomically priced, and sometimes, a ticket to a performance is priced same or even lesser than a rock concert ticket. Most ballets have more than one performance over a season; therefore you can get to pick up tickets at lower rates.

Myth # 4 Ballet is too Sweet for your Taste.

Cherubic dancers in baby pink tutus, tippy-toeing to the tunes of the piano- Not all ballets are about fairytales and childlike romances. In fact, sentimental stories, sweet endings are just some of the emotions from a wide range that ballet can show.

There are dark, modern moods on display in say Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.” Or, try “Don Quixote," a spicy, racy story. Or something dramatic likes Mann or Mayer ling.

There is a ballet for every mood and personality; the trick is to look for one those appeals to you. Modern ballets by edgy choreographers are loaded with substance.

Myth # 5 There is Something Wrong with Ballet Dancers

You can't have that lean, waiflike and fit body without being anorexic. An average professional ballet dancer spends anywhere from 5 to 8 hours every day on rehearsals. Imagine if you exercise this much, how will your body be.

Ballet teaches dancers to create longer, leaner lines in the body, unlike most sports which build bulkier muscles. And no, you don't perform a 2-hour ballet burning a thousand calories running on salads.

Dietary choices, caloric requirements may vary, but most ballet dancers are consistently conscious of nutrition. Check out our blog on a diet for dancers here.

Of course, like any other sport, you can’t dance or practice with a full belly and quality precedes quantity when it comes to diet.

Myth # 6 Body Image and Perception about Ballet Dancers

myth 6

Ballet dancers are neither weak nor fragile. Ballet is both mentally and physically demanding dance forms, where dancers need to remember every move while working on their strength and flexibility to pirouette, jump high, make stable landings, and even carry each other across the stage. Ballet is all about physical power, control, and focus.

Remember, height has nothing to do with ballet either.

You don’t have to be too tall to perform ballet either. Ballet dancers wear Pointe shoes that change the height perception of the audience. When on Pointe, a ballerina can easily look about 3-5 inches taller than her actual height.

To be a ballet dancer, you don’t have to be too thin. Gone are the days when dancers were rejected based on their bodies. Today's dancers are more muscular and feminine.

Many dance companies have made it amply clear that they are not interested in employing underweight dancers. Ballet dancers are not delicate, little flowers, neither are ballet an easy dance form.

Myth # 7 You have to Start is Early if you want to be a Ballet Dancer

myth 7

Ballet is for everyone, and there are tips on how late bloomers can do well in their ballet class. Take a look at ballet icon Misty Copeland, and her story will kick this myth right out of your head.

Many ballet dancers start very late, some way in their teens, and no matter when you start. While you try to discover the beauty of ballet, don't worry about the raised eyebrows, you must know that though adult ballet dancers are a unique, quirky breed, there are many people like you who are brought together by the love of a dance form and are more than happy to keep practicing.

Myth # 8 Ballet is not for Everyone; you need to have a Taste for it

You don't have to be a connoisseur to appreciate ballet. Just because ballet was initially a royal court dance, it has a certain air of exclusivity associated with it. Since then ballet has become more and more accessible to the masses.

Whether you can tell the difference between a plie and a pirouette, you can still get to enjoy the mesmerizing athletics and artistic flourish that ballet embodies.

Of course, if you are a bit prepared, and are aware of the background or know the story, it helps, but it’s not mandatory. All you need is an open and contemplative mind to appreciate and enjoy the hard work that translates into a beautiful performance on stage.

Classical ballet may draw formal, older crowds near stalls and grand circles. But don’t let it intimidate you. From Bermuda wearing lads to Tiffany ladies, you can find anyone and everyone in the diverse ballet audiences, quite the opposite of your preconceived notion.

Myth # 9 All Female Ballet Dancers are Ballerinas

If you have started learning ballet or have turned professional, you are just a "ballet dancer."

Only the highest –ranking female dancers in a ballet company are addressed as ballerinas. Though there is no formal rule to that, if you are serious about all things ballet, you can't just loosely use this term for just any ballet dancer, including yourself.

Even being the part of corps or being a soloist doesn't make you a ballerina. The title is earned, not assumed!

Myth # 10 You have arrived on the ballet scene if you are part of a company

Only a handful of ballet dancers who aim to turn professional can join a company. It doesn't matter that you were the star dancer and soloist at your dance studio or school dance team. When you enter a dance company, you have to start from the bottom of the ladder, again.

You need to work harder, prove yourself and inch your way towards being the lead. The hard work doesn't stop at being part of a company, and it only gets harder from there on. Therefore, once you join a dance company, it is even more essential that you don’t get complacent and sit on your laurels.

Ballet is poetry in motion, and it is one dance form that never goes out of trend, time and time again. Shun the stereotypes welcome to the barre!

John

Danielle Hernandez

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About the Author

Danielle Hernandez has been in the dance industry for over 30 years. She landed her first professional dance job at the age of 11.

Danielle received her acting and musical theater training at the prestigious Musical Theater Works Conservatory, and she graduated from Rutgers University with a major in dance and minor in music.

In addition to training and competing with a dance company in NJ, Danielle also trained at Steps on Broadway, as well as Broadway Dance Center. At the young age of 15, Danielle fell in love with teaching dance and coaching competitive cheer squads and dance teams, bringing them to success with state, regional, and national championship titles

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