By Alison • Ballet. For most people this word conjures an image of a beautiful ballerina, dressed in a soft white tutu and pink satin shoes, moving, jumping and spinning ever so gracefully, to finally balance on the very tip of her toes, in a truly unbelievable pose.
Many have said that ballet is the noble combination of all art forms: the theatre is it’s setting, painting and architecture can be seen in the costumes and choreography and music is the breath of life which brings it all together.
But what hides behind the scenes?
As dancers, we use so called pointe shoes for support when balancing on our toes and our relationship with them is, at best, complicated. “When you have them on, you can’t wait to take them off but once they’re off you can’t wait to put them back on” we sometimes joke, as dancing en pointe, though incredibly rewarding, hurts. Cuts, blisters and callouses are a near daily occurrence and we’ll often get sprains, knee injuries and back pain.
Psychologically, there are other issues: anorexia, the drive to keep on losing weight, is a sad reality all too common in companies which want their dancers lean and slim to guarantee a beautiful performance and jealousy is often a consequence of the tough competition among dancers for starring roles.
So why do we keep on dancing? Because, deep inside, we love it. Ballet is, for a dancer, the best way to express her innermost feelings, it’s like painting a moving picture to music about the whole of humanity where emotions such as joy, love, jealousy, betrayal and despair take the stage in the endless struggle, so often represented in ballets, between good and evil.
Therefore, next time you see a dancer balancing, jumping or spinning seemingly effortlessly, remember that she is not really a fairy, a ghost, or a swan, but a human being, who happily struggles through years of rigorous training, through blood, sweat and tears, all for the joy of dancing, dancing in front of you.