I’ve seen so many people portray ballerinas, or even dancers in general, wrong. Here’s two things that we need to get straight before going on:
- Ballerinas are not anorexics.
- Ballerinas do not turn into creepy-ass swans on stage, like in Black Swan. Nor do they get creepy needles in their skin.
Now, moving on. Now, many people make these guides based on how they see that they should be portrayed, but I’m making this guide from the inside. I, am a dancer myself, and I think that this would help many.
Although many see ballerinas as anorexic freaks in tights, they really aren’t that. Yes, dancers must be skinny, but they must have strong muscles. And that means all muscles. Including abs. Unlike musclemen, dancers must keep a toned body with strong muscles.
A ballerina’s arms must have a delicate feeling to it, yet they must be strong and firm. A ballerina’s legs are very strong, and are full of muscle. Depending on how long and how much they dance, they could have hyper extended legs. As for feet, let’s just not say they’re the prettiest. So a personality idea or a a fact that many people might not know about is that the character might not like to wear closed-toed shoes. Details of the foot would include:
- Veins are visible in the foot.
- Toenails aren’t so pretty (Why? Because when dancers go on pointe, they have to cut their toenails so the impact of the hard box on the toe wouldn’t ruin the toenail. So don’t even think about doing a para about getting a pedicure. Stay with the manicure.)
- Archy feet (Due to constant pointing of the foot)
- Huge ankle and toe joints
- Big toe may look like its pointing inward
And that’s just a little bit.
NO PAIN, NO GAIN.
Dancers, as much as they look beautiful and make dancing seem effortless, it’s all apart of the act. Dancing, especially on pointe is absolutely painful. Here’s what you’d normally see:
“Sarah quickly got into class and put on her pointe shoes. She immediately got onto the dance floor and started spinning on her pointe shoes. She did 10 turns effortlessly, and just continued spinning.”
If I’d ever see this, I would find you and punch you in the face. First of all, every dancer must stretch. That includes:
- Splits (Right, left, & middle)
- Barrework (This is especially important. You just don’t walk into a room and start dancing. You must warm up a little bit. These are often done in ballet shoes, then dancers go on pointe for center, although there are times when they do pointework at the barrè.)
Also, so many people get ballet turns wrong. For example:
- Spin or turn is a pirouette.
- Kick is a grand battement.
A full glossary of ballet terms can be found here.
So, let’s do that little snippet one more time:
“Sarah hurried into class, almost being late. She got to the barré and quickly put her pointe shoes on. Today was Tuesday, so she knew that they did pointe at the barré. She tucked away her water bottle underneath the barré, pressed up against the wall as she learned the first combination. It was always this: pliés, tendus, degagés, frappés, grand battements, and finally onto center. They did a simple combination consisting of mainly glissades and échappés, and then went on to pirouettes. Keeping her stomach tight and her arms firmly placed in first, she got 5 rotations in, and was proud of herself. Her neck began to be sore from the constant spotting, but she continued doing pirouettes. Soon after, the class ended. Feeling proud of herself with her pirouettes, she decided to reward herself with a well-deserved smoothie.”
You see? There is much more technicality in the glossary of dancer than many people know.
- One main habit of a dancer (as in the majority of dancers, competition & professional dancers alike) is to say that they’re fat, even though they know that they aren’t. It’s mainly due to how media portrays dancers as either anorexic freaks or bottle-blonde barbies with pointe shoes that go all the way up to their knee.
- Another habit is to tap out a a beat when they’re concentrating. This comes from always being surrounded by music.
- Also, when learning or marking a combination, a dancer will often bite their lip, chew their cheek, or even stick out their tongue, which for some reason, helps concentrate.
- Another habit, sadly, is that dancers can be quite clumsy when not dancing. Whenever I trip or fall, I get a lot of ‘I thought you were supposed to be a dancer.’
There are many different types of dancing, and different styles of different genres. Let’s take the USA for example. The West Coast is mainly about entertainment. If you look at dances from studios such as Dance Precisions, or Just Plain Dancin’, it’s a lot of entertainment, yet there’s still a lot of technicality. It’s because they’re all about entertainment that they seem so intimidating. Because it’s not all technical stuff, there is less things for judges to take off for, which means higher scores. The East Coast is mainly technicality. Many studios, such as ALDC, push their girls to the limit. For example, many girls on the East Coast at the age of 9 or 10 are already doing 6-7 turns. But of course, that doesn’t mean the West Coast isn’t that talented, too. It’s because of their hard tricks and leaps (ex. an aerial out of a turn combination) that they seem intimidating, too. But being a dancer that watches many dances from both sides, and has competed on both sides, I’ve learned this. The South Coast is basically a mix of it all. If you look at studios such as Masters Upper Level (my studio, yay!), there’s a lot of entertainment mixed with technicality (for example, our production Bugle Boy. You can find a video of it here).
I hope this helped you all, and I can’t wait to see more ballerinas in upcoming character bios!
In that dance I posted from my studio, I’m actually in it, although you won’t really be able to tell what I look like. I’m in the leap part from 2:07 to 2:13. I’m in other places, but this is where you’d be actually able to see me. I’m the center one, or the shortest one in that group. This dance was also nominated for ‘Best Performance of 2012’, but I’m not sure if we won or not.