Ask the Ballerina

A search turned up nothing, and I figured people always wonder things about ballet, so I figured it was time for an Ask the Ballerina Thread. So I’ve been dancing for about eleven years, and I started Pointe (that painful looking thing where you’re on your toes) about two years ago. So any questions about ballet or something of that sort?

But I know why–my sister was a ballerina, and I spent half my childhood down in the dressing room listening to Mlle. Melita pound the floor with her cane, yelling, Fifff positions, girlssss!"

Sister danced till her knees gave out, with a crash, in her late teens. She’d danced for Princess Grace in Monaco, with Margot Fonteyn (well, one guest performance).

So my emnity toward ballet is strictly personal, not objective . . .

In the case of Pointe, are there any fixatives applied to the floor to prevent slipping? If not, are there any particular measures taken to ensure a good grip?

Are there any general practices (leading to misconceptions regarding the technicalities of ballet) that are normally (unintentionally or not) hidden from the public?

That’s kind of confusingly phrased, I’ve decided. What I mean is, how many hours a week is typically spent training and rehearsing? What are some interesting technical details that you know of, that the average spectator wouldn’t concern themselves with, e.g., the toe-material of Pointe shoes, floor composition and its effect on performance (perhaps tied in with my first question), etc.

Do a significant percentage of male ballet dancers tend to be gay, or is this just a ignorant stereotype?

How old are you? Do you dance professionally or “just for fun?” Why did you decide to start dancing? And for a really strange question, how do your toes look?

Have you been following 9 Chickeed Lane (there is a thread in Cafe Society)
One of the main chars is interviewing at a balet company.


Most dancers make use of Rosin in powder form to give their Pointe shoes or ballet slippers extra grip. They typically have a rosin box ( name of a famous dance supply company in Philadelphia, too ) into which they dip their Pointe or the sole of each foot. The rosin box sits just on the edge of the dancefloor.

Used to live with a ballet dancer. :wink:


Does anyone enjoy dancing in The Nutcracker, or is it considered pap to feed the masses because it pays the bills? (I just took my daughter, age 4, to her first Nutcracker, and she was enchanted. She’s now playing with my old paper theater…)

Yup, we use that before each class.

I think most people do enjoy dancing in The Nutcracker. After all, it’s The Nutcracker! I’m not in a big ballet company, just a small one, but we did The Waltz of the Flowers for a show. It turned out very nice.

I’m only 14, so I pretty much dance “just for fun” though I am in my studio’s company and we have shows every so often.
I started dancing when I was 3 or 4 because my mom danced when she was little and just put me in a class. I’ve just stuck with it.
I have short toes, so my toes look fairly normal. Though my feet are kinda dry and tough because of all that dancing. Someone in my class has really long toes and now her’s are all bent.

Well obviously professional performers dance everyday for hours. I dance four days a week with 3 days two hours and one day four hours. I’ll normaly have about 30-45 minutes of Pointe class 2-3 days a week.
Pointe shoes are not created equal. There are various brands, each different from another. Pointe shoes normaly last about six months and during that time they will form to your foot as the glue in the shoe gets warm and softens with use to form to your foot. Normaly when dancers get new Pointe shoes they will step on the block to sort of break it in and make it easier to bend and form to your foot.
Lots of dancers rarly use something to protect their toes inside the shoe. People will use lambs wool or little gelly pads for added comfort in their shoes. Personaly, I use the more recent gelly pads instead of lambs wool. In the olden days the Pointe shoe block was an actul wooden block. Nowadays it’s normaly paper mache.

To be honest with you, I’m not really sure. We’ve only had a few males at our studio and they haven’t really stayed. One I remember flirted outrageously with girls in class. I’m sure some male dancers are gay, but they certainly aren’t weak at all. Male partners will hold females in the air and do amazingly high jumps. Ballet may look easy, but it’s certainly not.

According to folks I know who are involved in ballet, the percentage is definitely higher than the population at large. When they were feeling bored and catty, the dancers would practically come up with scorecards about who was gay/straight/bi, who was sleeping with whom, and so forth.

According to my ex-dancer Pilates teachers, they think the Nutcracker is actually kinda neat–but refuse to ever see it again because they danced in it over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

Do your feet and toes bleed after practice?

Is weight stressed as much as the general public thinks it is?

No, my feet and toes don’t bleed after practice, but they’re mighty sore and red after. A nice soak in some cool water does the trick for them though.
At where I dance, no weight isn’t stressed. We have a laid back studio and if you can make the tryouts you can be in the company. Professionally, weight is stressed. Your partner can’t lift you and swing you in the air if you’re carrying extra weight.

any hints for a 4 1/2 year old? China bambina has ballet at nurshery school a couple of times a week. She kinda enjoys it but isn’t excited by ballet. Although she surprised the socks off of us last night by going through 20 different songs/with a little practice routine. I just want her to have fun

Find a studio in your area that has dance classes for little girls. Almost everyone in those classes have fun, and if she expresses a real intrest for dance she can continue with it as she gets older. Not only is it an awesome hobby for someone to have, she’ll get exercise and make lots of new friends. I have friends now that were in my very first ballet class, and we’ve been doing ballet together ever since.

Just to confirm a few suspicions, when do ballet school start to weed out the ones who just aren’t cut out for it? I was strongly pushed to get out at 11, when it became apparent that I was not going to have a dancer’s build (I was quite underweight at at size 10/142 pounds). I’m just wondering if it was procedure, because all the girls who stayed on went on to get the good parts in the spring ballet.

Well teachers decide whether girls are able to go on Pointe or not, but unless it’s a really serious place no one actually pushes someone to leave ballet. Pointe wise, it has to do with a lot of things such as how strong your back, abs, legs, feet, and ankles were, how commited to ballet you were, your technique in dance, balance, turn out, etc. For some girls it takes years and years to be able to be on Pointe, and other girls never make it.

Heh. I must have been in a weird school, then. Every girl who wasn’t showing real promise was pushed to leave around 11 or 12. Before that, everyone was in the spring ballet, but in groups for background parts. I seriously think they made some of the roles up, especially for the 4-year-olds. the older girls on pointe and the instrustors got starring roles.

And we never once did Nutcracker. The competing school had a lock on it.

I have a niece who got reasonably serious about ballet, but then gave it up. One reason she cited was the pressure that all the girls she knew felt to get & stay extremely thin, and the fact that nearly all of them felt you had to smoke in order to achieve this (she was/is rather thin, but not “as a rail” and she definitely didn’t want to start smoking).

So - was her experience unusual, or is this sort of thing common?