Clara Stone, City Academy’s Head of Dance, spoke with three leading ladies from the world of Classical Ballet to discover some interesting facts about being a ballerina. Clara is an ex-dancer with the Royal Ballet and offered her own insight.
During her time as a dancer, Clara found that working with different choreographers was fascinating. Being able to explore the boundaries of classical ballet technique through someone else’s creativity was always one of the most interesting parts of being a ballet dancer. "We learn a very strict, historical and formulaic style of dance, so to be able to then be part of a creative process that plays with the foundations was always an amazing experience."
Nao Sakuma is an ex-Principal Ballerina with Birmingham Royal Ballet
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Nao's interesting fact about being a ballerina: Ballerinas travel the world
Nao said that as the company toured quite a bit, both nationally and internationally, being able to visit so many countries and parts of England was a real highlight.
Dancers tend to eat out a lot after performances and so exploring the cuisine of different countries and cultures was something she really enjoyed…particularly within the UK!
Sophie Martin is a Principal Ballerina with Scottish Ballet
Sophie's Interesting fact about being a ballerina: no single day or performance is the same
Sophie is currently preparing for her role as Cinderella, she relishes her exploring multiple roles within one character.
Sophie said that “both are challenging for different reasons but it’s important to have the balance when you are performing so many evenings of the same ballet. In Act 1 and 3, Cinderella is vulnerable yet strong willed, pushed away by her step family, and in Act 2, she gets to be the princess at the ball”.
Sophie also said that as a ballerina no single day or performance is the same as any other, and this is what drives her through class, training, rehearsal and into performance.
Sayaka Ichikawa is a Senior Artist with Ballet Black
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Sayaka's interesting fact about being a ballerina: food is for fun as well as for energy
Sayaka finds that becoming immersed in a character and role takes her to a very special place, that you can become someone else, not by pretending, but by truly believing and transforming into them during the performance.
Sayaka debunked the myth that dancers are gentle eaters, by sharing the fact that ballerinas really enjoy a good meal with friends, usually after a show when the adrenaline is high and the body needs to refuel for the next day of rehearsals.
Other interesting facts:
Did you know these other facts about being a Ballet dancer?
- Most Ballet dancers will go through between 3 to 5 pairs of pointe shoes per week.
- Being on pointe requires that ballerinas toes take up to 3 times their body weight.
- Professional ballerinas usually have their pointe shoes custom made for them and have a ‘maker’ assigned to their shoes. This is so that each pair is exactly the same.
- Some methods of ‘breaking in’ a pointe shoe include banging them against a wall, squashing them in a door and shaving the leather sole with a razor.
- It can take upwards of 90 hours to make a single tutu which are often made by hand and specifically fitted and created for the ballerina.
- The fitness levels of a ballerina are very high. A single performance is the equivalent of running up to 18 miles.
- When wishing one another good luck, dancers say ‘merde’ which translates to shit in french. The reason for this is unknown, but there is speculation that when animals were used on stage during a performance, the dancers would warn one another about items left on the stage.
Thank you to Nao Sakuma, Sophie Martin and Sayaka Ichikawa for their help in writing this article, and helping us discover what being a ballerina is like.
City Academy run Ballet classes for all levels - beginners to advanced.