Ballerinas don’t eat.
And if you are one of the ignorant idiots who believe this then please form an orderly queue so I can hit you across the head with a pair of (brand new, rock hard) pointe shoes and invite you to take a ballet class.
Here is a lesson in why ballerinas (and ballet danseurs) do actually have to eat.
Let’s start with the basics.
Taking a 60-90 minute class roughly burns 350-450 calories. This doesn’t happen by standing still. Barre work starts with some gentle pliés, working your ballet-butt and thighs along with keeping your core straight. Think of pliés like squats, only much more graceful.
Tendus, pointing your toes, if done properly not only work your little feet and calf muscles but thighs too. Don’t forget your turnout, and work from the hips and don’t move them.
These ‘cute’ little straight-forward exercises start to give way to more demanding barre work. Glissé anybody? Like tendu, only quicker, in fact a lot quicker with the foot leaving the floor slightly. These kill your inner thighs and hamstrings when done correctly.
Frappés are evil, fondu and developpé are beautiful and slowly executed. Your legs are going to be a little like jelly now but that doesn’t matter because rond de jambe en l’air is really going to finish them off, just before grand battements just to make sure you actually can’t use them anymore.
Centre work involves taking your jelly legs into the centre of the studio and executing some beautifully precise adage. Adage is graceful, includes a lot of slow and long balances in various beautiful positions on those wobbly post barre work legs. And don’t forget, we want graceful arms too.
Fancy a few little jump combinations? Probably not as they will knock you for six and stop your breathing ability for a little while before doing them again. And again, and oh, just one more time..
Catch your breath, it’s time for some turns. All of that beautiful barre work you did at the start of class has prepared you to execute beautiful pirouettes, jumps and fancy footwork. Please repeat the combination twice. In fact make that three/four times.
Are you tired yet?
If you are lucky enough to have progressed to pointe work please feel free to take the class in your pointe shoes. Please note that this is twice as hard and requires much more strength to get up on them, stay up on them and dance beautifully in them.
If ballet class doesn’t convince you then lets look at the facts.
Ballet, as a form of dance creates a strong core, VERY strong legs, increased flexibility and also works your brain.
The movements taught in a ballet class are DESIGNED to create long, lean and firm muscles, not stocky bulky ones.
Ballet works the core muscles in virtually everything therefore creating a stronger back and flatter stomach.
You cannot perform a pirouette or multiple pirouettes without having correct alignment and proper balance, both of which need the right degree of STRENGTH to execute.
A rugby player needs to be heavy and have bulky muscle to play the game effectively. A long distance runner is lean to carry less weight over long distances for quicker speeds. A short distance sprinter has larger muscles for a powerful start and quicker run. A ballet dancer’s training creates a long lean body which uses muscles in ways that other sports don’t.
Ballet dancers are therefore athletes in their own right, yet not many people see this.
It takes at least 10 years of training to become a professional level dancer.
Eating disorders are in EVERY walk of life not just dance.
Eating disorders are the result of more than ‘just wanting to be thin’.
A ballet dancer will attend ballet class in the morning, followed by rehearsals in the afternoon and a performance at night. There is no way that a dancer can sustain this lifestyle without eating. If you were dancing this much, then you too would develop a stunning and strong physique.
Pink ballet tights often do not show the muscle definition!
Modern day ballet companies invest in dancers’ health.
Take a look at Steven McRae’s (principal dancer at Royal Ballet) twitter feed. He often posts performance day preparation tweets which includes a lot of healthy sustaining foods as well as a cheeky bag of sweets.
Unless you have ever taken a ballet class then I don’t believe that you have the right to criticise a dancer and their physique.
Dancers make it look easy for a reason, the simple answer is years of hard work and training. You don’t question a marathon runner, so don’t question a dancer. Instead, sit back, watch a performance and appreciate all the hard work, blood (yes pointe shoes) and tears that go into making such a beautiful yet surprisingly difficult art form look so easy. And maybe, just maybe, it might inspire you to have a go and take a class yourself.