What does it mean to be a young ballet dancer in America?

Ballet originated in the Italian Renaissance courts in the 15th century and is still very popular today!
Ballet is a highly technical form of dance with its own vocabulary based on French terminology.  

Being a young dancer is hard and it takes more than just God given talent to be successful. Most dancers start at a very young age and their training starts there learning just the basics: technique, flexibility, plie', tendu, degage, round de jambe, foundue, frappe, grand battment, and much more.  Once dancers become around 10 years of age more hard core training sets in, long hours seven days a week with little to no breaks. Many dancers will have long days of rehearsals on the weekend and when there are no rehearsals there are usually shows.  Dancers are not only artists but athletes as well, the world of dance today is a very extreme and competitive sport. Being a dancer means you have to be able to have those strong athletic qualities but also be able to be graceful and perform with your body and face.

Ballet dancers don't have a normal life growing up. A lot of times children who focus on ballet don't have time to have much of  a social life. School doesn't become a priority for many kids who decide to become serious about ballet. Many girls and boys audition for year round ballet programs. Some of the top schools in America include The School of American Ballet (SAB in New York), The Kirov Ballet Academy (in Washington DC), San Francisco Ballet, and Pacific Northwest Ballet School ( in Seattle) according to Pointe Magazine.  It is very hard to get accepted into year round ballet schools and it is very expensive as well. Many kids if accepted leave home around 12 years old and move to the school, they live in dorms at the school, and eat, breathe, sleep, dance. The schedule at these programs are very different from normal school you dance 5-6 days a week and you are at the studio for up to 8 hours a day. You also see a physical therapist, chiropractor, personal trainer, and dietitian weekly. You only have school for a few hours Monday through Friday and most schools have the basic math, English, history, and science in the schools while others you have to attend certain public schools.

Dance is a hard sport, its more than just tutus and pointe shoes, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication.

Ballet dancers wear pointe shoes which are different from flat shoes. Pointe shoes are worn by females when performing pointe work, they were first worn in the early 1830's. Pointe shoes were made so that ballerinas could look weightless and sylph-like, and has evolved to enable girls to dance en' pointe/ on their toes. You should not dance in pointe shoes until your feet are fully developed, if you start wearing them too early they can damage your feet. Most girls get their first pair of pointe shoes around 10- 12. These shoes cost $50-$100 a pair and only last for up to a few months at most. A lot of girls go through a pair every week or two weeks and most professionals go through a pair each day. Ballet dancers will use the term "dead", "my pointe shoes are dead", which means the shoes are too soft and they are unable to be worn anymore because they don't support your feet. Many professional dancers will get shoes custom to their foot which costs much more than just the regular pointe shoe. Pointe shoes will a lot of times damage dancers feet and will cause ankle, knee, hip, and back problems because of the way your body is aligned.  

Next time you hear ballet what will pop into your head: bows, tutus, and glitter or blood, sweat, and tears?

                                                       Annotated Bibliography

"Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre." A Brief History of Ballet. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 May 2015. This article explains how ballet originated and how it developed throughout the years.

"Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre." Ballet Vocabulary. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 May 2015. The article just tells you some of the ballet terminology (most of which is in French) and explains what it means in English.

"Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre." The Point of Pointe Shoes. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 May 2015. This article tells you

what pointe shoes are and why they were made. It explains the anatomy of the pointe shoe and which each part is made out of as well as other details about dancing on pointe.

"What It Takes to Be a Star - Episode 1€Teen Vogue's Strictly Ballet." YouTube. YouTube, 16 May 2014. Web. 26 May 2015. The video is about four students who dance at SAB who are telling viewers what it is like to be a ballet dancer. They talk about the positives and negatives of dance and how hard it is to be successful.

  • Other information was from experience from the last eleven years, as well as my ballet instructors some of which danced at The School of American Ballet and joined a professional company, and some who are still part of a company.

Comment Stream

2 years ago

I really enjoyed your paper because it is really easy for me to relate to. I like that you highlighted the fact that dancers don't get much of a social life because they're always dancing… I FEEL YOU! I learned a lot more about ballet and pointe shoes in your paper and it was really interesting. I already had a massive amount of respect for ballet dancers but I have even more now after watching your video and reading your research paper. (: