Inside the life of a Ballerina

In Beauty, book reviews, Business, Contact Information, Creative Writing, Culture, Disability, Education, Entertainment, Environment, Health, Living, Media Writing, Movie Reviews, Music, Opinion, Sports, travel, Writing (all kinds) on March 2, 2011 at 2:00 AM

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By Kayla Kreutzberg

Every girl at one time or another in her life has had that magical dream. Where the air is thick and smoky, as she stands perfectly poised under the bright, almost blinding spotlight. All eyes in the auditorium are fixated on her and nothing else exists. Only she does, as she stands centre stage wearing a crisp, winter white tutu, with bold makeup painted upon her smiling face.

What is this dream you ask? It’s the dream of becoming a ballerina.

“Pretty much your whole day is dedicated to dance or something that relates to dance,” Jessica Brumfit, 29, a retired ballerina, who attended the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School said. “Most professional dancers pretty much live and breathe ballet.”

For Sonia Lepore, 21, who attends York University for the Ballet and Modern Dance program said, “you typically get six hours of ballet, six hours of modern [dance] and a couple hours of supplementary physical classes each week.”

With extensive hours of training physical labour follows. Terri Robitaille, 44, who attended York University for the same program as Lepore, now owns her own dance studio in Picking, Ontario, expressed how hard ballet is on the body.

“[Ballet] can lead to hip problems even if done properly,” she said. “If done properly it has a devastating effect on the ankles, feet, and knees.” “[Ballet] is very focused on aesthetics, and long thin lines, that can lead to body image issues.” “Many professional dancers at the age of 30 or 40 still have food issues or body image issues.

“I definitely battled with anorexia and to be honest even now at a normal healthy weight I still have issues, but those ideas are so ingrained into me that I fear they will never truly leave me,” Brumfit said.

The ideals that are ingrained in Brumfit’s mind are associated with when she would have to stand in front of a mirror for six to eight hours a day in a bodysuit and tights. To her being quite tall for a dancer, reaching the height of 5 feet10 inches. These things alone, formed ideas in her head that she needed to be even thinner because she stood out.

“When I was young I do remember teachers calling us all ‘fat cows’ or ‘beached whales,’ and telling us no one could ever love us because of the way we looked,” Brumfit expressed.

However, not all ballet dancers go through eating disorders. “I did not go through any eating disorders, thankfully,” Lepore said. “Although ballet is stressful and there is a lot of pressure within the field.”

Lepore does not consider herself a ballerina, “but since the art form is so precise, it is stressful to constantly be striving for perfection,” she said. “It’s something that is impossible, yet ballet dancers work towards it constantly.”

Kathleen Keating, 20, who attended Canada’s National Ballet School for four years explained how Natalie Portman’s character from the movie, Black Swan, really hit home with her.

“Natalie Portman’s pursuit of perfection, […] truly is what every dancer works to achieve, perfection and a perfect performance,” she said. “One of the beautiful things about ballet is that both of these are impossible to attain so there is always something to continue working towards.”

Brumfit understands the constant need to be perfect. “I certainly had breakdowns,” she said. “In school regular psychiatrist appointments were built into our curriculum.” “The pressure can be overwhelming at a time and the quest for perfection is never-ending.”

The pressure may be overwhelming, but that does not mean that nothing positive comes from all the hard work ballerinas put forth.

For Keatings, most of her work ethic that she directs towards her academic studies has come from her experience with ballet. “You […] learn perseverance, and the benefits of a positive attitude, which has the potential to turn a bad performance into a great one,” she said.

“The beautiful and pure thing about dance is that you will never become rich, so dancers are motivated by the pure love of the art form and freedom of expression that you can get nowhere else but on stage,” Brumfit said.

Love is the most important aspect of wanting to be on that stage, to fulfill that dream of being a ballerina. Without love, there would be no point to move forward.

“The desire to move builds inside your chest, and spreads through your limbs until you can no longer ignore it,” Keatings gushed. “It’s like electricity moving through you.” “In this way, I believe a love for ballet, or any form of dance, stems from a love of music.”

“To become a ballerina, ballet has to be your entire life,” Robitaille said. “Everything you do, think, and eat has to be about ballet.” “It is not a healthy lifestyle, to say the least, but it’s done for love.”

What everyone seems to forget is that dreams eventually come to a halt. It may be because that young girl grew up and found a new love. Just like how Keatings formed a new love for science. She still does ballet, but no longer wishes it to be her career. Take both Lepore and Robitaille, who teach ballet and still have a continuous growing passion towards dance. However, some dreams do shatter, such as Brumfit’s did when she injured her Achilles tendon. Who still to this day cannot completely put that behind her.

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