'It's not a sport': the reality of ballet and what it means to me

Why ballet should, and should always be, classified as a sport

Castor Chan
21st May 2022
Image credit: Twitter @guardianstage
To many people, ballerinas are graceful dancers wrapped in sparkling costumes, and looking from the audience, you’re thinking, ‘surely I can do that too.’

Well, yes and no. I will acknowledge that a huge part of ballet is the performance, and that obviously includes the expression and emoting on stage. But another often overlooked aspect - by design really - is that it’s meant to look easy. You are trained to go on stage with a smile painted on your face, and that lasts until the curtain drops. So much work goes into drilling each dance into their muscle memory until it is picture perfect every time, and the effort put in long before any performance comes to fruition is a long long road. 

From someone who danced ballet for 13 years, I had nowhere near the level of skill and talent professional company ballerinas possess. Considering how injury prone the industry is, there is a huge amount of strength needed to properly support the body through strenuous, repetitive choreography. Dancers go through conditioning classes, gym sessions, and countless hours just to ensure they can safely go en pointe. Royal Ballet principal dancer Steven McRae snapped his Achilles tendon, and went through two years of recovery to dance again.

And this brings us to the mental aspect of ballet. But the not so great side is much more present, the never ending need for perfectionism, frustration when teachers are picking apart every mistake, and the pressure to have the perfect body even if it isn’t physically even possible for many. The discipline and mental strength that professionals have to reach and stay at the top is incredibly admirable.

But Interpreting the music is probably my favourite part, and the moment I nail a part of the choreography I’ve been struggling over is incomparable. Even though it can bring me down, it still doesn’t take over my love for dance and the feeling it gives me.

At the best of times, dance makes me feel like the best version of myself.

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