15 Ballet Facts You Might Not Know About!

Image Credit: lincolncenter.org

Yeah, alright. I know, if you’re a ballet dancer, you’re probably thinking that you’d know most if not all of the facts stated on this list, but come on, it doesn’t hurt to check and make sure! Who knows, you might even pick up some new knowledge! (Even I was surprised by a few of the facts here, though I did know some of them as well!) We’re trying to make this an inclusive article regardless of how well you know ballet history, or whether our readers are ballet or non-ballet people, so facts may range from basic to interesting to amazing, so we hope that each and everyone of you will enjoy these 15 ballet facts! Read on!

1. Ballet Is Damn Hard

If you’re being like uh, no sh*t, Sherlock, wait. We’re going to compare it to another energy-draining sport. So just how much energy does ballet dancing require? Well, to perform in a ballet, the amount of energy is roughly the same as playing 2 full football matches, or running 28.9 km!

2. “Leotard” Is Named After A Person

And who might that person be? That person is Jules Léotard, who was a french acrobatic performer and aerialist. Incidentally, he was also the one who developed the art of trapeze. From here, you can probably guess – he made the one-piece gymwear/activewear popular – so people named the leotard after him!

3. Tutus Make the Audience Happy!

According to several websites, the sight of a tutu increases joy in 60% of ballet audience members. That’s all we need to know to keep working on classical ballets, so we can spark joy in audience members!

Image Credit: operaballet.nl

4. Ballet Dancers Say “Good Luck” Oddly

While theatre performers say “break a leg”, most ballet dancers say “toi toi toi”, or “merde”. Let’s focus on “merde” today. In French, “merde” means “shit”. Why on earth would “shit” mean “good luck”? Once upon a time, real, living animals were part of ballet performances, and dancers would warn each other of the “merde” on stage. Probably it meant “good luck not stepping/dancing in shit”?

5. Male Dancers Are Strong… Like, Really Strong

How strong, you ask? In a single ballet performance, a male dancer can lift one to one-and-a-half tonnes’ worth of ballerinas. Uh, not that the ballerina(s) weigh a tonne, but this refers to the combined lifting a male dancer does in one performance. By the way, that’s the weight of an average car.

6. Police or Ballet Dancer?

In Romania, police officers have been known to take ballet classes in order to manage with more grace and ease. Malaysian police, do you want to give this a go?

Image Credit: delightime.com

7. 1832: The Year of the First Tutu

Designed by Eugene Lami, the very first ballet tutu was born in 1832. We feel so lucky to have this amazing piece of attire to wear when we dance!

8. Ballet Originated in Italy

Not France, not Russia, but Italy. Specifically, in the 15th century (the time of Renaissance). Ballet was a form of entertainment in the courts, and were performed with simple movements and masks, just like a masquerade. Costumes were often elaborate, and ballet performances appeared alongside operas before becoming an art form on its own.

9. The Very First Ballet Dancers Were Men

In a largely female-dominated industry today, who knew that the first ballet dancers were men? This was because women were not allowed to dance in public (what?) until 1681, and therefore unable to join the ballet. Even when there were female roles, the men had to don wigs and take up those female roles!

Image Credit: ancient-origins.net

10. King Louis XIV was a Ballet Dancer Himself!

Yep, that’s right! One of the most well-known kings of France was in fact a ballet dancer. He frequently appeared in ballet performances, sometimes even dancing multiple roles in a single show!

11. Pierina Legnani: The First Prima Ballerina Assoluta 

The Prima Ballerina Assoluta is a title awarded to the most notable of female ballet dancers, and it is considered a great honour to receive these title. Usually, this title is awarded by ballet companies, though sometimes head of states can sanction them as well. Pierina Legnani, an Italian ballerina, was the first recorded dancer to receive this award at the request of Marius Petipa. She danced with Mariinsky Ballet, and was awarded this prestigious title in 1894.

12. 1581: The First Full-Scale Ballet

1581 was a momentous year indeed, as the first full-scale ballet was staged in Paris! The ballet was called “Le Ballet Comique de la Reine“, meaning “The Comic Ballet of the Queen”. Catherine de’ Medici, the French queen at the time, actually arranged the performance to celebrate her sister’s wedding.

Image Credit: balletandopera.com

13. 5 Hierarchy Ranks in a Ballet Company

When you enter a company (assuming you start from the bottom), you enter as an apprentice. Once you become an official part of the company, you then dance as part of the corps de ballet. If you show promise and improvement, you may then be promoted to the rank of demi-soloist (second soloist) and subsequently soloist (first soloist). Last but not least, if you’re exceptionally good, you may then be bumped up to rank of principal dancer, which means you now get all the lead roles. As we all know, the road to being a principal dancer isn’t easy, so merde!

14. Dedication > Ability to Perform

What can we say, except that dancers have a lot of passion for their craft? If one truly enjoys dancing, he or she will continue to fight for a chance to dance, for as long as they can. And even when they stop dancing, their love for dance is unending. Somehow, they will always find a way to stay connected to the dance world. It’s a lifelong dedication and passion that burns till the end of time.

15. If It Weren’t For Pointe Shoes, Ballet Dancers Would Be Filthy Rich

Ask any (female) ballet dancer around you two questions: 1. are they wearing pointe shoes yet? If they say yes, proceed with question 2. how much do they spend on pointe shoes? If not, then read on to find out more. I’m going to pretend you asked me, so this is my response: *hysterical laughing* the money I used to buy pointe shoes all these years could buy me several branded bags, or at least one of them, if I’m really aiming high. If it’s a busy year for me, I could spend thousands on pointe shoes alone. I’ve been en pointe for more than 10 years. You do the math.

Image Credit: aminoapps.com

And that wraps up all 15 of the ballet facts! Did you know all of them? If not, which was new to you, and which did you find most interesting? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below, and just so you know, my personal favourite is the police officer one!

Author

Yiing Zhi

Embarking on the journey of self-discovery through dance.

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