Though most people’s perceptions of ballet are through rose colored glasses, the reality of this form of dance is less than glamorous. Its romanticized image solely includes graceful ballerinas galloping effortlessly to that one Tchaikovsky song, all whilst being showered with roses and applauses. Behind the facade of smiles and feather-like movements, the effort and work needed to dance is relentlessly tiring and ultimately destructive to the human body.
One major disadvantage of ballet is the hefty price tag. Let’s calculate the cost of all the expenses. Pointe shoes are priced at around $80. Professional ballerinas have to purchase new footwear at least once a week because of how soft the shank (sole of the shoe) becomes after constant usage. Dance attire is less costly, but definitely adds up over time. Basic leotards cost $20 and tights cost $10. On average dancers buy two leotards and ten pairs of tights each year of training. Though not as pricey as pointe shoes, the costs could easily increase if a dancer grows or rips his or her apparel. With just the essential materials needed, this adds up to an annual expense of $4,300. This number doesn’t include the cost of dance classes, which seem highly exorbitant. On average, dance classes can cost anywhere from $40 to $160 per month not including fees. These are just regular dance classes at a local studio though. At a higher tiered school such as the Joffrey Ballet School, a dance class for toddlers can cost $690 per class. According to a study done by FiveThirtyEight, raising a top-trained ballerina who begins to dance at age three could cost more than $100,000 by the time he or she turns 18.
Another significant factor is the physical and mental damage to the body that can be caused by ballet. Dancers can be exposed to severe injuries depending on how hard they work, how well they are trained, and also how early in life they start. Dancers bones and bodies usually show signs of premature aging: bunions, bone deformations and tendons that are severely damaged. Other injuries that are common include tears of the joint, muscle, tendon and ligament. In nearly any other sport such as football, players wear shoes that are made with nice comfy padding. In ballet, however pointe shoes are made of fabric, cardboard and/or paper hardened by glue. The feet absorb the shock which can cause sprains and fractures to the foot, toes, and ankles. “I broke a metatarsal on stage once. I was performing a solo and heard this crack. I didn’t realise I’d broken it at the time, because you’re used to taking pain,” says Begoña Cao, a professional ballerina for the English National Ballet. By the time most professional ballerinas retire, they will have artificial hips and a permanent limp. The stress of ballet can also lead to many mental disorders such as anxiety, depression, bulimia, body dysmorphic disorder, OCD, and social anxiety. Eating disorders are extremely common amongst competitive dancers who are trying to please directors. What is called the “Balanchine body type,” a tall slender ballerina with long legs and short torsos is considered ideal. Rachel Parker, who is a retired Birmingham Royal Ballet dancer, says “Ballet is always about aesthetic lines and unfortunately you associate this kind of thinness with beauty in the ballet world. There are certain types of performers that fall victim to eating disorders – the perfectionists and highly self-critical people.”
Overall, ballet is an art form that is rich in history, but there are also components that one must consider before making judgements and or even starting ballet themselves. From the costly price tag to the mental and physical challenges, ballet is a complex dance form that is beautifully dangerous.