Recently I wrote about a ballerina’s life , recalling the over-arching passion and drive that guides a dancer through her life.
Today, I set out to demystify dancers even further. I want you to realize that, yes, we are driven by passion, but just like any other job, there are moments every day that make us question “why do I do this?”
Read on for a glimpse into a day in the life of a dancer!
We roll out of bed, stiff, achy, exhausted. The first step of the day is agony. Our feet feel like bricks and are sometimes blistered. We won’t be able to face the day without a cup of coffee and something for breakfast. A bagel, some eggs, or a bowl of oatmeal would be nice.
We arrive at the ballet studio thirty minutes before class starts to stretch, apply tiger balm, and otherwise ease our bodies into the day. We cover old injuries in layers of soft knit leg warmers, maybe pop a couple Advil. We rub our necks, feet, and calves. We diligently do our prescribed physical therapy and Pilates exercises. Foam rollers, tennis balls, therabands and stretching straps are passed around.
It is initially silent except for the cracking joints and groaning muscles. With 10 minutes before the start of warm up class, we start looking around, greeting each other, rediscovering our social side.
The pianist enters and provides us with a few warm up chords to get our minds listening. Then, the teacher enters and we must peel ourselves off the floor. We know this class is for our benefit. It is our chance to find our core stability, work on strength, flexibility, leg extension.
We begin holding on to the barre, bending and stretching our knees and hips, gingerly at first, lest we awaken past injuries. We do our plies and tendues, simple steps which will evolve over ninety minutes into other bigger, more virtuosic movements. Within thirty minutes, we are feeling warm, more awake, and start shedding layers of clothes. We feel the glimmer of our dancer selves.
By the time the barre is put away and we move to center floor for our pirouettes and adagio, we feel moderately functional. Yesterday’s fatigue starts to disappear. Some dancers opt out of jumping during the last fifteen minutes of class as the impact is sure to cause pain. With five hours of rehearsal looming ahead, it’s better play it safe!
By the end of class we are alive again, laughing and moving fluidly. Ballet class is comfort we have known since we were 5-year-old baby bun-heads.
We have enough time now for a snack (a yogurt, some fruit, nuts, a salad). We need something substantial, but the last thing we want to feel is heavy and lethargic through the next few hours. Perhaps another cup of coffee is in order as well.
If you’re lucky, the choreographer is in a good mood and not feeling pressured. Perhaps he’s creating a new work for you. Occasionally you might even have a say in the movement.
The learning process is exhausting. You are constantly counting the music, listening to it in eight count increments over and over, repeating the same movement phrases hundreds of times, attempting to come as near as possible to perfection. The smart dancers bring notebooks to write down their steps, cues, and staging. It is often an overwhelming amount of material for the brain to keep straight, especially if you’re rehearsing multiple ballets at once.
During each much-needed ten minute break, we rest, often laying on our backs with our feet up against the wall to reduce the swelling in our feet and ankles. We re-apply tiger balm, stretch out a quad that has tightened up from repeating the same step so many times, do more therapy exercises, pop another Advil. Snacks are our friend at this point. The constant fuel will get us through each passing hour. A big meal would be unproductive.
Some of us get to go home after rehearsal, and some of us have to perform. Neither option is terrible. A good night’s rest is welcome, but performing is, after all, what we live for. Somehow, even after dancing all day, the moment that the stage manager calls places and we hear the orchestra tuning up, we become new people.
We are no longer mere dancers. We are performers, and we are home.
Photo Credit: istockphoto.com
NOTICE: None of the celebrities or individuals discussed here have ever received treatment, surgery, medical advice, or evaluations from any author, physician, surgeon, or representative of this blog. All images and photos in this article represent models only. No actual patients or clients are shown.