Article on Being a Ballerina Instructor

What’s It REALLY Like To Be A Ballerina Instructor

The love of dance is the primary purpose of Cameron Dance Academy. We teach the love of dance that lasts a lifetime.
You can read the original article here or read our version of it below. Thanks to Find My Vocation for sharing a great article.

1. Pointe is incredibly painful

In case you were under any miss understanding, the solid wooden blocks on which ballerinas delicately pirouette on aren’t a soft cushion for the toes. In fact, they’re absolute aweful, says former corps de ballet dancer Kelly: ‘The pain tolerance that all ballet dancers have, particularly the female dancers, with what they endure through pointe work is unbelievable.’ Having to go through extreme measures to keep pain at bay is a rather creative chore, she says. ‘One night of hard dance could finish a pair of shoes. I had boxes of them in my attic. In those days the modern toe pads didn’t exist. At the Royal Ballet School we used toilet paper and later animal wool to avoid blisters and bruised toe nails but we had to put ointment on our cuts. Very painful!’

 ballerina on pointe

2. Ballerinas strive for perfection, always

Practice is an eternal concept according to Kelly, who would endlessly repeat her graceful movements until every muscle fell delicately into place. And it’s certainly no easy task. ‘Dancers prepare like actors if they have a ‘role’ with research and so on, but the repetition of the physical rehearsal in the quest for perfection is gruelling. We also have to perform the routine over and over again to ensure that it is engrained in our memory and we are almost able to perform it without thinking.’

ballet performance dance

3. Magical costumes warrant museum space

Ballet, traditionally is appreciated by society’s elite as work of art. Great performances are accompanied by ethereal costumes fit for royalty. ‘The wardrobe department is immense,’ reveals Kelly when asked about the craftsmanship that goes into each embellished ensemble. ‘The detail is like that of Seasame Street, but for hundreds of different Ballets. Luckily we have a small boutique studio so it’s not as challenging for us.’

Ballerina Feet

4. Eating is Critical 

‘Most dancers are careful,’ explains Kelly when quizzed on the assumptions of the barely-there ballerina diet. ‘Some stay healthy, some are chaotic, and others risk everything by indulging in wild diets, but the truth is you have to have fuel to be able to dance. Just as it is with all athletes. It is no different with ballet dancers then football players.’ She does admit there are some cases in which food is slightly restricted, but never stopped, revealing: ‘You’re not to do a full length ballet on a full stomach. With day rehearsals too, little and often is better for a ballerina. Again, this is advice that is not much different than all the other main stream sports.’


5. Schedules and Trainging Punishing


A ballerina’s timetable is as intense as we thought, and on occasion, dancers endure up to 10 hours of fatiguing physical exercise a day. This is of course for those dancers in the Royal Ballet graded program and trying to succeed with ballet as more of a career path. ‘Back in the day it was a 9am class at the studios then rehearsals all day for that evening and/or for the next show in line,’ tells Jackie. ‘Bear in mind ballet dancers don’t just do one whole run of a show like in musical theatre or acting,’ continues the former corps de ballet. ‘You could be rehearsing for two different classics and a couple of triple bills all in one week.’ But always remember, when you started dance, it was with innocence and beauty. Just like the little girl pictured below. As their instructor, it’s important to impart this balance.


young girl ballerina preparing to dance


6. Teamwork is ballet’s core

Dancers train together, tour together, sometimes live together, and occasionally sleep together; one thing’s for certain, an almost animalistic intimacy runs through Ballet. And shared rituals play a part in keeping the team close, believesKelly. ‘We all had our own personal routines before a performance, but a common occurrence was the banging of pointe shoes on the stone steps (backstage) at the royal opera. Nobody wanted noisy feet on stage.