I’m in my twenties. I have a beard. I’m a ballet dancer.
OK – I may not be the typical person you think of when you think of someone who does ballet.
But you know what? Anyone can be a ballet dancer. It’s time we stopped with the stereotype of little girls in pink tutus (not that there’s anything wrong with young people getting exercise).
We also need to get another misconception out of the way: ballet dancers are athletes. Anyone who thinks otherwise has clearly never tried pulling off clean chaînés en pointe followed by several revoltades.
The skills required of a ballet dancer are well-known: flexibility, poise, precision, a good memory and, perhaps lesser-known, an insane amount of strength.
I’d wanted to try ballet for years, ever since I saw a performance while living in Europe and was blown away by the sheer grace and athleticism of the performers, but only recently drummed up the courage to sign up for a class in the city where I live. I was a varsity swimmer and water polo player in high school, so I thought it would be a breeze physically.
Long story short, I don’t know if I’d ever been more physically exhausted after my first class. But God was it addictive.
So why do I like ballet? Because it’s fun. Because gender stereotypes are bullshit. And because I like it. Shouldn’t that be enough?
Ballet dancers may not compete on TV in the same way netball teams do, but it’s no less strenuous – in fact, one woman in my class is actually a professional netball player. Also, in the United States, many teams in the National Football League incorporate ballet as part of the training regimen for players. Think about it: enormous, musclebound men weighing 100 kilos or more do ballet because it can be more challenging than a sport that involves tackling another equally large human.
But again: anyone can do ballet, or at least enjoy it. Seriously, it’s a great stress reliever. We don’t all have to be at the same level Misty Copeland (AKA the world’s most amazing dancer, full stop, and also a totally kick-ass feminist) is at. All it takes is finding a studio and signing up for a beginners’ class – even if you literally have two left feet.
Trust me: anyone can do a demi-plié.
We need to change the way we think about ballet. Simply put, the stereotype of dainty dancers couldn’t be further from the truth.
You know what ballet is instead?
Empowering. Because who gives a fuck what other people think about you doing it?
Oh, and it’s also a hell of a workout.