Becoming a professional dancer is like building a house from the ground up. You obviously can’t start by adding the roof and interior decorations without creating a solid foundation to support the structure and make it last.
Similarly, a dancer must establish that foundation in technique before adding all the styles and performance quality. And that foundation is nothing other than ballet.
What mostly come to one’s mind upon a thought of ballet are the costumes, pointe shoes, stretching and dancers. Some even think of it as a sport. However, there is more to that it takes emotion and creativity in a dancer that ultimately makes ballet a fascinating art.
Its performances are so lovely and its dancers have the ability to make what they are doing look graceful and completely effortless.
Zaandre du Toit, a ballet lecturer at the College of the Arts defines ballet as a classical dance form that demands grace and precision and employs formalized steps and gestures set in intricate and flowing patterns.
She further describes ballet as an artistic dance form performed to music, using precise and highly formalized set steps and gestures. “It is characterized by light, graceful movements and the use of pointe shoes with reinforced toes,” she describes.
What it takes to be a Ballerina?
Zaandre highlights that for students who only want to do ballet as an extra mural activity and just for enjoyment there are no size or height requirements. The student is however required to show aptitude for the art form during the auditions.
“The student will have to be well disciplined and determined to fully enjoy ballet as an activity and to fully benefit from it. The age group to start ballet depends on the school you wish to attend but mostly students should be five going on six,” explains Zaandre.
However, to become a professional ballet dancer Zaandre says that the criterion is much stricter and demanding. “In Namibia we unfortunately cannot accommodate for professional ballet dancers as there is no infrastructure to promote and maintain any professional ballet dancers,” she says.
What is cool about ballet?
Being a ballet dancer is incredibly invigorating and it gives so much back to one as an art form. Ballet contributes more to a dancer than just refined techniques. Zaandre says that a ballet class targets many different parts of the body. The arms, legs, stomach muscles, feet and ankles are all strengthened and toned. “
Regular participation in ballet can improve posture and balance, resulting in a long, lean, elegant figure. The physical benefits of taking up ballet will become noticeable within a few weeks of regular attendance at a class. However the feel-good effects of a lesson will be apparent almost immediately, because in addition to a physical workout, ballet is an excellent exercise in mental well-being,” she says.
Also, it is very beneficial for young children’s development in the sense that it teaches them to follow instructions, gain a sense of discipline through learning new positions and they also learn co-ordination, balance and how to control their bodies in motion.
Zaandre also adds that ballet keeps the children active because they exercise daily and most importantly they become comfortable performing before groups.
On the contrary, ballet is not as easy as people think it is. Dancers practice for hours each day and as a result they endure blisters, bruised toenails, ingrown toenails and blood blisters. Ballet is also defined as a girl thing which is really not accurate because there are also men involved in ballet and men who enjoy dancing.
Being a dancer should not make a man any less of a man. He is a man who can lift a woman over his head and make it look completely effortless. He is a man who is able to support a woman, almost invisibly, and make the dancer look as if she is floating.
Is it costly to do ballet?
Zaandre says that ballet is like any other extra mural activity does have its costs. The only costs involved in ballet goes to leotards, shoes and tights for class work as well as the fee for yearly examinations and costumes for stage performances. “I would not say it is one of the most expensive activities a child will do but like most things in life it does cost a few cents,” she says.
Despite the fact that ballet is still very young in Namibia it is growing rapidly in demand and people are becoming more aware of it. “It is difficult to do ballet in Namibia as the funding for ballet projects such as shows, productions, getting choreographers and teachers from abroad to expand and inspire the youth in the Ballet is very challenging,” says Zaandre.
Ballet is strangely compelling for a lot of people and has something for everyone to admire. If you do not like the choreography, you can listen to the music and if you hate that too, then at least there are beautiful people on the dancing floor.
If you have ever considered being a ballerina the College of the Arts have you covered and all it requires is the submission of an application form. You will be contacted for an audition time and date. Only after you have been successful in the audition and the teacher is able to place you into an appropriate group are you able to register for the ballet classes at the College of the Arts.