Why Ballet Dancers Work Harder, Love Stronger And Live Better

by Lauren Martin

Did you know that the injury rate among professional dancers in Britain is 80 percent? That prima ballerina Anastasia Volochkova -- who was fired by the Bolshoi Ballet for being too "heavy" -- was 110 pounds? That the pain threshold of ballerinas is three times higher than that of non-ballerinas? That the annual wage, in pounds, of second-year corps de ballet dancers at the Royal Ballet is 22,000?

Ballet is no joke. It’s a highly disciplined sport, and ballet dancers are athletes raised on precision and pain. They know what it’s like to make sacrifices early on in life. A young girl or boy who has experienced the commitment, pain and disappointment inherent in ballet is ready for the adult world.

There are certain things that stay with you through life -- a first love, a betrayal, a life lesson. For dancers, ballet is that thing. The soul of their sport is ingrained into their being long after they’ve quit or moved on. They’ve been changed by it. They’ve evolved from it. Most importantly, they’ve learned from it.

And those lessons have created fearless adults who know that hard work, sacrifice and determination are essential to all aspects of life.

They will bleed for what they love.

Dancers can’t quit every time their feet hurt. They can't pack up their equipment just because their toes are bleeding and their legs are throbbing.

Dancers know that quitting will hurt more than the physical pain they're experiencing in the moment. They understand that sacrifice is required for things that aren't worth letting go, and they're the same way when it comes to other important things in life -- like romantic relationships and friendships.

They will make their pointe and stick to it.

Ballet is about commitment. Whether it’s with practice, choreography or a certain unmastered move, good dancers will never whine or complain. Instead, they'll commit to the task at hand.

Ballet dancers don't waver in their focus. Many people grow up not knowing what they want to do. Ballet dancers, on the other hand, have often known what they want in life from an early age. They fell in love with ballet in their youth, and they spent the rest of their lives following the dream of dancing professionally.

They will smile through it all.

The thing about ballet is that it looks easy. The truth is that it's far from easy.

In business, a lot of success is about acting like you're not upset. Even if you hate your boss, your job or life on a Wednesday afternoon, a good employee hides emotion and seems game for anything.

Ballerinas know what it’s like to smile through pain. Ballet might be the only sport in which athletes must pretend that every muscles in their bodies is not throbbing with pain.

Not only do they have to hide pain, they also have to transmit a sense of peace, calm, effortlessness and grace. This takes much more discipline than sitting at your desk at work and maintaining a neutral expression.

They will chase pliés over pennies.

Money is tempting, but for ballerinas, money (or the idea of making a lot of it) is something they gave up long ago.

From an early age, ballerinas learn that dreams are dreams and that money is something entirely different. They’re trained to go after what they want, even if the monetary reward is not high.

Their priorities are different from other people's. They might want a few moments on stage, but fame is not synonymous with wealth -- in the ballet world, at least.

Unlike most of the population, they don’t live their lives chasing extra pennies.

They will treat life like it's a show.

There is a time and place for everything.

Ballet dancers can't always be front and center. They understand this. From an early age, they understand failure. Like people who grow up in large families, ballet dancers learn to share the stage. They understand that other people might get the parts that they so desperately desired.

Instead of letting failure deter their dreams, ballet dancers learn to simply work harder and keep smiling.

They will let things go.

Ballet dancers are practiced in the art of commitment, but they're also practiced in the art of letting go.

Whether it’s affecting their minds, health or social lives, ballet dancers often have to make the difficult decision of ending their careers.

In such a highly competitive, dangerous and difficult sport, there’s an end point for every player. This lesson is the most important one that ballet dancers will learn. Because their instinct is to hold on to what they love with everything they’ve got, it’s that much harder to let their dreams go.