THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW ABOUT BALLET

Like gymnastics, soccer, chess or whatever, unless you are on the inside of an industry, sport, or athletic art, it is tough to understand the distinct language, customs, and unspoken rules of ballet. Below, a smorgasbord of things you either didn't know you didn't know, or are too embarrassed to ask. 

  • The term 'ballerina' does not really exist in professional ballet. The very top ranking in professional ballet companies is called the principal dancer. Both men and women who are at the top are referred to as principals.

  • Professional ballet dancers can make a lot of money. The yearly operating budget for New York City Ballet for example is over $85 million, and supports a staff of almost 100 dancers.  At a top company, dancers can make six figures and up, within a couple years of joining the company ranks. Compounded by endorsements, guest teaching, spokesperson deals and guest performing, this can bring a dancer almost half a million a year. 

  • Pointe shoes are not made out of wood. They are made out of glue, satin, paste and other fabrics specific to the brand. 

  • Almost every major metropolitan city in the world has a ballet company, but only about twenty five - worldwide - are considered top tier. 

  • Most European ballet companies are state funded - either by lottery ticket sales or direct government subsidies. In contrast, the United States does not have the same relationship with the arts and most ballet companies rely on wealthy benefactors or corporate support to sustain. For instance, San Francisco Ballet, which is one of the top ten companies IN THE WORLD, is supported by Tiffany & Co., Kaiser Permanente, JP Morgan Chase and others.

  • Traditionally, men do not perform on pointe. While not mainstream, since the 1970s, there has been an entire ballet company comprised of men on pointe called Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.