Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up Doing Ballet

Dance is great exercise!  Not going to debate that fact.  I’ve been dancing since I could walk.  I love to dance.  That is why I still take lessons at the dance school I started at when I was a child.  That being said, I could possibly have fewer aches and pains had I never started taking dance lessons.  Well, ballet to be exact.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy ballet and I go to the ballet every chance I get.  Now that I am in my twenties I have realized that there are some problems with my health that could have probably been prevented had I not started ballet when I was a child.

Unlike other forms of dance, ballet is drastically different in that it is more physically demanding than the others.  That isn’t to say that other forms of dance aren’t physically demanding.  On the contrary, I feel more exhausted after my tap, jazz, and contemporary dance lessons than I ever did doing ballet.  The next day though, I feel more like I’ve been hit with a train after doing ballet.  Why is that?  Ballet uses more muscle control than other forms of dance.  In fact, if you want to burn more calories and work you muscles more, ballet burns about 330 calories per hour as opposed to about 170 that yoga does in the same amount of time.  During ballet you are up on your toes a good deal of the time or you are pointing them.  Try doing that for about a minute.  Can you do it?  How about for five minutes?  Want a real challenge?  Try standing on your toes for an hour.  Doing ballet while being up on your toes for most of the time is called en Pointe, that is pronounced like point by the way.  It hurts and if you want to progress into doing anything in performance ballet, that is what you have to learn.  I didn’t do en Pointe for very long and that was only during my first two years of college whenever the dance studio at the college offered open classes or seminars.  While it was fun, it also was painful and I had been doing ballet for most of my life by then.

Dancing ballet has more health risks than most forms of dance.  I’m not including cheer-leading in this because that is more gymnastics than anything else.  Ballet done en Pointe carries the most health risks because the dancer is supporting the weight of their entire body on the tips of their toes.  Because of this, dancers of en Pointe can end up with bunions, Plantar fasciitis (Dancer’s heel), hammer toes, broken toes, sesamoiditis, Tendinitis of the Achilles tendon, broken legs, problems with the hip joints, blisters, spinal issues, and leg muscles that don’t finish growing.  While some of these health problems can be reduced by the wearing of toe pads or “bunnies”, not all can be fixed.  Not all of them can and some are problems that dancers of ballet in general have regardless of how much en Pointe dancing they do.  I go through periods of time where my hips and lower back just kill me and it is made worse by doing long days of dancing around performances.  My feet also cause me pain if I wear flats for too long and when I am not wearing shoes, I walk on the balls of my feet and when I am standing on my toes.  I do this out of habit and I also find it more comfortable.  I also have issues with the my calves hurting.  This is a common problem with all dancers that start this art form when they are young and is caused by the strain put on the muscles that does not allow them to grow properly or to stop growing prematurely.  This problem is also seen in the muscles in the foot and can cause the foot to be in a permapoint which is what causes the person in question to be up on the balls of their feet or on their toes and makes wearing flats near impossible or causes extreme pain when doing so.

As pretty as ballet is, I don’t recommend that children do it.  Now, I’m not saying don’t do ballet.  As I mentioned before, I enjoy dancing ballet and I love going to the ballet.  I cringe when I see children doing it though because I think about all the health problems they will end up with if they continue.  I mean, what little girl that does dance doesn’t want to be a ballerina for at least a little while?  Some of the problems that are a result of the muscles not growing correctly or not at all can be almost completely eliminated if the child waits until the muscles are finished growing to start doing ballet, especially en Pointe.  My cousin, who was a Prima Ballerina, told my mother to never let me do en Pointe or if she did, not until I was at least eighteen.  It messes with your feet and legs.  If your child insists on doing dance, start them off with tap or jazz.  Some form of dance that does not require all the strain on the muscles.