10 Commandments of Pre-Pro Ballet

As Marie Taglioni stood atop the stage, parting the seas of patrons and adoring fans, she held in her delicate hands two tulle-lined tablets upon which were written the commandments that every dancer thereafter shall follow. Well, not really, but there are some unbreakable rules that every pre-professional ballet dancer should follow.

I. Ballet Is Thy Priority

If you are headed towards a career in ballet, you must make it a top-notch priority. This means that you should be devoting the majority of your attentions to ballet. Study it, live it, breathe it, and sleep it. It may sound extreme, but this devotion of your mental (and physical) faculties bridges the gap between amateur and rising star.

Every night write in your dance journal, look over corrections, watch ballet online and study how movements should be properly executed. For the physical side of things, use your free time to stretch, do strengthening and/or theraband exercises, and work on movements that are giving you difficulties in class. Making ballet your priority means constantly looking for ways to improve your dancing, then doing them.

II. Thou Shall Have No Activities Before Ballet

When faced with the dilemma of attending your Sadie Hawkins dance or going to a mandatory Nutcracker rehearsal, you should attend rehearsal. Being devoted to ballet and getting on the career track means putting all other activities aside; you can still have a social life, but schedule it such that you aren’t faced with the choice of putting one ahead of the other.

Arrange school work, family obligations, and social activities far ahead of time, and let your teacher/director know what your schedule looks like. This way you avoid the disheartening task of disappointing anyone at the last minute with an interruption in scheduling. Again, if ballet is your priority, you’ll have to arrange everything else around it.

Hot Tip: Pens en Pointe

Dancers with stressful and hectic schedules can benefit greatly from buying an inexpensive organizer or using free tools online to schedule their lives. By having reminders of your event schedule, you can know ahead of time what you can and cannot do, and when you need to reschedule to make room for ballet.

III. Thou Shall Not Make Wrongful Use of Ballet

While doing a grande jeté for your friends is fun and perfectly acceptable, be careful not to take ballet’s acts in vain. What does this mean? Don’t go pre-pro because you want to be famous, make money, or launch your movie career from a ballet company platform.

There are right reasons and wrong reasons for making a career out of ballet, it’s difficult to know off the bat under which category your own reasons fall. However, keep reevaluating why you’re dancing, what you’re working towards, and the ultimate goal. If it isn’t making you happy, then it’s more than okay to take a step back, not go to class one day, and think about what you want to do!

IV. Remember Thy Water Break & Keep It Holy

As obvious as it sounds, the water break in class is vital. It is your time of rest, and you should treat it as such. Use the break to, of course, drink your water, stretch out tight spots, and get your body more in tune with your dancing.

You should never use your water break to do things like chat up other dancers or recreate Tom Cruise in Risky Business by sliding across the studio floor without your shoes on. These frivolities are fun, but belong after class. Using your water break as anything non-class related is considered an offensive act to both teacher and fellow students.

V. Honor Thy Teacher & Director

Regardless of whether you agree with your director’s casting choices or your teacher’s corrections on your adagio combination, always respect them.

Never talk about a teacher or director behind their back, never yell or argue with them, and above all, always respect the decisions they make. Talking with a director or teacher alone after class is a good idea if you want to go over some things that may seem confusing. However, remember to keep a calm and respectful tone. Ask questions, but don’t make accusations. The respect you show your teacher or director is the respect that (s)he will show you in return!

VI. Thou Shall Not Exhaust

Being a dedicated and hard working dancer doesn’t just mean spending twelve hours a day at the studio; it also means knowing when your body is getting stressed out, and taking a break.

When you start to feel an old injury acting up or your body begins to give out on you in any way, notify your instructor immediately and sit out for a little bit. One of the most important skills a dancer can learn is the skill of knowing when to sit down and rest. This will save your body in the long run, preventing serious injury and even early retirement.

Mental Edge

Being exhausted isn’t just something that happens to the body—it also happens to the mind as well. If you’re feeling so overworked that you have difficulties concentrating or picking up combinations, remember that it’s okay to tell your teacher you need to recharge your battery. Take some time for yourself and unwind so you can come back fresh and ready to think hard.

VII. Thou Shall Not Gossip

No matter how you feel about the other girls and boys in your classes and your shows, it’s never okay to say bad things about them, or gossip – be it to their face or behind their back. Part of being a ballerina is acting as a role model to younger students. If you’re constantly insulting or putting down another dancer, you instantly lose your status as a good role model, thus damaging your ability to be a respectable ballerina!

Even if other students say things about you that aren’t particularly favorable, simply ignore them and treat everyone pleasantly and with respect. Remember, you don’t have to be best friends, but being civil is always the way to go. If gossip ever gets to be a serious problem, talk to your teacher or director so that you can work toward a conflict resolution instead of escalating the problem.

VIII. Thou Shall Not Steal

One of the most obvious yet frequently broken rules of studios and ballet schools is that students should never take or use what is not theirs. This commandment is simple; if you don’t own it or know who does (and ask them), then leave it alone!

If something is abandoned in the studio after class, either place it in the lost-and-found or hand it off to a teacher. This way all students keep their things in order and trust one another. Whether it’s a water bottle or a $200 foot stretcher, make sure to be a good ballet citizen and restore items to their proper owners.

IX. Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Role

Casting is never an easy process. Every dancer dreads the moment when lists are posted, roles are announced, and hearts are inevitably broken. But never let disappointment overshadow your love of dancing! A good ballerina is not only gracious in accepting any and every role she receives, but she also embraces it and congratulates all other dancers—from corps to principal.

Even if you don’t agree with a casting decision or are heartbroken over not getting the lead role, be kind to the person who received it. This person has much hard work ahead of them, and by being supportive, you improve the performing atmosphere for everyone. A catty and divided ballet studio will appear catty and divided on stage, while a supportive and loving one will appear as such.

X. Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Tutu

As with casting, jealousy is never a positive thing to bring to the table when it comes to ballet. If someone else got a gorgeous platter tutu with netting made from the hairs of cherubs and you got a spandex bodysuit with cow spots, don’t go complaining about it and making your director feel awful. Remember, tons of money and time go into costumes, and just to have one at all is an honor. So don’t spoil it by whining over whose is better!

Worship Well

Getting on the pre-professional ballet track is a bold, life-changing decision. If you’ve made it, congratulations! Working to become a ballerina is an admirable and special path in life. Just remember these Ten Commandments and stay strong through your ballet trials. By becoming a positive role model to younger dancers, you’ll give yourself a boost for the better and help inspire the next generation of ballerinas.

Share the knowledge