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10 Interesting Facts About Ballerinas You Didn’t Know

Did you know any of these fascinating ballerina facts? Find out how well you know ballet and its dancers with these 10 fascinating ballerina facts!

Beano Team
Last Updated:  April 29th 2024

These ballerina facts are on point! We've put together 10 fascinating facts about the history, the costumes and the stories behind this beautiful art form! Discover the origins of the word ballet, the cost of a tutu, and how many pairs of shoes a ballerina goes through in a week (clue: a lot!). And if you liked this, maybe you'll also like these hilarious ballet jokes! Or perhaps you're ready for these weird facts? You might even like these crazy King Arthur facts?! And you can check out loads more fascinating facts right here!

1. The Word 'Ballet' Has a Long History

The word ballet is French...although it's based on an Italian word, balletto, which comes from ballo, which means 'a dance', which in turn originally came from the Latin ballare, which means 'to dance'. So now you know!

2. It Originated in Renaissance Italy

Ballet started in the 16th in Italy. Originally it was a performance that included a mix of dance, pantomime and spoken word. They were usually performed for royalty and the wealthy, in order to show off their splendour. When Italian Catherine de Medici married into the French royal family, she made ballet fashionable in her new home country. In fact, ballet became so popular in France over the next century that even the King, Louis XIV, performed in ballets!

3. Women Were Not Allowed to Perform

Although nowadays we most associate ballet with female dancers, ballerinas, when it first started, women weren't actually allowed to dance! Male dancers, ballerinos, were the only ones performing, until the late 17th century, when women were finally allowed to grace the stage. Over the next few centuries, female ballet dancers became incredibly popular.

4. Ballerinas Can Go Through 5 Pairs of Pointe Shoes in a Week

Ballet dancers work REALLY hard, dancing and practising for hours every week. That means that they wear through their pointe shoes (the shoes they use to dance on tiptoe) super quickly. In fact, during a really tough week, a dancer can get through up to FIVE pairs of shoes! Wow! And those shoes aren't cheap either!

5. The Tutu Was Introduced in the 19th Century

The tutu is a famous part of ballet, but they were only introduced in the 19th century. Professional tutus need a lot of care and attention - they're so delicate they can't be washed. They're also expensive to make, costing thousands of pounds in some cases!

6. Ballet Dancers Start Very Young

If you want to be a professional ballet dancer, you'll have to start young -really young! Most professional dancers will start around the age of three or four, although they won't start to do really serious training until they're a bit older. Ballet dancers usually retired early too - around 40!

7. Ballet Dancers Are Extremely Fit

Ballet dancing might look beautiful and gentle, but it's really hard! To dance ballet, you need to be super fit, flexible and have lots of stamina. Performing a ballet is sometimes the equivalent to running over 15 miles, and can burn thousands of calories!

8. Anna Pavlova Was a Famous Ballet Dancer

One of the most famous ballerinas of all time is Anna Pavlova. Anna was a Russian ballet dancer born in 1881, and she's still considered one of the best dancers of all time! She was perhaps most famous for creating the role of 'The Dying Swan'. She also gave her name to a famous dessert!

9. Ballets Are Often Based on Fairytales

Ballets are often based on famous folk or fairy tales, and you probably recognise the most famous stories: Swan Lake, Cinderella, The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty. Each ballet will have 'principal dancers', which means they place the main roles, such as Cinderella, the Prince or The Nutcracker.

10. Music is Very Important to Ballerinas

If you know anything about ballet, you probably know the tunes associated with it. Some of the most famous ballets were composed by famous Russian composer, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Tchaikovsky wrote, amongst other things, Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet. Some of the most famous pieces include 'The Dance of the Snowflakes', 'The Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy' and the 'Swan Theme'.