How do ballet dancers look that good? And what about their crazy diets?

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We talk to Former Principal ballet dancer at The Australian Ballet, Rebekah Davey about the real life of a ballet dancer

rebekah davey_profile

Former ballet dancer Rebekah Davey.

1. How strict is a professional Ballerina’s diet – give us some examples of what they eat in a day?

Ballet is both a physical and aesthetic artform, so dancers eat to maintain a lean and strong physique. Smart dancers eat a balanced diet of nutrient and fibre rich foods to maintain their energy levels and limit sources of empty calories.

For example, a balanced meal would be brown rice or quinoa, with green veggies and lean protein such as chicken, or fish. I have encountered dancers who starve themselves, but they have a tendency to get injured often and burn out quickly.

2. We heard some survice on a single ferrero rocher chocolate leading up to performances – could this be true?

I haven’t heard of this one, but yes, it’s true I have heard of some crazy diets over my career that other dancers have lived on. One male dancer consumed only coffee, pineapple and chicken, another female lived on coffee, beer and protein bars.

3. Are there any secret supplements or nutrients they take?

Many dancers, including myself, take vitamins for energy and wellbeing. Some of my favourite supplements are:

  • a good multivitamin – for overall health
  • fish oil – for joint health and reducing inflammation
  • Spirulina – for extra energy, detoxification and nutrients
  • Vitamin D – for happiness, energy and maintaining a lean body
  • Zinc – for immunity

4. Are girls born dancers, or is it a learned art form?

Certain girls may be born with the talent and certain physical attributes and gifts, but like any other activity, dancing is a learned artform. I knew from the age of three I wanted to dance, but I had to go through many hours and years of training to become a professional ballerina.

5. How fit are ballerinas compared to runners and other female athletes? Do they have strong cardiovascular fitness as well as flexibility?

A professional dancer is an elite athlete, comparable with any elite sportsperson. Ballet is a unique type of physical fitness, as dancers must be both strong and flexible at the same time.

As ballet is a mostly anaerobic type of exercise, many dancers cross train with other forms of aerobic exercise, such as running or cycling, to aid their cardiovascular fitness and physical performance.

6. When do ballet dancers reach their physical fitness? At what age?

Most dancers reach the professional level at the age of 18. However, as a professional dancer it is your job to maintain yourself in peak physical condition throughout your career.

7. Does the flexibility stay with a ballet dancer for life?

As a ballerina you achieve and maintain an extreme level of flexibility. Most ballet dancers maintain their flexibility for life, as your flexibility is inextricably linked with how good your body feels. However, like any other type of physical fitness, if dancers don’t maintain their flexibility they will stiffen over time.

8. What about the strict approach to food? Does that stay for life too?

I have seen many dancers who have given up ballet and their weight has ballooned, whereas others have stayed the same or even become thinner. It really depends on how healthy the individual’s eating regime was during their career and how they continue to eat and exercise once they retire.

9. Black Swan portrayed the ballet world as competitive and nasty – did you see this side of it during your career?

The ballet world can be extremely competitive and nasty, especially when you are a good dancer like myself.

As a talented and hard working dancer, I was cast in leading roles wherever I worked, and consequently copped a lot of nastiness as a result of the jealously from many of my colleagues. You have to be tough to survive and really love what you do.

10. What do you think of the new trend of ballet style fitness classes? Are they good for the average person and do they really improve fitness?

Having not tried these classes I am unable to comment specifically on them. From what I have heard, they are great for toning and shaping the body. For a stellar workout, I would recommend taking a real ballet class.

Many schools offer adult ballet classes at a casual fee. Ballet class is a challenging full body and mind workout, unmatched by any other movement class out there.

What do you love about ballet?

 

 

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Renae Leith-Manos

CONTRIBUTOR

Renae Leith-Manos travels the world writing (www.renaesworld.com.au). She has had a colourful media career as a journalist in many magazines and newspapers, and spends her time writing, consulting to new businesses, running, doing yoga, swimming & cycling.
She's likes healthy eating, but thinks chocolate cake is just as important as kale chips.
She spends most weekends hanging out with her gorgeous twins.

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