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A ballet dancer (Italian: ballerina [balleˈriːna] fem., ballerino [balleˈriːno] masc.) is a person who practices the art of classical ballet. Both females and males can practice ballet; however, dancers have hierarchy and strict gender roles. They rely on years of extensive training and proper technique to become a part of professional companies. Ballet dancers are at a high risk of injury due to the demanding technique of ballet.
Ballet dancers typically begin training between the ages of 2-4 (for females) or 5-7 (for male dancers) if they desire to perform professionally. Training does not end when ballet dancers are hired by a professional company. They must attend ballet class six days a week to keep themselves fit and aware. Ballet is a strict form of art, and the dancer must be very athletic and flexible.
Ballet dancers begin their classes at the barre, a wooden beam that runs along the walls of the ballet studio. Dancers use the barre to support themselves during exercises. Barre work is designed to warm up the body and stretch muscles to prepare for center work, where they execute exercises without the barre. Center work in the middle of the room starts out with slower exercises, gradually leading up to faster exercises and larger movements. Ballet dancers finish center work practicing big leaps across the floor which is called grande allegro.
After center work, females present exercises on pointe, or on their toes, supported by special pointe shoes. Males practice jumps and turns. They may practice partner work together.
Ballet dancers are susceptible to injury because they are constantly putting strain and stress on their bodies. A ballet dancer's goal is to make physically demanding choreography appear effortless. Ballet dancers increase their risk of injury if they start training earlier than the age of ten. However, many ballet dancers do start on the average age of 6 to 8 years old.
The upper body of a ballet dancer is prone to injury because choreography and class exercises requires them to exert energy into contorting their backs and hips. Back bends cause the back to pinch, making the spine vulnerable to injuries such as spasms and pinched nerves. Extending the legs and holding them in the air while turned out causes damage to the hips. Such damage includes strains, fatigue fractures, and bone density loss.
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