Ballet Is Brutal: Nightmare Realities You'd Never Guess (2022)

Ballet for amateurs is sort of like whistling. It's fun for a little while, but we all generally accept that it's not something you should get too serious about. If you do delve too deeply, however, you'll find that it's a grueling contest even NFL linebackers couldn't endure. That's why we at Cracked spoke to two competitive whistlers about the blasted hellscape that is the whistl- hmm, what's that? This is supposed to be about ballet? Oh. OK. That could be cool, too. Let's speak to Noel Hutchinson, a dancer in Wisconsin, and Luke Jenkins, a dancer in Virginia, instead ...

Ballet Puts Kids Through Hell

Ballet Is Brutal: Nightmare Realities You'd Never Guess (1)

Sports like figure skating, gymnastics, and dance may not get a ton of attention, but the people at the top of their game still have to devote their entire lives to it:

"All of the best dancers in my company started off when they were really young," said Noel. "It takes you so long to get good at something that those who started way younger are so much better at it. You get 5-year-olds with blisters all over their feet that way, but they get a big head start on those that enter at age 9."

Ballet Is Brutal: Nightmare Realities You'd Never Guess (2)

You're basically the dance version of Jedi.

Noel and Luke started in normal dance studios, but there are special boarding schools that employ the minimum amount of book learning and the maximum amount of ballet. The top school in Russia, Vaganova, does a lot of really weird things to young students, even by Russian standards. Luke told us about a guy he knew who underwent Vaganova methods in Beijing.

One of the guys I performed with who went had his legs hanging over a tall chair, with weights placed on his knees and his feet on another chair pushing them down," he said. "This way his legs would not bow out and would instead hyperextend."

Ballet Is Brutal: Nightmare Realities You'd Never Guess (3)

"This will make you nimble of feet, instead of dancing like the pregnant bear."

This leads to graceful legs, but can cause a whole host of leg problems later in life. It's also really hard to fix without breaking your legs, making it ballet's equivalent of "your face will freeze like that, you know!"

Nothing a few minutes of creepy home therapy can't fix!

Young dancers are also forced to look as if they're in peak condition at all times. Some especially competitive (read: cruel) schools ask little girls to drop five pounds at an age where most of their diet is probably crayons.

The Smallest Problem Will Ruin A Whole Show

Ballet Is Brutal: Nightmare Realities You'd Never Guess (4)


One tiny mistake can throw the whole performance off. Like this.

Ballet Is Brutal: Nightmare Realities You'd Never Guess (5)

"But we're only five minutes from the end and the crowd is ready to go home."

In that video, one dancer got behind on the music, so the musicians slowed down accordingly. This, in turn, threw off the rest of the dancers ever so slightly, with the end result being that the whole thing looked like it was choreographed by a narcoleptic goat.

"Sometimes the person in charge just comes up with a whole new routine before the start of the show we need to know," added Luke. "It's like a speechwriter going, 'Hey, I replaced a paragraph in there. Memorize it in the next five minutes.' That makes for a lot more mistakes. They expect us to know it in five minutes, when the reality is that it takes days to get even a small part of the routine perfect."

Ballet Is Brutal: Nightmare Realities You'd Never Guess (6)

"And don't forget that your parents are in the audience tonight,
and that they worked extra jobs to put you through dance school."

Noel remembered one particularly problematic dancer.

"One of the dancers was male and didn't practice as much as the rest of us. During practice, he would do the wrong spin at a certain part," he recalled. "This threw off the girl next to him into thinking it was farther into the number than it really was. Half of the dance line eventually was going 45 seconds further into the song than the rest of us, with the line scrambling to fix it when they realized that the number, which they thought was ending, still had a ways to go. That tiny mistake cost us not only being uniform in movement out there, but also the trophy."

Ballet is a lot more like Top Gun than you'd think.

That dancer's name is Gary. We assume. He just sounds like a fucking Gary.

The Injuries Are Horrific

Ballet Is Brutal: Nightmare Realities You'd Never Guess (7)

Ballet dancers do some crazy stuff on their feet. That's why they have crazy ass foot injuries:

"My worst injury occurred when I attempted a barrel turn and moved my foot wrong," he said. "I heard four pops, pulling my fibula and tibia apart. I also tore a few tendons in my foot. In the dance world you are expected to go on, so I danced the rest of my set like that before going off stage and collapsing in pain. I didn't walk again for two months and was out for over four months under care of the Baltimore Ravens' private doctor. Ballet has a lot of rich patrons, so we can afford that."

Ballet Is Brutal: Nightmare Realities You'd Never Guess (8)
(Video) When you're told you have to GIVE UP dancing!!!

"No problem. If you want to thank me, just try to incorporate the Ray Lewis dance next time you do Swan Lake."

The dancers we interviewed have seen everything from Achilles tendons snapping, to a dancer who accidentally spin-kicked her assistant choreographer off the stage into the empty band pit, fracturing her foot and concussing the choreographer. Both Luke and Noel agreed that it's hard to tell who has it worse, men or women. Women have to go en pointe, which means standing on their toes. It looks graceful on stage, but when they take off their shoes it looks like they stepped on a witch's brand new kicks and got put under some sort of cruel foot-hex:

Ballet Is Brutal: Nightmare Realities You'd Never Guess (9)

Ballet Is Brutal: Nightmare Realities You'd Never Guess (10)

"I see you've had your big toes circumcised."

"I have fucked up feet," said Noel. "Every ballet dancer does, especially those that do pointe. I've been out of ballet for a few years now, and although I don't have blisters anymore, my toes are still crooked."

Many doctors who specialize in dance just advise their patients to quit dancing. Men wear flat shoes and don't have to worry about podia-curses, but they have another problem -- women. Men are often responsible for lifting spinning women around stage. When the women be spinnin', they can't see off to their sides, which poses problems for their partners.

Ballet Is Brutal: Nightmare Realities You'd Never Guess (11)

Imagine someone just threw a running lawnmower at you.

"One ballerina had launched at me in a split jump, her foot with a rock-hard, inch-thick taped ballet shoe coming straight at me. It was mistimed, with her foot going straight into my gut, knocking the wind out of me and giving me a bruise that took a long time to heal. One of my instructors had a piece of his nose missing from a female dancer who had her nails a bit too long, mistimed a jump into his arms, and her nails took out a small chunk of his nose."

We don't know what that type of injury was called before, but now it's called "the Tyrion."

You'll Lose Your Job If You Can't Afford Shoes

Ballet Is Brutal: Nightmare Realities You'd Never Guess (13)

(Video) Bruno Mars - Grenade (Lyrics)

Getting started in ballet can be costly, as Noel found out at a very young age.

"For me, it was $60-80 a week for a few two-hour sessions," she recalled. "With all the practicing, the shoe and tights budget went higher. Starting off, it's several hundred dollars a month with clothes, gas, fees, and everything."

It only gets worse as dancers get older. Ballet dancers burn through equipment the way NASCAR drivers burn through tires. Tights wear out in a matter of weeks. Tights will run $20 a pop, so a dancer can be looking at $100 a month on that alone.

Ballet shoes wear out even faster -- some don't even last a week. At $80 a pair, that can top $300 a month, especially during busier performance seasons. An entire ballet company can flush down $100,000 on nothing but shoes.

Ballet Is Brutal: Nightmare Realities You'd Never Guess (14)

"The NBA don't got shit on me."

"During busy season like Christmas, Nutcracker is about half of any ballet company's yearly business. Many dancers actually drop out, because they go through shoes so fast, and since the dancer can't afford them, they are out," explained Luke. "By the end of the season for smaller companies, about half the cast has been replaced by their second or third understudy."

This gets complicated by the fact that ballet simply doesn't pay enough to even put a dancer at the poverty line. They have to have second jobs.

Ballet Is Brutal: Nightmare Realities You'd Never Guess (15)

Teaching dance! And thus, we come full circle.

"In Madison, I worked a second job when I was not practicing or with the company," said Noel. "I was getting paid a few hundred in ballet, but since my shoes ran out so fast, a lot of that went to new shoes. Add in bus fare and other dance costs, and I needed a second job for food and shelter. It seems like a glamorous job, but it's not exactly sustainable."

So the next time you see a skinny waif on the corner holding a sign that says "will plie for food," spare a dime, won't you?

Sexism is Rampant

Ballet Is Brutal: Nightmare Realities You'd Never Guess (16)

Surprisingly, a lot of the sexism is directed at guys.

"We need certain standards and have to be dancing Ken Dolls out there," Luke elaborated. "Our dance belt really makes our butts pronounced, so we have a lot of older, female patrons who support us. Since they want to ogle us like guys do to Hooters waitresses, the director goes through us each day -- we need to be weighted every day to check for no weight gain, or if we are too skinny or not having enough muscle mass. It's so important that one of my former companies docked $25 of the pay of the lightest guy and the heaviest girl every month."

Ballet Is Brutal: Nightmare Realities You'd Never Guess (17)

(Video) Dana , The 8 Year Old Anorexic Eating Disorder Documentary

"OK, Shamu, you start giving Stringbean your meals."

But like ladies certainly get it, too. Most of the ballet companies are actually owned by men, so in non-union companies, men can make four times as much as women.

"Not as many guys dance, so there is higher demand," said Luke. "But it doesn't justify a female dancer, like my fiance, making $100 a week when I make $400 a week in the same company for the same amount of work."

Contributing to the pay inequity is how headliners are listed. Many ballets ignore female headliners for the males.

"When we watched the greats perform, our instructor always said, 'Here is Nureyev' or 'Look, it's Baryshnikov,'" said Noel. "We never heard about any of the ballerinas. Look at any major ballet performance or on PBS, and if there is a headliner, nine times out of 10 it will be the guy."

Ballet Is Brutal: Nightmare Realities You'd Never Guess (18)

There a reason Natalie Portman's character goes crazy for a chance to actually headline in Black Swan.

It doesn't matter if you're male or female, you're going to experience body shaming, the brink of poverty, and injuries that would cripple a normal person. If ballet were easy, they'd call it football.

Evan V. Symon is the Interview Finder Guy at Cracked. Have an awesome job/experience? Hit up the tipline at

Ballet isn't the only sport hell on your body. Learn how the very fake wrestling can leave you with a very real broken neck in 5 Behind-the-Scenes Facts I Learned as a Pro Wrestler. Or find out why saving the planet can cost you a finger or two in 5 Truths Of Professional Recycling.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel to see what you can learn from watching over people destroy their bodies in 7 Psychology Lessons You Accidentally Learn Watching Sports, and watch other videos you won't see on the site!

Also follow us on Facebook to see us practice some wicked moves in our tutus.

Ballet Is Brutal: Nightmare Realities You'd Never Guess (19)

Get the Cracked Daily Newsletter!

We've got your morning reading covered.


    Recommended For Your Pleasure

    Indie Game Developers Outsmart Steam Scammers, Show True Detective Skills

    Elementary, my dear Catson.

    By Tiago Svn

    5 Strange Ways Murderers Ensured They Got Caught

    These weren't dumb criminals. This was weirder than that.

    By Ryan Menezes

    J.K. Rowling Continues To Be A Clown (In Her New Garbage Book)

    How does this story keep getting worse?

    By JM McNab

    20 Awesome Final Action Scenes (Because It’s Time to Kick Some Butt)

    Breathtaking spoilers inside.

    By Talbert Gregson, Andres Diplotti

    The Wild 70’s Show That Predicted Comedy YouTube

    One game show introduced cringe to America.

    By Matt Solomon

    10 Seinfeld Moments That Haven’t Aged Well

    A rewatch of any 20-year-old show is bound to have its “Oh, we don’t say that anymore” moments, so here are 10 that we spotted.

    By Andrea Meno, JD Roberson

    (Video) The STAKES Are Higher, The Mothers Are CRAZIER (S2, E4) | AUDC | Full Episode | Dance Moms


    Why is ballet toxic? ›

    There are many toxic effects of ballet both physically and mentally because of its connection to distorted body image, its cause for unstable mental health, and the harsh physical demands and injuries related to this art.

    Why is ballet so scary? ›

    Ballet is also frightening not only because of the intense dedication it requires but because of the physical and mental vulnerability that a dancer must express while performing.

    Why is ballet so difficult? ›

    A challenging part of any ballet routine is the Grand Adage. This dance move involved strong, slow, and well-controlled movements. Dancers must lift their legs to the front, back, and sides in swift movements without losing their balance. The Grand Adage reveals a dancer's muscular strength and flexibility.

    What is the most technically challenging ballet? ›

    Pirouettes. Pirouettes are notoriously one of the most difficult ballet moves and it can take years for a dancer to learn how to properly execute a pirouette.

    Is ballet harmful to kids? ›

    Ballet, just like many other sports, can cause injuries later on in your child's life if not done correctly, including ingrown toenails, tendinosis, stress fractures, ankle sprains, ankle impingement, or low back pain.

    Does ballet delay puberty? ›

    Young ballet dancers and other skinny teenage girls who exercise strenuously tend to go through puberty a year or more later than normal, a biologist has found. In a study conducted at three Ballet schools in New York, Dr.

    Are there any horror ballets? ›

    There actually have been ballets written around horror stories or dark subjects. Dracula has a famous ballet, after all, and Frankenstein, Sweeney Todd and The Tell-Tale Heart, among others, have been adapted for dance.

    What is the story behind Giselle? ›

    The ghost-filled ballet tells the tragic, romantic story of a beautiful young peasant girl who falls for the flirtations of the deceitful and disguised nobleman Albrecht. When the ruse is revealed, the fragile Giselle dies of heartbreak, and Albrecht must face the otherworldly consequences of his careless seduction.

    Is ballet harder than football? ›

    Ballet, according to a 1975 study by Dr. James A. Nicholas in The Journal of Sports Medicine. The study, which examined 61 different activities, ranked ballet most physically and mentally demanding, followed by bullfighting and then football.

    Is ballet harder than soccer? ›

    Ballet is harder than soccer. Ballet requires a consistent level of skill, strength, balance, and coordination that a soccer player only needs to achieve in part to reach the top of their respective professions.

    Why is ballet so strict? ›

    A huge reason ballet needs to be so strict is that it is the basis for all other dance forms in western dance. Being skilled in ballet will enhance your technique and all other abilities in dance. It is often neglected to know because many are not a fan of the style or strictness that it requires.

    Is ballet the hardest type of dance? ›

    Said to be the most difficult genre to master, ballet is a rigorous style of dance that is the foundation of most forms of dance training. It is usually set, but not limited to, orchestrated music and is often the first dance style a child will experience as they begin their dance classes.

    Is ballet difficult to learn? ›

    Learning ballet is without a doubt hard, and learning ballet at an older age is even harder. For whatever personal reasons you have for learning ballet as an adult, these factors resonate more deeply with you and in turn provide a stronger passion for learning, differently than a child's.

    What is the hardest jump in ballet? ›

    The Grand Jeté is notoriously one of the most difficult ballet jumps. It's an extremely demanding jump that requires a dancer to continuously stretch to maintain their flexibility.

    Does ballet damage your hips? ›

    But, there's a catch – the shallow hip socket relies much more on the labrum and surrounding soft tissue structures for stability and as a result, ballet dancers frequently suffer from labral tears, hip flexor tendonitis, and cartilage damage.

    Is ballet bad? ›

    Ballet can cause foot pain, injury, and in some cases, even foot damage for dancers. This mostly occurs in dancers practicing the pointe technique and dancing in pointe shoes. Ballet dancers not on pointe can also experience foot, shin, and ankle pain.

    Why do dancers have hip problems? ›

    A common cause of hip pain in dancer athletes is injury to the soft tissue structures around the hip. Dancers can create compensatory stresses around the hip, causing pain, including the periarticular musculature.

    Why do ballerinas not get their period? ›

    Rigorous exercise undertaken by young girls, combined with a negative energetic balance, is related to substantial physiological changes in a competitor's body, often leading to hormonal imbalance manifested by: delayed puberty, delayed menstruation, menstrual disorders, and even long-term secondary amenorrhoea.

    What do ballerinas do on their period? ›

    There are many challenges a dancer faces at any given time. One that happens each month is menstruation. For most young and adult women, it's not a big deal. You use a pad or tampon, manage the cramps for a few days with some aspirin, and indulge in some junk food to satisfy those cravings.

    Do ballerinas not get periods? ›

    Dietitian Fiona Sutherland does. IT'S “normal” for female dancers not to get their periods, or for them to be irregular, right? Actually, no. It may be common, but we would not regard it as “normal.” There are multiple reasons why hormone balance is extremely important for your overall health, particularly for dancers.

    Are ballet schools toxic? ›

    From manipulation, to pressure, to sex scandals — ballet schools are infamously known for their toxic environments.

    Does ballet make you sore? ›

    After dancing, some muscle soreness for 24-48 hours is normal. Muscles may take a few days to get sore (delayed onset muscle soreness aka DOMS), but that is also common.

    What is the culture of ballet? ›

    Ballet traces its origins to the Italian Renaissance, when it was developed as a court entertainment. During the 15th and 16th centuries the dance technique became formalized. The epicentre of the art moved to France following the marriage of the Italian-born aristocrat Catherine de Médicis to Henry II of France.


    1. Secrets Of The Multi-Billion Dollar Human Trafficking Industry - Sex Slaves - Crime Documentary
    (I Love Docs)
    2. Family takes photo wife files for divorce after seeing this detail
    (Trending Story)
    (The Showest)
    4. Rebecca’s Emergency Trip to Hospital! Letting Subscribers Decide New House! (Hacks Fail Challenge)
    (Matt Slays)
    5. Hell's Kitchen (U.S.) Uncensored - Season 1 Episode 7 - Full Episode
    (Kitchen Nightmares - Full Episodes)
    6. Meek Mill -Dreams And Nightmares (Intro)
    (Meek Mill)

    Top Articles

    You might also like

    Latest Posts

    Article information

    Author: Reed Wilderman

    Last Updated: 12/05/2022

    Views: 6467

    Rating: 4.1 / 5 (52 voted)

    Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

    Author information

    Name: Reed Wilderman

    Birthday: 1992-06-14

    Address: 998 Estell Village, Lake Oscarberg, SD 48713-6877

    Phone: +21813267449721

    Job: Technology Engineer

    Hobby: Swimming, Do it yourself, Beekeeping, Lapidary, Cosplaying, Hiking, Graffiti

    Introduction: My name is Reed Wilderman, I am a faithful, bright, lucky, adventurous, lively, rich, vast person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.