An interview with Betty the Ballerina
Rhyll 'the Lady' Biest sidled up to Betty the Ballerina at the barre and suffered through a shoot-load of pliés, glissades and frappes (not the beverage kind) to find out how ballet dancers reproduce and when pointe shoes became a dish.
RHYLL: What skills do ballet dancers possess that could come in handy in a romance novel plot?
BETTY: Well, obviously flexibility, strength and stamina. Karma Sutra, Shmarma Sutra. Dancers can go at it any which way.
Also, every leading ballerina in romantic ballets acts as one or all of the following: a) naïve, b) young, c) a bit of a flirt, d) a virgin or a courtesan, e) looking for a prince or lover. My favourite is Kitri from Don Quixote—she knows how to wield a fan.
Plus, the leading man: a) wears tights, b) is a prince or lover, c) knows how to present his lady, i.e. keep in the background and make her look good in the Grand Pas de Deuxs, d) wears tights.
The ability to change quickly in the wings/backstage and not really care who sees you; a general lack of consciousness about being naked in company.
Speaking of naked; Ballerinas wax for their art. No hairy malfunctions please!
RHYLL: Whoa, men in tights and waxing, fan me down! And is trying to pick up at the barre a no-no?
BETTY: It’s our modus operandi. That and pas de deux classes. So little lycra, so much touching in so many strange and generally untouched places. Also in pas de deux classes you just might get to ‘act’ a passionate kiss!
RHYLL: Say our hero or heroine has just spotted a tutu hottie that he/she fancies. Does the ballet studio allow one to simply pirouette closer to the object of one’s desire? Or is it a little more complicated than that?
BETTY: Hmm. Well, they could pirouette closer, but I’d say it’s a little more subtle than that. Like eye contact through mirrors (so many mirrors!), finding yourself somehow standing next to that hottie at the barre, throwing your grand battement that little bit higher, holding the balance for that little bit longer, adding an extra turn in your pirouettes. A dancer loves an audience!
Or if you’re a little shy, you could just accidentally hit the resin box at the same time…
RHYLL: I don’t know what ‘hitting the resin box’ means but I want to do it. Is fraternization between ballet dancers from the same company a no-no? What about between dancers from other companies?
BETTY: Those big companies are hotbeds of lust. Like to like and Nan to Nicholas—dance companies often define themselves as ‘families’ and then the dancers marry each other on a regular basis. So not just lust, incest too.
RHYLL: Eeek! And what traits/habits might the hero/heroine have to overlook in a ballet dancer partner?
BETTY: Long hours late into the night after rehearsals/performances, mood swings depending on the success of the rehearsal/performance/audition, perfectionism, self-obsession, injuries…
RHYLL: What’s the most unusual thing that has happened to you as a ballet dancer?
BETTY: When I was 15 a male jazz ballet teacher told me I had to find my inner sexiness. We were the only two in the room. Yikes. A partner in pas de deux class licked my hand instead of kissing it. Eww. It was wet.
Are these things unusual or just plain icky?
RHYLL: Um, a bit of both! Do ballet dancers have their own jargon? (Lay some of that sexy ballet slang on us.)
BETTY: Darling, classical ballet language is French. It was invented by the wonderfully named ‘Sun King’ or Louis XIV of France. He loved to dress up and dance in his court—hence the language and the restrained classical tradition. So plié, glissade, frappe, developpe, fondue, soutenu, grand jete, pas de deux, petite battement, adagio and the list goes on…just think French.
We also have ‘chookas’ or ‘break a leg’ – both expressions of good luck before a performance, exam whatever.
Poking has its own balletic meaning too. If a dancer is ‘poking’ they are sticking their chin out, breaking what should be a graceful line through the neck and spine.
Others, because everyone loves a list: dress rehearsals, cast lists, first/second cast, company class, warm up class (on stage pre-performance), fencing class (seriously, for the guys in ballets like Romeo & Juliet), 30/10/5 minute calls, one minute call and beginners on stage, stage left, stage right, props, sets, choreography, matinees, pointe shoes (btw: pointe shoes get ‘broken in’), demi-pointe shoes, flat shoes, character shoes, leotards, leg warmers…dude, call me when you want some more!!!
RHYLL: Would a fictional ballet dancer find the term ‘bun-head’ an endearment or offensive?
BETTY: Well, for me it’s a term of endearment…
RHYLL: So, bun-head, do you think it has become more difficult for ballet dancers to find a date since the release of the move Black Swan?
BETTY: Because we’re all crazy and have feathers growing out of our shoulders?
RHYLL: Either might put people off. What do ballet dancers find sexy (besides pointe shoes)?
BETTY: A quick clarification first, pointe shoes aren’t sexy, pointe shoes are tools of torture….I understand that for the guys the jock strap is the tool of torture. We all suffer for our beauty and our art. Although, the first ballerina to wear pointe shoes was Maria Taglioni and legend has it that a bunch of Russian balletomanes bought her pointe shoes, cooked them up and ATE them!!!
But seriously, beautiful feet, beautiful arms, long legs, lean & strong bodies. And most of all—musicality—using the music to tell a story with your body. Sexy as.
RHYLL: Thanks for your time, Betty. Wait, are those feathers growing out of your–. No, never mind.
Rating: Readers want to hit the resin box with you ♥♥♥♥♥♥