Whenever I want to see some beautiful art I go onto YouTube and look up the The Royal Ballet — I watch all the videos they have, whether they are performances, practices, or videos about the different principal dancers in the company.

First, reader, a disclaimer: I have never been a ballerina, and I have never seen professionally performed ballet. So all of these thoughts are from the point of view of someone casually looking into the ballet world.

I think what fascinates me most about ballet is the odd nature of the performers’ lives — they have to train from a very young age, have short careers, and are dependent on their bodies for their professional life.

There are other careers that are short and dependent on youth and the body — modeling and professional athletics are both careers that most people can’t count on doing forever. But with modeling one doesn’t have to train from age 3 — most models are only discovered around the ages of 14 or 15 — and professional athletes are known for their substantial paychecks. Ballet, on the other hand, requires continued dedication for years, and being a principal ballerina does not have a huge payout — most ballerinas make enough to sustain themselves and maybe obtain some small savings. Most ballerinas retire in their early 30s, if they don’t sustain any major injuries before then.

We describe ballerinas as some of the few examples of people reaching the peak of their physical ability. People go to studios to get a “ballet body,” and we associate elegance, poise, and beauty with being a ballerina.

So this begs the question: Why is ballet still so popular? Why do some many little girls dream of being ballerinas?

This comes from the dance itself — ballet can be so delicate, intricate, and mesmerizing to watch. The dancers make ballet look effortless, like music in physical form. The stories portrayed in ballet are old classics like “The Nutcracker” or “Sleeping Beauty.” These are stories that bring weight and reverence to performances. The dance is also expensive — going to a ballet show is not cheap, and being a ballerina, going through ballet shoes, and getting lessons requires a good amount of cash.

What fascinates me is the incredible amount of mental fortitude required to be a professional ballerina. A dancer’s entire life is centered around the dance — what they eat, when they sleep, everything! And it’s crazy that while so many people might want to be professional ballerinas, only the cream of the crop who are talented and mentally strong enough make it.

So what drives people to ballet? In part it is the wonderful nature of the dance, the immense satisfaction of reaching “perfection,” and delivering a performance so moving and beautiful that it can affect you for the rest of your life. The dedication could also be chalked up to notoriety. To be a principal ballerina is to be in such an acclaimed and respected position that it drives thousands of people to strive for it.

It shows the determination of the human spirit — when evoked enough, people will go through so much, and face whatever odds, to achieve their dreams.

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