Degrees of Ballet Exertion

A few months ago one of my fellow adults was commenting on the sweaty state of some of us others. She noted that she rarely sweats. Someone (may have been the teacher, actually) said, “Well, in order to sweat, one must exert oneself.” Sounds mean, but in the atmosphere of our class it simply became the next inside joke.

“Oh my, So-and-So, is that sweat? You must really be exerting yourself today!”

“Oh wow, you’re really sweaty… if I exerted myself I bet I’d be sweaty, too.”

And so on…

So here, for your reading pleasure, is Rori’s Sweat-Based Guide to Ballet Exertion. For these purposes I have assumed that the environment is a ballet studio in, say, spring or fall, thus no a/c or heat is running and the studio is around 70F (for the US people… around 21C for the rest of the world).

Not Exerting Oneself at All: Warm-up attire stays on throughout barre and perhaps through the entire class (pretty much only happens if not actually participating in class)

Low Exertion: The shrug comes off around rond de jambes, the legwarmers stay on throughout barre, maybe into centre (rare)

Normal Exertion: Shrug comes off between pliés and battements tendus, legwarmers are tossed after rond de jambes, mild under-boob sweat.

High Level of Exertion: Shrug is avoided entirely or tossed in between sides on pliés. Legwarmers are tossed after battements tendus. By rond de jambes there is a waterfall down your back. Leo ends up mostly soaked front and back.

Getting One’s Ass Kicked: Shrug? Legwarmers? When you see this teacher you know to not even bother and simply make sure you bring a large bottle of very cold water with you to the barre. Waterfall down back starts during battements tendus. By rond de jambes your entire body is shaking. By barre adage (if not sooner) sweat is beading up on your forearms. Mascara has started to melt into your eyes making the rest of class blurry (really do need to start investing in waterproof mascara). By the end of barre you sound as though you are having an asthma attack even though you don’t have asthma. At centre you find your ears becoming blocked (maybe this only happens to me). After petit allegro you feel lightheaded. And after class you contemplate whether it is absolutely necessary to wear clothes in public, then realize that if you don’t put clothes on over the nasty wet dancewear you will soak the upholstery in your car so concede to a t-shirt and jeans (but say “no way!” to the fleece jacket you wore in!), get in the car, blast the fan, drive with the windows open, and then get home and find you have to have a stern talking-to with yourself before going in to convince yourself that, because you are a dancer, no, you do not have a good excuse to take the elevator up to your condo, you must walk up the two flights of stairs. You then pause between the two flights to rest while pretending that you are really just stopping to let your neighbor with the two full garbage bags pass by unimpeded. Make cup of coffee to keep self awake in the shower.

Guess which level I experienced this morning? Phew!

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8 thoughts on “Degrees of Ballet Exertion

  1. I just LOVE this post!
    But don’t you feel proud of having experienced the last level of exertion? It’s amazing!

    As regards me, I’m always between High Level of Exertion and Getting my Ass Kicked. This is a problem when I leave my bottle of cold water at home and then I feel dehydrated or when I have a flamenco class right after ballet. It is horrible, because I’m so sweaty and my legs are shaking so much that I can’t stamp hard on my heels. I think my teacher (of both disciplines) finds it funny, lol.

    • roriroars says:

      Thank you! And yes, I feel great after the really ass-kicking classes… maybe not physically, but emotionally it’s a great feeling to survive those classes!

      I know what you mean about having to go to other dance classes after ballet. I do that two nights a week (one hip-hop and the other lyrical) and it is a little tough to get through some days!

  2. Acacia says:

    That scale would never work for me because I come from sweaty people. Halfway through barre I am wet and at the end of class I am at ass-kicking sweat level without having my ass kicked. Tall bottles of water and face towels are required equipment. Nice to know I’m exerting myself.

    • roriroars says:

      It always amazes me that some people don’t seem to sweat at all. I mean, even if I’m not working THAT hard I’m still sweating. I see these people wearing long pants and long-sleeved t-shirts over their tights/leo for the entire class and I wonder how they don’t pass out of heat exhaustion! I bring t-shirts to class only so I can later use them to sop up the sweat dripping off my face!

  3. Vanessa says:

    Works for me too! Usually getting my ass kicked during classical, followed by a high leveled exertion jazz class, where strangely enough I cool down a bit. Now maybe if I could learn to actually keep breathing during the centre excercises, I am sure that could help the light and red-headedness and out-of-breath-adult-needs-to-do-more-cardio look. Contemporary usually gets me stuck at normal to high exertion, probably because we are less advanced and need to decompose the combinations more. To be noted, two thirds of our class are beginning teens who have no or little exertion, except for their tongues going blablabla! All serieus exertion seems to be done by the adults.

    • roriroars says:

      Haha! We actually have the opposite… a few adults whose exertion is largely blahblahblah while the teens are busting their butts!

      I often find myself cooling down in my other classes, too! You’d think hip-hop would cause more exertion, but usually I feel like we do a lot of standing around and learning combinations. In lyrical we usually spend the first half of class shooting the breeze… oh well, it’s a relaxing outlet. And I love the dancing we do eventually get around to in that class!

  4. Kaija says:

    I like the High Level of Exertion and Ass Kicking as well! And I am a person who just sweats a LOT! I always end up with wet spots in the middle of my back, on my stomach, and between my boobs (arrrgggh, boob sweat…it just pools there in the middle!). I wear a lot of black as a result because it masks the look.

    Congrats on your pointe audition and Nut roles! 🙂

    • roriroars says:

      Thank you! I’m very excited about Nut!

      And yes, boob sweat is bad, although it’s become such a part of ballet that I don’t even care since most of us are sporting those stains! It becomes more of a badge of honor. Still… I have a beautiful light blue leotard that I don’t dare wear very much because of how badly it shows sweat!

      What’s even more gross? When you have to go to the bathroom during class and then have to pull the wet tights and leotard back on… ewwww!!!

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