On Monday, as part of the Joburg City Festival, I attended a rehearsal at the South African Mzansi Ballet in Braamfontein.

I know nothing about ballet — in fact I’ve never attended a ballet performance before. I was excited to get a behind-the-scenes look and learn a few things.

The ballet studio is a beautiful, airy space with great light. Taking photos there was a joyful experience. I was sad when the one-hour rehearsal came to an end.

Barre training

Ballet warm-up.

Ballerina instagram

So pretty. Everything about ballet is pretty.

So, here is what I learned about ballet:

1) Ballet dancers still wear leg warmers. And leg warmers are still cool.

For those of you who are too young to know what I’m talking about, leg warmers were a fashion trend in the 1980s. Ballet dancers are still wearing them, and they look so cool.

Ballerina toes

Pink leg warmers.

Striped legwarmers

Striped leg warmers — my favorites.

In fact, ballet dancers can make any article of clothing look cool. They would look cool in burlap sacks.

2) “Pointe” ballet shoes are not pointy.

Toe shoes

I never knew that pointe shoes were flat at the toes. Although of course it makes perfect sense. How else would ballet dancers be able to balance on their toes? Man, these shoes look painful though. The dancers are constantly pausing between exercises to take off their shoes, adjust them, apply bandaging, re-wrap ankles, etc. Brutal.

One foot

A dancer demonstrates the need for pointe shoes.

3) Not every ballet dancer is a ballerina.

Dancing silhouettes

This woman is definitely a ballet dancer. But she may or may not be a ballerina.

While watching the rehearsal, I became curious about the hierarchy of the dancers. Some dancers clearly have a higher status than others. I did some research when I got home.

According to Wikipedia: “In Italian, a ballerina is a title used to describe a woman who is a professional ballet dancer, usually holding a principal title within a ballet company.”

Ballerina

I think this dancer is a ballerina. She carried herself very regally and seemed to be following a different routine from everyone else.

4) A guy ballerina is a ballerino.

Boy ballerina

This is not a ballerina.

While watching the rehearsal, I also became curious about what male ballet dancers are called. Although male ballet dancers are definitely not called ballerinas, there seems to be a lack of consensus on what they are called.

I googled “What is a male ballerina called?” and discovered a hilarious video on the subject from ehow.com.

A website called chacha.com provides the following answer: “[A male ballerina is called] a ‘premier danseur’, although a ballerino is grammatically if not balletically correct for a male ballerina.”

But Wikipedia says outright that the male equivalent of a ballerina is a ballerino. I think ballerino is a bad-ass word so I’m sticking with that.

Speaking of which…

5) Ballerinos are hot.

I don’t think this item requires any elaboration.

I’m going to include an inappropriate photo now. Consider yourselves warned.

Ballerino

I don’t mean to objectify ballerinos. I’m just sayin’. This is one of the things I learned.

The South African Mzansi Ballet is hosting two more Joburg City Festival events at the studio, at 7:00 p.m. both tonight and tomorrow night. Email edgar@samzansiballet.com or call (011) 877 6893 for details.

Also, the ballet company is gearing up for a big performance of Cinderella, which runs from 13-29 September. Visit the Joburg Theatre website to book tickets.

Browse all of my Joburg City Festival posts.

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