Thursday, 27 May 2010

BALLET FACTS @ English National Ballet

Have you ever wondered what it takes to keep a ballet company on it's toes, how many hours they dance in a year, how many miles of shoe ribbon they use or how many pirouttes there are in The Nutcracker ? 

Wonder no more...
  • English National Ballet has 64 dancers from 20 countries

  • The dancers' day starts at 10.30am with ballet class and they can be in the theatre as late as 11pm after a long performance such as Romeo & Juliet or Swan Lake. They dance for an average of 2032 hours a year.

  • In the pas de deux in The Nutcracker, the Sugar Plum Fairy performs 62 pirouettes (including 16 "fouettés" turning on one leg) and 11 jumps.

  • Each female dancer gets an allowance of up to 10 pairs of pointe shoes per month, costing the Company more than £100,000 per year.

  • The dancers use pinky-white make-up to matt their shoes and to keep them looking clean. They use the same make-up on their bodies to achieve the white, ethereal look required for Swan Lake or Giselle.

  • Every time a dancer jumps on pointe, three times her body weight is carried on the tip of her big toe.

  • One dancer may take 3 or 4 roles in each ballet - that means changing costume, hair, make-up and shoes each time. That's approximately 24 transformations per performance week. Madonna would be proud!

  • Every step of every ballet is recorded using Benesh notation - a method of drawing the movements on a five-line music stave, so that it can be recreated exactly as first intended with new dancers in the future.

  • Because many of the costumes are so intricate and delicate, it is impossible to wash them between performances. Such costumes are hung to air between shows and sprayed all over with freshener.

  • The Company gives an average of 140 performances per year.

  • English National Ballet's dancers used more than 4992 pairs of pointe shoes last year.

  • Every female dancer has to learn to sew to make sure their shoes are supported correctly with ribbon and elastic.

  • ENB have a shoe mistress who must measure each dancer's feet (in up to 26 places) to ensure they are wearing the correct type of ballet shoes and in performance, the shoe mistress dyes the shoes to exactly match the costume of each dancer.

  • A dancer playing the title role in The Sleeping Beauty might use up to three pairs of shoes for one performance!


  1. I am the shoe mistress for English National Ballet. and have been for the last 25 years....The boys dont sew their shoes I do. and I dye all the shoes to match the costumes. We give the girls 100 metres of Pointe shoe ribbon a yearand as ther are 36 girls thats 3600 metres of ribbon.

  2. ouch, my toes! I takes so much to get up there, to be brave and keep a company going!!!!

  3. Fascinating facts! Just what we wanted to know!

  4. This is so interesting! I never thought about it, but it makes sense that the outfits can't be washed. Great post!


  5. Wonderful facts! I had so much fun reading this!

  6. Very interesting information. :) Marcie

  7. I did not know that about Benesh notation. I always wondered how the Ballet Master / Mistress was recording the tens of thousands of steps in a ballet.

    All of this activity to produce ballets is very interesting.

  8. wow ,,
    awesome *.* .
    wonderful facts !

  9. My gosh what a great site. I will need to show my 11 year-old daughter who has been dancing since she was 3...just passed her ceccheti (sp?) Grade 3 exam.
    Anyhow, I am the director of costume at the Kingston School of Dance here and will forward your blog on to whoever will listen. TX

  10. Loving the blog


  11. Ces't La Vie - way !

    Julie Heggie - thank you

    pve design - I know what you mean

    Anne - that's great to hear ! thank you

    Valerie - yes it's true - and there are plenty of tales to tell about costumes too !

    Regan - thank you, really pleased you enjoyed it

    Marcie - thank you

    balletomane1 - stay tuned !

    Rebecca Clairine - thank you

    Nadine2point0 - hello and thank you ! I hope you continue to enjoy (and with your daughter !)

    Front Row Mode - too kind; thank you


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