How to become a successful ballet dancer

18 June 2009 | By Lorelei Vashti

(Helpful tips from ballet fiction)

1. Get yourself orphaned
Every reader of ballet fiction knows that becoming an orphan is the critical first step in a professional dancing career. The most convenient scenario is if they simply died when you were very young, like Drina’s parents in Jean Estoril’s popular Drina series from the ‘50s and ‘60s. But better still if you can …

2. Get yourself impressively orphaned
The mother of the mute main character of Clair-de-Lune, Cassandra Golds’ exquisite novel from 2004, was a famous ballerina herself and – can you believe it – actually died onstage, while dancing the role of a dying swan. Tragic, yes. But also a pretty cool detail for Clair-de-Lune’s future bio.

3. Get a horrid cousin
The next step after getting yourself orphaned is to obtain a horrid cousin. In Lorna Hill’s beloved Sadler’s Wells series, Veronica is forced to go and live with her aunt, uncle and horrid cousin, Fiona, after her father dies. Horrid cousins are integral personalities for the beginner dancer to be exposed to, as their backstabbing and bitchiness help prepare the novice for the professional dance world.

4. If your parents insist on staying alive, it’s preferable that they try to suffocate your dance dream
Many mothers in real life tend to be hyper-enthusiastic and totally supportive of their children’s dance careers. Ballet fiction demonstrates that these ballet mums are definitely going about it the wrong way. Far more conducive to a successful ballet career is if your mother tries to foil your ambitions at every plot point.

In Edward Stewart’s popular 1979 book Ballerina, one of the main characters, Christine, comes from a rich family whose mother doesn’t consider dance a worthwhile profession. Which of course only makes her daughter all the more determined to do it.

5. Get adopted by someone eccentric
If you’ve followed Steps 1 and 2 correctly and lost both your parents in a most moving way, you’ll definitely be in the market for an eccentric guardian. This could be an aunt or uncle, but it’s better if you can find an eccentric archaeologist to adopt you, as exemplified most charmingly in Noel Streatfeild’s 1936 favourite, Ballet Shoes.

6. Avoid getting dramatically murdered
Once you finally succeed in joining a professional ballet company, expect to become entangled in criminal intrigue, as per the highly popular ballet crime spoofs of the ‘30s and ‘40s written by Carol Brahms and SJ Simon.

The first in the series, A Bullet in the Ballet, opens during a performance of Petroushka with the main dancer being shot, followed swiftly by the murder of his replacement. It goes without saying that surviving such professional mishaps are crucial if you expect to have a long and rewarding dance career.