As Prince Siegfried twirls, leaps, lands, and twirls again, the effort he’s putting into the Swan Lake choreography is noticeable.
When he finishes another number, this one a solo, he crosses the stage to exit and as the audience remains completely silent his panting breath can be heard and the sweat dripping down his face can be seen though he is smiling and completely in character.
It is clear that these dancers are phenomenal athletes, training their bodies to move with precision and grace.
“We train just as hard as athletes, no doubt,” dancer Holly Webb told the Toronto Observer after the dress rehearsal Thursday afternoon.
“We put in just as many hours, our body endures the same physical activity and pain, but when we perform it gives off a different feeling. It’s more about art and show, and there’s no prize at the end.
“The prize is the feeling that it gives us dancers.”
Like athletes, these dancers have to exercise and diet properly to be able to perform in peak physical condition.
They’re also trying to outperform other dancers as they audition for roles, much like athletes jostling at practice or training camp trying to secure minutes during for the season or even just a place on the team.
“We’re alike in training,” said dancer Hailey Warrington.
“Everybody has different muscles for their different sports and dancers in my opinion train harder than [athletes] because we’re at the studio right from after school all the way until nine or 10 at night and we’re dancing the whole time, so we have a lot of training.”
The training these dancers go though will help them with the long season ahead, as they tour Swan Lake across Canada performing at least once a week and often more frequently.
Ballet Jörgen Canada will celebrate its 25th anniversary with the premier of Tchaikovsky’s masterpiece Swan Lake, Friday at the Flato Markham Theatre, created by Bengt Jörgen, one of Canada’s most recognized classical ballet choreographers.
The performance is a Canadian retelling of the traditional story of tragic love that was first performed in Moscow in 1877.
It will tour the country starting in Markham and traveling through Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, then back to Ontario before finishing with shows in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick at the end of April 2013.
“It’s definitely harder [than some sports] because you have to have your stamina up and you’re always working hard to get going,” said dancer Emma Stanbridge.
When compared to ice dancing, synchronized swimming, or rhythmic gymnastics, Stanbridge believes ballet could be in the Olympics: “because it’s a hard sport and you work as hard as anyone else that does sports.
“You’re dancing in front of everyone so it’s like presenting, like in [synchronized] swimming [at the Olympics] they do presentations all the time, but this is just on a stage so it’s different.”
Just as athletes raise their level of competition when the music starts and the lights go on, dancers at the ballet turn up their performance when they know there’s an audience watching.
“We definitely work harder when there’s people watching and we still do the same things that we do in the studio, but we definitely add more character,” said Warrington.
With extensive training and commitment, carefully honed skills, movement dependant on muscle memory, and an extensive traveling schedule, it’s not hard to see why these dancers feel ballet belongs in the realm of sports — or above it.