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The Sarasota Ballet is back on stage with the women dancing on their toes, or on pointe and sometimes on their toes moving in very quick, small steps, or bourree, across the stage. While ballet originated in Italy in the 1500s, the art form migrated to France and over time French became codified as the vocabulary of ballet everywhere.

The dancing may look effortless, but ballet dancers are also finely tuned athletes. They practice during the day and perform at night, a rigorous schedule that calls for strength and endurance. Unlike other athletes who can throw themselves across the finish line of a race, or somersault into the end zone, dancers have to look and perform beautifully until the end of the piece.

To become a refined and accomplished dancer is extremely hard work. In fact, recent research determined that dancers have the most physically demanding job of all in the U.S., ahead of athletes, aerobics instructors, laborers and other demanding occupations. Dancers are excellent employees because they are always on time, rarely miss a day at work, and have endless energy.

That's why I greatly admire a well-known member of Arts Advocates, not only for her dedication to the arts, but for her skills as a ballet dancer in the early days of her career. Can you guess who this is? (Answer at bottom).

The Five Positions

It isn't necessary to know all this, of course, to enjoy the exhilarating experience of a performance. But understanding the basics can lead to a deeper appreciation for this art form.

Classic ballet training is based on five basic positions. (courtesy Wikipedia)

First position: heels together, toes pointing outward
Second position: feet point in opposite directions; heels spaced approximately 12 inches apart.
Third position: One foot placed in front of the other, heel of front foot near the arch.
Closed fourth position: heel of each foot overlapping the toe of the other foot.
Opened fourth position: heels lined up, one directly in front of the other.

Dancers practice these positions at barre (a stationery handrail for support) class every day. They are the foundation of classical training.

Who is She?

The photo above is of Donna Maytham, Past President of Arts Advocates, when she danced with the Richmond Ballet, which she founded. And here she is now with Ricardo Rhodes, a Principal dancer with the Sarasota Ballet, at the after party following a recent performance of the company.

Brava, Donna!