Can you imagine working out nine hours a day? Me neither. But that's what professional ballerinas do Monday through Friday, in addition to strength training, conditioning and technique workshops. Whoa. We got a glimpse of the life of a dancer in the first season of Breaking Pointe, a reality series that follows a group of dancers at Ballet West, a professional ballet company in Salt Lake City, Utah. To kick off the start of the second season on the CW, we chatted with Allison DeBona, one of the dancers featured on the show about what it takes to become a professional dancer and what putting your life on TV is really like.
How did you get started dancing?
When I was three years old, my mom put me in gymnastics and dancing. I gravitated more toward dancing and that was that!
Was there ever a point that you got sick of it?
Yes, I actually quit for a while from 8th grade until junior year of high school.
Wow, that's a big gap. How did you get back into the scene?
I had always loved ballet and the reasons I walked away from it wasn’t because I didn’t like it, I just had a lot of other stuff going on at that moment. When I went back I was just really determined. I did go to college though–most ballet dancers who try to go professional do it right after high school. My parents and I discussed it and we thought it was best if I went to college since I had taken so much time off. I went to Indiana University and they have a ballet program so I worked hard there and then got a job at 24 years old at Ballet West, which is pretty late age-wise for a ballerina.
What's your average day like?
We dance from 10 a.m.-7 p.m., Monday through Friday. We start each day with an hour and a half technique class and then a six-hour rehearsal for whatever show we are working on at the time. And that means six hours. We take a lunch break but that’s really it.
Do you cross train?
I like to run and lift weights; it’s a form of stress relief for me. A lot of people do yoga or rock climbing but everyone at the company stays pretty active. Taking two days completely off can set us back if we aren't working out in some form.
What do you think is the most physical aspect of dancing?
I'd say perfecting the technique, which you constantly have to work on, and then your stamina. We just finished performing a ballet called Jewels and there are times when your solo is 10-minutes of dancing or jumping for 20 minutes straight. If you’re tired it doesn’t matter how good your technique is, so stamina is definitely important. Plus, every time you learn a new ballet it eventually ends and you have to learn a whole new routine!
Have you ever had any serious injuries?
Only one when I was 18–I tore where my calf and Achilles meet. I healed really well and don’t feel any residual pain. No surgery thankfully, just a boot for a few months so I feel very lucky!
What is it like to put yourself on a reality show?
The first season was a huge learning curve. You can never really prepare yourself for something like this. Filming this season is a lot easier because we know the ropes now. We know when to say no and when we are OK with doing something that the producers ask about. In the first season we were all very guarded, which left a lot of things open for speculation, so this season we learned to just tell it how it is so there is no room for questions.
What's the most common myth about ballet that bothers you?
Definitely anything about our eating habits, or lack thereof. You can’t dance for eight hours a day without a healthy diet. All of us are so smart about what we eat. I personally don’t eat fried foods but other than that I really don’t restrict myself. And I drink a ton of protein shakes after class, during the day, before performing–literally all the time.