Competitions, feats of strength and talent along with repetitive use injuries are all pretty common in the sports world. They also make up part of the world of dance and competitive dance, something that some still don’t consider to be a sport.
For those who still don’t see something as delicate and feminine as ballet a sport, Emily Yatsynovich cares to disagree. Spending five days a week at two hours each of those days dancing as well as travelling nationally in competitions, this local ballet dancer from the Ashlei Ballet School works extremely hard to make everything look effortless.
“I’ve been dancing since I was three,” said Yatsynovich. Beginning in ballroom dancing she moved to ballet at nine and slowly fell in love with the challenge and movement of dance.
“There’s always something you can work on,” she said. “I like the physical challenge, too.”
Although she got an early start to some parts of the ballet world having begun her career at a Russian ballet school in Toronto, she continues to push her limits and progress after having moved to Pictou County. Although she also takes contemporary dance classes, ballet is her specialty. Yatsynovich enjoys the mood and movement of dancing and the expression that can be shown through dance and the accompanying music.
“There’s different moods of how you want to express yourself,” she said. Happy and lively music, as well as slower and more solemn or sad music, are just some of the basics. “I like slower dancing, I guess, because it takes a lot of control, but sometimes I like the faster style too.”
Although the dancers on stage and screen make the elegant dance look so easy, especially on pointe, there is a lot more to ballet than jumping and moving around the stage. Yatsynovich explains that to make the dance look so effortless and graceful there is a lot of control and hours put into perfecting each and every movement right down to how pointed your foot is and the angle of your hips.
“Everyone thinks ballet is super easy and I used to take offence to that,” she said. “I used to argue with people that (ballet) is a sport because of its physical demands.”
Like any sport, many of those who take part end up with injuries. Yatsynovich shared that if you are standing on your toes for so long, eventually even if your bones or something in your body is not lined up perfectly you will end up with something wrong. Because of the intensive schedules, overuse injuries are also common.
“I don’t know one dancer here without tendinitis,” she said.
Yatsynovich has just passed her latest ballet exam and has reached the highest level she can achieve before getting into instructing or going to dance professionally. She is not interested in dance as a career though because of the high standards and stress in the industry, although choreography is something that interests her. Upcoming she has two dance competitions that she will compete in nationally against other dancers who will be vying for a career in the ballet industry. But Yatsynovich is just enjoying herself with the sport for now.
Having starting dancing pointe at age 12, the now-16 year old has some experience in one of the harder areas of ballet as well. She has a love-hate relationship with the style of dance though because of the pain it can cause.
“It makes some stuff more fun to do but it makes most stuff harder,” she said. Despite the hard stuff and all that comes with making each and every dance perfect, Yatsynovich maintains that she still very much loves the sport.
“Just putting the motion onto the dancing… because there’s steps and you can put them together… but being able to dance the piece and not just do the steps,” is Yatsynovich’s favourite part. “You have to be thinking about so many things at once and if you forget about one thing it can throw you off.”
It may be a lot to do at once but Yatsynovich shared that sometimes she gets on stage and everything turns to a blur. Doing each step, counting the music and paying attention to your body position becomes an escape.
And of course, you can’t think of ballet without thinking of how flexible and nimble dancers can be while performing but all that flexibility is built up as well as the skills.
“We have to stretch after we do every exercise because our muscles tighten up,” she said. “I try to stretch after every class to be able to walk the next day.”