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Letter to the Editor in response to “Please don't Spit”


Correspondence to:
Juliet Burnett, The Australian Ballet

The athleticism and physical exertion of football has been compared to that of ballet in various informal and formal studies which have found footballers and ballet dancers to indeed be comparable in terms of their athleticism, fitness and exertion. In fact, in the past footballers have been encouraged to take up some ballet training to strengthen their muscles.

There are obvious differences between the two, but for me the one that is most important is that while footballers can huff and puff and bend over with their hands on their knees catching breath, ballet dancers have to make ballet look effortless. Yes, we are huffing and puffing, but years of training are designed to mask the dancer's effort and fatigue.

So despite powering through a relentless ten-minute grand pas de deux at the end of a three-hour ballet, as the male dancer whips around in a triple pirouette you may see a shower of sweat radiate from his head like a sprinkler in the garden, but you will not see him, despite the energy and exertion of the last few hours, spit side-stage. He will however wipe his sweat with a towel, take a large swig from his water bottle, and catch his breath in a decidedly more dignified manner than a footballer might.

Sure, we may be indoors, which doesn't lend itself to spitting in the way a lovely grassy footy field does, but if dancers demonstrate comparable (arguably higher) levels of exertion to footballers, this spitting parade could be proven as merely being a pretty vulgar habit (some of our footy-fan male dancers agree).

Perhaps it should be compulsory for footballers to take up rigorous ballet training, if not for the strengthening, then to brush up on their etiquette?