ByCarlos Rosario Gonzalez, writer at
This Earth's Sorcerer Supreme. I'm currently stuck in the Matrix and can't get out. I also write. | Twitter: @Lonelez
Carlos Rosario Gonzalez

There's no artistic dance form more physically intense than ballet. Like former-ballet-dancer-turned-actor Jean-Claude Van Damme once said: "If you can survive a ballet workout, you can survive a workout in any other sport." With extraordinary skills, ballet dancers bring to life the rhythm of music, but even more extraordinary is when these dancers are able to translate their talent to the big screen.

Some say, "just 'cause you can dance, doesn't mean you can act," but these former ballet dancers are living proof of the contrary. Here are seven actresses that dominated the ballet stage before becoming stars.

1. Zoe Saldana

'Colombiana' [Credit: TriStar]
'Colombiana' [Credit: TriStar]

Before her breakout performance in James Cameron's Avatar, was mostly known for her dancing skills. She attended the ECOS Espacio de Danza academy in the Dominican Republic and discovered that among the various forms of dance, ballet was her favorite. After landing several roles in theater, Saldana made her Hollywood debut in 2000's Center Stage where she played, handily enough, a star ballerina.

While she is no longer dancing as often as before, with her having taken on role of the dance-hating Gamora in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she recently starred in Sia's new music video for "Free Me," where she put on the ballet shoes again.

2. Alicia Vikander

'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' [Credit: Warner Bros.]
'The Man from U.N.C.L.E.' [Credit: Warner Bros.]

She will soon star as Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot, but before became a household name in Hollywood, she was a ballet virtuoso. Born in Sweden, Vikander trained as a ballet dancer at the Royal Swedish Ballet School and later in New York at the School of American Ballet.

Though she hasn't starred in a role as a dancer, her talent as an actress is tremendous. In 2016, Vikander won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in The Danish Girl. One of her most critically-acclaimed films is Alex Garland's Ex Machina, where she transfixed audiences as the humanoid A.I. Ava. Producers on the film discussed how Vikander's experience as a dancer really helped with her movements as an android and made her performance a memorable one.

3. Rebecca Ferguson

'Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation' [Credit: Paramount]
'Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation' [Credit: Paramount]

Now most known for her role as Ilsa Faust in Mission: Impossible–Rogue Nation and TV series The White Queen, practiced and taught ballet from an early age, along with other forms of dance. Before launching her Hollywood career, she used to teach tango in a dance company in Sweden. Much like ballet helping Vikander in her roles, Ferguson claims tango is great "if you want to do action scenes."

More recently, Ferguson starred in the space-thriller, Life, alongside Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal and appeared in the thriller adaptation of the novel The Girl on the Train. Next year will find her reprising her role as Isla Faust in Mission: Impossible 6.

4. Penelope Cruz

'Zoolander 2' [Credit: Paramount]
'Zoolander 2' [Credit: Paramount]

Before her acting success, was a remarkable ballet dancer. Cruz studied classical ballet for nine years and trained as a ballerina at Argentine actress Cristina Rota's New York School of Drama.

Today, she's one of our most sought after actresses. After starring in critically-acclaimed films such as Pedro Almodóvar's Volver and Cameron Crowe's Vanilla Sky, Cruz became the first Spanish actress in history to win an Oscar for acting for her performance in Woody Allen's Vicky Cristina Barcelona.

Showing she can do television as well as movies, Cruz will next be seen starring as Donatella Versace in the upcoming season of American Crime Story. She'll also be part of the celebrated cast of the upcoming remake of Murder on the Orient Express.

5. Amy Adams

'Nocturnal Animals' [Credit: Focus Features]
'Nocturnal Animals' [Credit: Focus Features]

Before becoming one of our generation's most phenomenal actresses, had ambitions of becoming a professional ballerina. During her high school years she trained at the David Taylor Dance company and after moving to Atlanta some time later, she danced in dinner theater productions. Her career trajectory changed, however, when she moved to LA and landed the role of Leslie Miller in 1999's Drop Dead Gorgeous.

Adams is a six-time Oscar nominee and has won two Golden Globes for Best Actress for her performances in American Hustle and Big Eyes. To genre fans, she's known for her role as Lois Lane in Warner Bros.' DC Extended Universe, along with Arrival and Her.

6. Michelle Yeoh

'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny' [Credit: Netflix]
'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon: Sword of Destiny' [Credit: Netflix]

You know her from Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Netflix's Marco Polo, but did you know used to be a ballerina? Before Yeoh stepped into the acting scene she studied at the Royal Academy of Dance in London. After suffering an injury, she switched her endeavors to acting.

Yeoh became an acclaimed actress in Hong Kong during the '90s. After appearing in the 1997 James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies, she was sought after by the big Hollywood studios and went on to star in the aforementioned Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon which was a global hit.

In 2016, Yeoh had prominent roles in Mechanic: Resurrection and Morgan. This year she made her MCU debut in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 as Aleta Ogord, one of the members of the original Guardians of the Galaxy from the comics. She will also appear in the upcoming Star Trek: Discovery as Captain Lorca.

7. Charlize Theron

'The Fate of the Furious' [Credit: Universal]
'The Fate of the Furious' [Credit: Universal]

may be today's top female action star, appearing in movies like The Fate of the Furious and Mad Max: Fury Road, but during her late teens she attended the Joffrey Ballet School in New York as a dancer. After suffering a knee injury, Theron moved to Los Angeles to focus on a career in acting.

She made her Hollywood debut in the Miramax horror film Children of the Corn III: Urban Harvest and later garnered much praise for her performance in 1997's The Devil's Advocate and 2003's The Italian Job. It was in 2003 that Theron also won her first Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in Monster, directed by Wonder Woman's Patty Jenkins.

If you want to see her using her dancer's grace to kick some ass, you can catch her in this summer's upcoming action thriller Atomic Blonde, where she'll play special agent Lorraine Broughton. Coincidentally, Sofia Boutella, who also got her start as a ballet dancer, will feature in the flick as well.

Who did we miss on our list? Let us know in the comments below!

[Sources: The Telegraph 1, 2, Irish Examiner, Zoe Saldana]


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