The big issue; Men in ballet.

by Henrik on February 2, 2010

So, here comes that post.. The one on men in ballet, and the obstacles we have to face (other than that goddamned technique..). To my joy, I found quite a few other bloggers writing on just this cause, and rather to repeat them, I’ll guide you to them. But first, a story.

Two young boys learning ballet at the Vaganova Ballet Academy

Young boys in ballet class

Once, there was a boy. He was like all other boys, I guess, unable to sit still for very long, constantly looking for somewhere to get out all that energy. This boy played football with his friends, climbed trees (and fell down), went skiing and danced ballet.

Ballet, you said? Weird kid, right? One of those who grows up to be a sassy guy that wears tights and stays with the girls, right?
Boys that do ballet meets prejudgement from early on. From other kids, from adults, even sometimes from their own parents. Ballet? What kind of work is that?

Well, it’s a shame. For so many reasons! Can you imagine someone telling Brad Pitt not to take acting classes, or Obama that black people shouldn’t go to college? And can you imagine if they would listen to them? Well, ballet loses a lot of talent to prejudgement. Boys that wants to do ballet are being met by a wall of ignorance, and they have to fight it a long time.

But let’s get back to the boy in our story – me. I had a hard time the first years of school. Kids can be cruel! And it doesn’t help when the teachers, if not supporting the bullies, at least understands why they act like they do. Luckily for me, I had parents that supported me 100%. I had the will to do ballet, no matter what, and I had ballet masters that saw my problems, and gave me role-models and idols to compete with the picture the other kids drew of a male dancer. But not everyone has that.

Yes, it is different. We are different. We do pirouettes, wear dancebelts and care about how our feet looks like in the mirror. But does it mean that you have the right to judge us? To generalize? The people teaching kids that ballet is for girls and male dancers are weird, feminine and has strange sexual preferences, how much do they really know about us?
If I can achieve anything by this blog, I hope it will be to enlighten you, dear readers, on the whole world of ballet. It’s about time we come out from our studios, our stages, and show ourselves to the world. If people would know more about ballet, they would think differently on us doing it as well. Particularly the men.

I strongly advise you to read the following posts. This time, not only if you’re interested. Just read them. For all the boys out there, that want to do something a little different from the others! Let’s not kill their dreams before they get a chance to fulfill them!

What we're aiming for. On the pic: Carlos Acosta

Can boys dance? at Balletformen.com

Challenging gender stereotypes in ballet, written by Catherine at 4dancers, at another interesting blog, my son can dance.

Also check out this article written by the famous dancer Sascha Radetsky for Newsweek.com

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

David February 4, 2010 at 8:36 am

Love the blog, love the post. It is true, it is time for us to show the world what we do.

Reply

Henrik February 4, 2010 at 1:38 pm

Thanks, David! :) I believe it is – although the two of us has already started ;)

Reply

Anonymous February 6, 2010 at 2:00 pm

More power to you guys! I hate predjudice against guys who dance, it must get pretty annoying having to explain yourselves all the time I love ballet & I always get dumb comments about ballet from guys I date.

Reply

Henrik February 6, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Yes, it can be hard, especially if you don't have anyone to back you up and tell you the other side of the story.
I hope men that want to dance, reading blogs like Davids and my own can feel that there are more people like you out there!
Thanks for commenting!

Anyone feel free to add your opinions, additions or whatever to my post, I'd love a little discussion going! You can also use the discussion-forum on Tights and Tiaras page on facebook, found here

Reply

Nichelle February 9, 2010 at 3:19 am

Hi! I found you through 4dancers and I'm excited to see your blog. If you don't mind I'd like to share a post from Dance Advantage I did a while back. I would love your comments on the topic – encouraging boys to dance.
http://danceadvantage.net/2008/04/26/encouraging-boys-to-dance/

Reply

Henrik February 9, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Will do! thanks for reading my blog, and please check back for more :)
H

Reply

David D August 30, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Aww. There is another David here. I shall differentiate myself as David D, plus my blog address. I am the one who takes adult ballet classes but never took them as a child.

Before I ever heard about ballet, I was into weightlifting. Not bodybuilding as I never wanted to be monstrously large or veiny. But I did pack on some muscle. I am more muscular in my upper body than any professional ballet dancers. (But I am working to lose some of that upper body muscle as I don’t think that largeness compliments a ballet lines.)

So, I have told a few trusted men and women that I take ballet. I also wear my New York City Ballet and Rochester City Ballet t-shirts to the gym, the bookstore, the mall, etc. I get many odd looks. I enjoy the odd looks because I am challenging men’s views of what a male should and should not do. No men ever criticize me or laugh because … I could crush them with one swoop of my mighty paw. HA HA.

Also … we have this little (yeah right little) problem with obesity in America. Extreme obesity, in fact. So, if any man were to criticize me, he would probably be fat and I could point out that ballet would help him reduce the size of his gut so that he could see his own penis. (Okay, I am not THAT rude but it could be interesting to say that.)

I think of ballet men and woman as being as fit as olympic gymnasts. They can do the most amazing things and look glorious while doing it. I want that for me and I shall have that. So, I don’t let the macho football / basketball / baseball crowd bother me.

I will say that although the women in the adult ballet classes have been polite to me, they have not really tried to become my friend or include me in their social gatherings. Since I am almost always the only man in the adult classes, this makes it very lonely and it is harder to be motivated.

Reply

Henrik August 31, 2010 at 3:08 pm

It’s sad that the situation is still like this so many places in the world. Although I would have ENJOYED listening to you answering some guy that ballet would make him re-discover his penis, I’m afraid this problem goes beyond being able to reply some punchline when criticized.
I can’t find it now, but there was this test not so long ago testing a professional ballet dancers general health, strength and condition up against a olympic swimmer. Guess who won? That’s how hard ballet is!
What describes the problem in your comment, is really that even the girls that do ballet with you – who should know and appreciate the strength and guts it takes for a man to put on those tights and do ballet, even those ladies are sceptic, or at least not too inviting against male dancers. It’s crazy, really. The problem is fear, fear of what they don’t know, fear of others reaction, and, with their f%+”kd up view of a male that does ballet, they are probably wondering about what kind of wierdo you are – it’s sad.
Sounds like you have a strong mind, though, and know what you want! That is great! Keep on doing what you want, and you will have your reward. The sceptic people might stay sceptic, but then, who gained something, and who is just lost? ;)
H

Reply

Adult Beginner October 7, 2010 at 10:52 pm

This reminds me of some silly cheerleader movie I was watching once where the football guys are making fun of the male cheerleader, but then they see him helping the hot girls with their hamstring stretches. And then they’re like, ‘Oh. That guy’s onto something.’
But, in all seriousness, male ballet teachers are well respected by the general public, and if one stops and thinks, it’s obvious that male ballet instructors don’t spring forth fully formed as teachers, they were dancers first.

Reply

Henrik October 8, 2010 at 8:29 am

I’m just going to say one thing:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=09_81bZdr3s

Check it out, and show it to boys that makes fun of male dancers :D

Reply

Tanner C December 1, 2010 at 6:07 pm

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fRoyRbOl_MM

this guy makes alot of really good points and should make any football player or wresteler who makes fun of male dancers rethink about alot of things they do.

Reply

Henrik December 1, 2010 at 8:52 pm

Oh, yes, I’ve seen this before.. Although fun, (and he definetely has a point) I don’t agree with “pushing”‘ the prejudices over to someone else! I believe ballet and dance can be “legalized” for men – without having to find someone else to make fun of instead.. I would rather focus on all the great (and really quite macho) sides of male ballet dancers to make people understand what a great art-form – or sport if you like (although it’s not..) ballet really is!

Reply

Seryna February 1, 2011 at 5:07 am

I find it ridiculous that this is even an issue because personally, I find male ballet dancers to be extremely attractive. They are perfectly toned due to the nature of their work (great bodies!), often have a great work ethic and sense of discipline from those long hours in classes, rehearsals, etc, not to mention being cultured and sophisticated. What could possibly be wrong with all of that? :)

Reply

Henrik February 1, 2011 at 8:50 am

I know – we’re basically the perfect catch ;)

I guess all the ‘haters’ are just jealous :P

Reply

Mara April 23, 2011 at 8:12 am

If my son had wanted to take ballet lessons I would have feinted with joy!

I still ask him sometimes…you know, just in case ;) He loves to watch it, but he says he doesn’t want to ‘do’ it. And he’s still to young to care about being the ‘perfect catch’. So no living vicariously through him, I guess :P

Reply

Mikkel May 8, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Hei. Tar det på norsk jeg. Elsker det du skriver og ironien du legger til. Jeg har også hatt det tøft i noen år, men det går seg heldigvis til etterhvert. Bor i Stockholm, og blir forhåpentligvis en brukbar danser etter et par år! Fortsett med å skrive, utrolig underholdende, og det kan til å med åpne mine egne øyne iblandt, for denne spesielle verden jeg er på vei inn i!

Reply

Henrik May 8, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Hei Mikkel! Trivelig du liker bloggen min. Jeg proever aa gjoere det interessant og morsomt aa lese om dans, samtidig som jeg oensker aa presentere kunstformen vaar som en mer tilnaermelig, “menneskelig” kunstform heller enn noe opphoeyd og kun for spesielt interesserte.
Hvis du har lyst, setter jeg veldig pris paa om du forteller venner og bekjente om bloggen, saa flere kan finne ut mer om, og lese om dans paa en mer “hverdagslig” maate.
Haaper du skjoenner kommentaren min, jeg har ikke de norske tegnene paa tastaturet mitt :/
Henrik

Reply

Dane Youssef June 30, 2011 at 5:38 am

FOR THE ALMIGHTY MALE… THE BALLET DANSEUR

by Dane Youssef

For me, there really is nothing more inspiring for me that when the men up there are as beautiful as nearly any ballerina.

There was a time when a man up there defying gravity and other physical possibilities was considered wrong, evil. A destruction of one’s manhood.

As a male in ballet meself, it’s always a challenge. Just like nearly all the others, I kept it as secret as government documents. What these people did was nothing short of incredible.

I’ve been taking it for about nine years now. I have danced onstage with our town’s School of Dance and College. As a male who has taken ballet for nearing a whole decade (as I write this), I can honestly say… it is just a little bit harder.

Some things just never change. Like how at that tender age in the beginning, it’s still just a “girl’s only club” and if you’re a boy there at that age, you’re like an intruder. The odd man out.

Maybe all that will change someday, God willing. Hell, us willing. Boys, don’t just cross your fingers. Take arms. Join together, unite and tear down those walls, that barrier that limit us all.

To the pioneers who showed what’s possible with a boy in ballet–Mikhail Baryshnikov, Rudolph Nureyev, Edward Villella, Peter Martins, Patrick Bissell, Ethan Stiefel, Sascha Radetsky, Vladmir Malakov, Peter Schafuss, Nikolaj Hubbe, Alexander Godunov–and that’s just the creme de la creme of the ranks.

My brothers, thank you for paving the way. And to those who are planning to follow in your footsteps… keep it all up. There is no reason to ever lose hope. Keep up the good faith.

All my love, tendus, pirouettes… and Merde. Endless Merde to you all. Those courageous and fearless martyrs who made being a male leaping around in pantyhose to classical music a respectable life pursuit, a noble career goal.

–Your humble brother in arms and tights, Dane Youssef

Reply

Cool on the inside! July 14, 2011 at 4:48 am

Go on youtbe and look up “every teenager ahould see this” it should be the first thing that comes up, it really goes along with wat ur saying!

Loved the story so i think its stupid y people make fun of u. I really love music soo i wanna do something that has music in it!!!

Reply

Jenii August 30, 2011 at 1:12 am

I recently read an interview with Royal Ballet principal Rupert Pennefather and he said he had to change schools because the bullying got so bad and one of his friends had his shins kicked in because of ballet. Considering that it’s amazing any guys do ballet, it saddens me there’s still such prejudice but hopefully you guys who are dancing now can change that for the better! :)

Reply

Henrik August 31, 2011 at 8:19 am

Unfortunately, bullying still is a problem for guys doing ballet. At least in young age (after a while, the girls tend to dig it, and nobody messes with a guy that can lift his girlfriend over his head)… I hope my efforts here at Tights and Tiaras can contribute to making ballet “more cool”, which definitely would be about time :) Glad to hear you enjoy my site, and men dancing :) See you ’round the blog?!

Reply

Matthew February 5, 2012 at 12:20 pm

Currently male ballet dancers are shaped in a psychological mana to the image of past male dancers by the mana of instruction from the ballet teacher holding on to tradition, this is damaging to the psyche and is perpetuated by the ballet stories which orginated in a by gone age made to deal with issues that no longer have significance in the age of knowledge.
Teachers should leave ego and self indulgence aside and look to what is real to address real problems in technique, which is fundamental to the students physiopsycholgical development and security. Another problem is the degenerate emotion jealousy which each individual much keep in control, we are human beings not animals and we must behave accordingly.
Dancing to music in perticular ballet is a high art, implying a certain form of human dignity which can be experienced and learnt, and thus applied as knowledge to further dancing and human evolution.

Reply

SpaceDust February 14, 2012 at 7:17 pm

I’m a female ballet dancer (unfortunately, only as a hobbyist), and I was so pleased to see around 4 or 5 men steadily show up to my open classes. There are around 10 girls on a given night, and I don’t think I’ve ever been to a studio that has such a nice balance. This is in a major city, so perhaps that shapes it a bit. Either way, my point is that some of these men are gay, and some are straight. Some of the women in my class are gay, and some are straight. I think that male ballet dancers are strong, elegant, artistic, respectful, hardworking, and yes, sexy. Ask an American footballer or rugby player to do ballet and see if he still says it’s not athletic…

Reply

Anonymous March 31, 2012 at 4:09 am

Good for you! Whenever I mention ballet around a guy, they always go up on their tiptoes and do some little girlie dance. I don’t think they realize how much strength it takes. At my studio there’s only one male dancer advanced enough to partner us for performances and such, so we typically take turns.

Reply

Henrik April 7, 2012 at 11:05 am

Hi!
I’m sorry to hear folks around you don’t appreciate males dancing. It’s a long road, but we’ll get there! :) Taking good care of the guys that already dance is a good start, sounds like you’re doing it just about right :) Cheers, H

Reply

Brandin May 7, 2012 at 4:58 am

I’m a former Special Operations Marine, a martial arts Instructor as well as an Army Infantryman. My girlfriend has been doing ballet for over 20 years and I want to start when i get back from another tour in Afghanistan. I see the ability to increase my martial arts skill as well as my physical fitness, which will help me in all of the things i do for a living. I leave in a week and was wondering if you had any advice on things i could do in Afghanistan to prepare me when i get back in a year and actually start taking classes. I want to be able to come back in even better shape and with at least a grasp on how to dance. I’m not afraid of what people say. I’m a well respected martial artist and military personnel so people tend to keep their mouths shut. But please a little help would be nice.

Reply

Henrik May 7, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Hi Brandin,

I’m intrigued by your comment and your choice to try ballet! Yes, it’s true ballet can do lots of good in terms of gaining stance, flexibility and body control.
Kudos for daring to do what you want, although I can imagine people don’t give militarymen as much shit as us others :)

Given your background and line of work, I’m thinking that you are probably already a quite strong man, which is great. The biggest difference between ballet work from many other sports and activities (not sure about martial art, I don’t know much about how you work) is that we always work trying to “pull up” the center of our bodies, the lower abdominal and back muscles, to provide a stable base as a starting point for all our movements. Any exercise that helps pulling up the center will do you lots of good once you start ballet training. Ask your girlfriend to help you “find your center”, or give you some exercises.
Otherwise, flexibility is important, just as in martial arts. We work “turned out” (meaning our legs are rotated outwards from the hip), so exercises lifting your legs in all direction while turned out will also come in handy.
For the artistic side of ballet, I believe it’s much personality and not so much “tricks”. Sure, there are several techniques we use to make our movements accented, but this is basically a “feel” thing.

I believe ballet will help a lot on your awareness of your limbs, physical strength and stance. Many top sportsmen train ballet to improve their skills, so you are not alone with this idea.
Do let me know how it works out, and feel free to write me if you have any comments, questions or anything else. You may comment on the site, or write me directly at Henrik@Tightsandtiaras.com:
Take care in Afghanistan, and good luck with the training!
Cheers,
H

Reply

محسن June 12, 2012 at 1:58 pm

hi

Reply

Henrik June 26, 2012 at 7:53 pm

wazzup?

Reply

salomo July 20, 2012 at 8:13 pm

i love ballet, i am 17 and, i live in indonesia so my english a little . ballet companies here are insane, every ballet companies i had called, they say that for male adults they only have hip hop and ballroom class. it sucks huh? i can split, arabesque penchee,know a little bit of ballet terminologies, proper turn out but i want to learn ballet so bad, i want to feel the barre, big mirror, couple of friends that watch swan lake, la bayadere. here in indonesian my friends do not know anything about ballet shows, so i ballet in my room whether the technic is wrong or right. you guys are so lucky living outside indonesia, still few of guys interested in ballet, in my country? none. they think of male danced ballet is fag. its an art, a poetry in motion from our ancestors. People, whether he/she is gay, lesbian, tranny, fat, old, black who did ballet that mean those people PLAY a big part in art, ballet.I just wish i could take a ballet lesson in a ballet class. i dont want to be regular, average, person who kept his dream and become a lawyer (i major law) but still how could i? you know to find a pair of ballet slippers for male in indonesia is impossible, i have to buy it online!

Reply

salomo July 20, 2012 at 8:18 pm

i love ballet, i am 17 and, i live in indonesia so my english a little . ballet companies here are insane, every ballet companies i had called, they say that for male adults they only have hip hop and ballroom class. it sucks huh? i can split, arabesque penchee,know a little bit of ballet terminologies, proper turn out but i want to learn ballet so bad, i want to feel the barre, big mirror, couple of friends that watch swan lake, la bayadere. here in indonesian my friends do not know anything about ballet shows, so i ballet in my room whether the technic is wrong or right. you guys are so lucky living outside indonesia, still few of guys interested in ballet, in my country? none. they think of male danced ballet is fag. its an art, a poetry in motion from our ancestors. People, whether he/she is gay, lesbian, tranny, fat, old, black who did ballet that mean those people PLAY a big part in art, ballet.I just wish i could take a ballet lesson in a ballet class. i dont want to be regular, average, person who kept his dream and become a lawyer (i major law) but still how could i? you know to find a pair of ballet slippers for male in indonesia is impossible, i have to buy it online!
you know so you think you can dance, those dancers who dance ballet got such as respect. in indonesia if its not dangdut or hip hop with a beat music and little skill, you got boo. plus if you wear tight and pirouettes, i cant even describe.

Reply

jason August 10, 2012 at 9:19 pm

I love ballet . Im the only boy in my ballet class and its great to know that other boys are interested in ballet too!

Reply

Salomo August 15, 2012 at 7:20 pm

Where are you? Do u have facebook or twitter? Lets be friends! We ballet boys need to stick together right?

Reply

Henrik August 20, 2012 at 10:33 am

you can follow me on twitter @tightsandtiaras, or ‘like’ us on facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tightsandtiaras :)

Reply

jason October 30, 2012 at 6:04 am

I always wanted to do ballet, the motion and the power in dance. I always had a fear of doing ballet because i think that people will make fun of for my passion for dance.

Reply

Oduwole Tobi December 5, 2012 at 1:38 am

I love when i watch ballet on television,it inspire me to the extent of dragging my toes and the only thing i wish for that very time is my whole body should rise to that extent the person is rising to………The only thing on my mind is to get an instructor one day….I give a standing ocation to the ballet dancers…….Its my best inspiration in dancing world.

Reply

Sasha Keegan (male) February 22, 2013 at 8:40 pm

I tottaly agree with this whole blog!
I love dancing so much, and all the boys out there who want to do ballet but are scared of bullies, i did it and the bullies do not phase me at all !

Reply

Leave a Comment

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.

{ 3 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: