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Sascha Radetsky "My Turn" in Newsweek magazineSpeaking up for male ballet dancers in a national forum


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#16 Mel Johnson

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 04:30 PM

As far as M. Mel's cynicism goes, the examples stated are rather old, although valid. I'd like to think Newsweek, in the name of current events and keeping up to date, has modified its position over the years, as much of the general population has. We all grow and change with the times.


Would I like to believe that? Yes. Do I? Not at the moment. Now, I don't think the magazine keeps a desk just for the purpose of putting down male dancers, but I've noticed this historical bias in their pages.

Is this a nod, or the beginning of repentance and atonement? I should hope the latter, although I'm not betting the farm.

#17 Memo

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 06:22 PM

I just read the responses to it on Ballet Talk for Dancers, I guess I have come to the dark side or maybe it is just my current mood.

#18 cahill

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Posted 13 March 2008 - 07:00 PM

but never doing so, my first reaction was that Sascha had the same twofold desire: to make a few bucks (I assume the contributors to this feature get paid?) and to get his name out into the mainstream.



Hopefully he was paid, dancers should be able to branch out to other avenues to support themselves. Not sure he needs to get his name in the mainstream.

#19 Joseph

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 12:06 AM

Some comments here mentioned "Billy Elliots..." etc. Well, I agree that there is still room for people to speak out, but chances are the only people who are interested in the article, are people who are also interested in ballet. The majority of these people are not who need to know that ballet is masculine, blah blah... It is the people who not involved with ballet. For instance, if it was a football player or a basketball player defending ballet etc. then maybe other people, not involved in ballet, would be more likely to appreciate the article. But coming from another dancer, it just seems like another dancer trying to prove something to other dancers or to himself. But, the dancers have a knowledge about it. Ok, maybe younger children and teenagers who are studying ballet will be happy to hear another male dancer talking, but it is their peers at school, etc. who need to hear it, not from another dancer, but from someone else that THEY can relate to and appreciate. No non-dancer is not likely to know who Sascha Radetsky is (not being rude...) I mean Center Stage was a good movie, but it is not something that someone in the sixth grade is going to bring up and say "oh cool that is such and such from Center Stage..." They need someone else to talk about male dancing; if needed at all.

And another thing to think about is, what is there to really defend? Part of being a "man" or a woman and entering this world is being able to cope and deal with narrow minded, ignorant stereotypes and learning to move on from it. As a kid, I do not believe I would be really inspired by this (being a dancer I mean.) Like I said earlier, if I saw it was someone else, a movie star, a sports hero, whatever - then I could bring it in to school and say "hey guys look." But from another dancer, I don't think it is going to argue much.

#20 cahill

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 08:32 AM

It is a shame that people forget that football great Lynn Swan and President Reagan's son, Ron Regan, were both professional ballet dancers. I am sure there are other famous or well know men who successfully moved on from ballet to other great careers.

#21 Mme. Hermine

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 09:45 AM

well i know that lynn swann took lessons, but i didn't think he ever danced, i just remember his taking the lessons got a lot of publicity.

i did find this paragraph:

Lynn Curtis Swann was born on March 7, 1952, in Alcoa, Tennessee. His father, Willie, was an aircraft maintenance worker and his mother, Mildred worked as a dental hygienist. When Lynn Swann was 2, his family moved to San Mateo, California, where Lynn Swann studied dance - including ballet, modern dance and tap - from the age of four until his senior year in high school. Lynn often says that his mother's insistence on the dance training is what made him such a good athlete.

#22 dirac

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 10:14 AM

I, too, have a few unkind words.

As always, these articles excite mixed feelings. They serve a certain purpose and a good cause.

On the other hand, I donít feel too sorry for these guys, you know. It is unfortunate that they donít receive the godlike worship our society generally accords straight men who excel in endeavors involving outstanding athleticism, that instead they are treated like inferiors, outsiders, like....women and gay guys. I wish that such prejudices didnít exist, and yet I also think, ďWell, isnít that just TOO BAD, bwah-hah-hah.Ē

As it is, male dancers are getting more attention for their multiple pirouettes than ever before, judging by the screaming they receive from audiences these days. So maybe itís time to look on the bright side and move on.

#23 carbro

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 11:56 AM

On the other hand, I don't feel too sorry for these guys, you know. It is unfortunate that they don't receive the godlike worship our society generally accords straight men who excel in endeavors involving outstanding athleticism, that instead they are treated like inferiors, outsiders, like....women and gay guys. I wish that such prejudices didn't exist, and yet I also think, "Well, isn't that just TOO BAD, bwah-hah-hah."

There's quite a chasm between "godlike worship" and vague stigma. I do think it takes unusual courage for a boy whose social environment belittles or disdains achievement in dance (or theater, or painting, or football). If you watch nature films as much as I do, you understand that for creatures in complex social systems, creatures learn from the reactions of their communities -- be they monkeys, apes or even doggies. If you're eleven years old and your peers are calling you sissy and ostracizing you because you like to dance ballet, it may be a bigger price than you're willing to pay for what you want to do. The drive to persevere would have to be pretty intense. When and where I grew up, only about an hour outside of NYC, my interest in ballet (which was nothing compared to what it would eventually become) marked me, a girl, as a bit of a weirdo. There's the argument that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but sometimes parts of us get killed.

As it is, male dancers are getting more attention for their multiple pirouettes than ever before, judging by the screaming they receive from audiences these days.

No different from their female counterparts, are they? But what percentage of them actually have the opportunity to claim center stage and do their grands pirouettes or soar through a variation? Tiny, tiny. Most find themselves in the relative anonymity of corps roles more often than not.

#24 aurora

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 01:23 PM

The drive to persevere would have to be pretty intense. When and where I grew up, only about an hour outside of NYC, my interest in ballet (which was nothing compared to what it would eventually become) marked me, a girl, as a bit of a weirdo. There's the argument that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but sometimes parts of us get killed.


But I think most dancers would argue that having a very strong desire to persevere, in the face of what are, for most, insurmountable challenges, is part of what makes a successful dancer. So many kids take ballet (esp. girls, which i'll get back to in a second) and very few are able to make a career of it. Natural aptitude and talent is part of who makes it of course, but so is determination.

As it is, male dancers are getting more attention for their multiple pirouettes than ever before, judging by the screaming they receive from audiences these days.

No different from their female counterparts, are they? But what percentage of them actually have the opportunity to claim center stage and do their grands pirouettes or soar through a variation? Tiny, tiny. Most find themselves in the relative anonymity of corps roles more often than not.


They are quite different from their female counterparts--not in the accolades they receive, but in the *relative* ease with which they find places in competitive schools and companies. I dont know the figures for this, but there are a LOT more girls who take ballet than boys. A boy has a much better chance of getting into a company in the first place, therefore the percentage of boys who dance who make it to the top of their profession (becoming soloists or principals) is MUCH higher than it is for girls.

I'm not arguing some ridiculous sexism argument here--just pointing out that while, yes it sucks that boys get deterred by criticisms and prejudices against dance, if they pursue it, they are in a much better position than the equivalent female dance student.

#25 Ray

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 01:26 PM

On the other hand, I don't feel too sorry for these guys, you know. It is unfortunate that they don't receive the godlike worship our society generally accords straight men who excel in endeavors involving outstanding athleticism, that instead they are treated like inferiors, outsiders, like....women and gay guys. I wish that such prejudices didn't exist, and yet I also think, "Well, isn't that just TOO BAD, bwah-hah-hah."

There's quite a chasm between "godlike worship" and vague stigma. I do think it takes unusual courage for a boy whose social environment belittles or disdains achievement in dance (or theater, or painting, or football). If you watch nature films as much as I do, you understand that for creatures in complex social systems, creatures learn from the reactions of their communities -- be they monkeys, apes or even doggies. If you're eleven years old and your peers are calling you sissy and ostracizing you because you like to dance ballet, it may be a bigger price than you're willing to pay for what you want to do. The drive to persevere would have to be pretty intense. When and where I grew up, only about an hour outside of NYC, my interest in ballet (which was nothing compared to what it would eventually become) marked me, a girl, as a bit of a weirdo. There's the argument that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, but sometimes parts of us get killed.


But I think we need to stay away from the animal analogies; they cause us to generalize in ways that shut down, rather than open up discussion. While social trends may be enlightening--i.e., it's certainly true that most boys who take up ballet will face opposition from someone, and the culture as a whole does not value the labor of male ballet dancers the way it does sports figures--it's also important to note differences. For instance, I'm sure the Kaiser or Otto brothers never faced "Billy Eliot"-level ostracism. And I'm sure many female dancers will remember how a single male dancer in their dancing school got all the attention simply b/c he was male (hmmm....do I sound like Geraldine Ferarro?).

#26 aurora

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 01:37 PM

And I'm sure many female dancers will remember how a single male dancer in their dancing school got all the attention simply b/c he was male (hmmm....do I sound like Geraldine Ferarro?).


heh, if so, then its you and me both! we better resign from the campaign fast :smilie_mondieu:

#27 LittleTomato

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 02:06 PM

And, as a dancer, why does he feel the need to write an essay about how he loved the girls and state that some of his colleagues are gay. That is not his business nor the publics business either. There are homosexual men and women in every working environment; because ballet may be stereotyped does not give justification for those men who are heterosexual dancers a need to defend themselves. If they really are trying to prove something, then why even bother saying anything about it at all? Maybe it is more a question about maturity / immaturity?

I just don't see the need for male dancers to continually feel as though they need to defend themselves or make sure to mention in newspaper / magazine articles stuff like "well, I loved the girls of course..." Who cares?!

Anyway, just thought I would tell you I agree, Memo! There is a lot more room for discussion on this surely; will check back later... thumbsup.gif


Amen to that.

It is nobody's business and sorry but there are tons of guys entering the field these days the competition and level of male dancers rivals the girls. I run a local ballet school and do not find the stereotypes hold true. There are many dads who bring their sons to dance class and sit and watch with the other dads there with their daughters. In fact guys who are openly leery of it are almost inclined to be ridiculed for it thinking that a dance class will make you gay, really when you say it out loud it is just a ludicrous statement.

I also agree that we don't need Sasha Radnesky to prounounce his "straightness" who cares. Is he reinforcing the stereotypes by feeling the need to to write articles on his macho ness :smilie_mondieu:

Maybe I am just tired or jaded by it. I have trained professional male dancers and have a dancing kid (almost adult) who is male. He knows who he and he respects the other members of his class as people and friends and does not identify them by their sexual orientation. Get over it already. ON with the dance.




Good lord. The people on this board are clearly not a young male dancer in today's world, and as one, let me speak from a first person perspective, to counter the points of view of those who have no firsthand experience.

As a male dancer I greatly appreciated this article because there is still a VERY serious level of mockery towards the male ballet dancer. Yes, there is an increasing number of male students, and WITHIN the dance world male dancers get a great deal of respect.

However, it seems to me many members of this board haven't stepped outside the dance world in a while, because the number of idiotic, mocking questions about tights and feminine costumes I get from non-dancers is enough to make any male dancer get frustrated. The question, "so like, are all the guys gay?" is CONSTANTLY asked, which, to me, justifies Sascha Radetsky reasserting his heterosexuality. All male dancers, gay or straight, are consistently dogged by questions regarding their masculinity which is insulting and undermining, and often questions regarding a dancer's masculinity take the form of a question regarding sexuality, which is idiotic as many of the most masculine dancers are in fact homosexual.

Also, despite the parents and dads around the dance studio, there are many parents (my own included) who are not particularly cozy with the idea of their son being a dancer. (Now they are more than supportive, but only after they saw how serious I was about ballet). Most of the dad's I see at the dance studio are there to support their DAUGHTER who dances, and I have seen firsthand a boy ask his dad if he could take a class and the dad scoffed and said no, and that he would never let his son do ballet.

So yes, within the dance world male dancers are respected, and, lucky for us, there are fewer male dancers to compete with. However, why are there fewer male dancers? Because of the social stigma surrounding the male dancer. So while ballet goers may say that they've never encountered any of these, thats probably because THEY ARE NOT MALE DANCERS and for teenagers, a notoriously rocky period riddled with insecurities, questions constantly regarding sexuality and masculinity in a time when both of those are forming does little for the self-esteem.

While, I agree with the fact that all dancers must have exceptional force of will and dedication and an ability to overcome odds and adversity, the things a male dancer must face are not something I would argue should be written off as useless complaining.

#28 bart

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 03:32 PM

Thanks, Little Tomato, for your thoughtful, sensitive, and carefully explained reply. What you describe confirms what I -- a fan and also an older adult student in a school with many young people -- have observed.

The relative lack of male dancers is, as you say, a major compensation. Also, when a young male dancer gets a job in a company, earns applause and a paycheck, and is praised in reviews or covered in a feature story, a lot of those comments whither away ... or at least remain unspoken.

By the way, WELCOME to Ballet Talk. I hope you'll continue to add your voice to this and other topics.

#29 popularlibrary

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 03:53 PM

Just a few months ago, there was a thread called "Boys and Ballet, the Problem" in the Everthing Else Ballet section. It was very interesting and strongly echoed Little Tomato's observations. I might add for myself, as a ballet fan surrounded by non-ballet lovers, that I encounter this kind of bigotry as a matter of course almost, from men and women alike - the little expression of distaste followed by the kinds of comments LT gives. If the Newsweek piece helps cut into even some of that prejudice, the more power to it, however it appears to dance lovers who don't suffer from this fog of dislike.

#30 dirac

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Posted 14 March 2008 - 04:04 PM

however it appears to dance lovers who don't suffer from this fog of dislike


Although a few posters have indeed mentioned more positive experiences, I donít think anyone who as posted so far has suggested that these views donít exist or are not deplorable, and I doubt anyone will.

Perhaps we may also note for the record that many people of both sexes have suffered during adolescence and later for being Ďdifferentí in one way or another, and no oneís personal experience of same is being dismissed or derided. These might seem to be points that would go without saying, but better safe than sorry.

Welcome to the board, LittleTomato. We hope to hear from you again, on this or other subjects!


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