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boys and ballet

19 posts in this topic

Boys and ballet are two things that are not usually mixed. By lots of boys my age, ballet is considered a girl thing and do not respect the boys who do it. Those people do not see the true beauty and complexity that ballet really has. Even if a boy does like ballet, he would be to afraid to do it because of the stereotype that the majority of boys give it. This should not be the way it is. Boys should learn to except ballet and the other boys to do it. They should not think it is a dainty activity for the weak, for not only do I like ballet, it has helped me become stronger and improve in sports. In conclusion, boys, even though they may not like it, should respect ballet.

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Amen, brother - and the good thing about Ballet Talk is that you won't find a single person here that disagrees with you :)

So keep that speech somewhere memorized, because you're going to need it in the world out there, probably, and remember that when you're here, you're among friends. We're glad you study ballet, and that you love it too. Keep working hard.

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Its a shame that the stereotypes exist in America. If you go to Russia the male dancers are revered and have a celebrity like status. Or in China it is a very special thing to get chosen for thier training program and they do not think there is anything sissy about it there. Its the US that has problems with male dancers and I find it really sad.

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It's not only in the US, but in western Europe and the Americas generally that ballet is looked down upon, perhaps as an outgrowth of the abuses of the art in the late nineteenth century there. Denmark seems to have avoided the prejudice pretty much, because the dancers are civil servants, and a place in the Royal Danish Ballet has had a cachet through the years with its public that didn't exist in the same way elsewhere.

The negative comments made to boys are most painful, however, and extremely unhelpful in enlarging the population of male dancers. The taunts then become more likely to be self-fulfilling. It's better than it used to be, what with the international superstar status held by men like Nureyev and Baryshnikov, but it's still not good yet. Jim, don't let 'em grind ya down!

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If my experience was typical, ballet is respected in Western Europe as well, though not as much as in Russia and China.

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I wouldn't call it exactly lack of respect, Hans, but there seems to be a sort of lingering grudge that exists even in France and England, over the long-dead old days of male parts being done by danseuses en travesti. In France this has been somewhat defused by the international star status that Serge Lifar enjoyed, and that the Opéra dancers are civil servants, like the Danes, and in England, the tradition of the "first boy", actually played by a girl in children's pantomimes. But nowhere does ballet as a career by a man or woman quite have the same glitz as a movie or even a TV star. In Russia, anyway, they may BE the movie star! I can't speak for China.

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Another place where male dancers seem to be quite popular is Cuba.

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Somebody recently commenting about dancers in Cuba and the former Soviet Union had a good observation about the dancers in those nations being highly regarded because they had steady jobs that weren't that subject to government abuse. They also enjoyed a fairly good living as a consequence of ballet company membership. Russia has a long tradition of admiring their ballet stars or even just corps members, and in Cuba, Doña Alicia created a more-than-respectable profession out of next to nothing, bless her.

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Cavalier,

Sometimes a picture can be worth a thousand words. This is one of my favorite pictures for boys and ballet, which you can use on your acquaintances if they give you any flak: Boys...

If you want a printed copy of the picture, it appeared twice in Dance Spirit Magazine, February 2003.

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Courage, mon cavalier!

Words "ballet" and "usual" don't mix at all! So, that statement "boys and ballet don't usually mix" shouldn't even be an issue for you :cool: Everything about ballet is UNUSUAL AND VERY EXCITING!

Also, there will always be people who 'get the ballet' and those who 'don't get it'. The great news is that you are the lucky one to belong to the first group (believe me - there are always enough people to keep you a great company worthy of that of yours), and don't worry about those ignorant ones - they don't really know what they're missing!

"Dainty activity of the weak" for your gender involves quite a bit of lifting and carrying - DONE VERY GRACEFULLY - of species of my gender, who don't always resemble a swan feather :( So, this is another statement that doesn't make sense, and therefore must be sent to trash.

Reading through the rest of replies sent to your post, cavalier, I wish there would be Paradise-country on this earth where ballet dancers would be admired and liked by absolutely everyone - sadly, no. Not even in Russia! (I can't talk about other countries, as i'm coming from the former Soviet Union myself).

Communist government WAS abusing ballet dancers back then, sadly. It was some kind of illusion of 'privileged life' for those dancers, who were however, were kept on quite tight and quite short leash by communists and KGB (memoir-book written by the famous and worshipped Maya Plisetskaya, called "I, Maya..." is quite descpritive of ballet dancers life during communists' time of our history).

A bottome line here: In spite of all the tough and super-tough moments in-side and out-side the ballet world, there always have been and always will be plenty of great REAL boys in the ballet world to keep you a company that you'll enjoy (and some great girls, too! :)

Cheers, Marianna

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Unfortunately, Britain seems to be one of those places where young male dancers have to suffer at the hands of their peers.

We had a horrendous case here just a few weeks ago, where a talented boy was repeatedly bullied, culminating in boys from his primary school class (i.e. at most eleven years of age) riding their bicycles over his feet. The result is that he now needs an operation on his feet, which the medical experts say he can't have until he is eighteen and his bones have stopped growing. The reports indicated that he cannot dance any more.

Is being different really so threatening to other people?

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Hi JaneD, do you have any latest news on that case? I can't find the original links to the stories that were posted on here, and the last I heard was that BRB were stepping in to help.

In general, I was very lucky at my ballet school when I was young because we had 3 boys in my class, one of which went on to the RBS (but don't know what happened to him after that), and also William Tuckett in with the older students to watch :) .

I pointed out to my brother the other day when he was whingeing that his wife had put their son in for dance classes, that I thought him being in a studio with lots of pretty girls was a far better place for him to be than sat in a communal bath with a bunch of guys after a football match!

Cavalier - you keep at it, and don't let them get you down :) .

Tracey

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Cavalier,

When the boys who are making fun of ballet now are grown, many will be in boring, tedious jobs and rapidly gaining weight.

You, however, could be a famous dancer, in great shape, and doing something that lots of pretty women consider wonderful.

Some boys who were teased for playing the piano are now very wealthy stars of the music world.

It does take some maturity to appreciate the art (and athletic challenge) of ballet, and unfortunately, many young people will not learn to appreciate the finer things until later in life. There is a very real lack of depth in many people today. But not all people.

You keep up the good work!

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Cavelier:

I can't give you advice as a dancer, because I'm not one. I can respond as the father of a teen-age daughter who is addicted to ballet and a son who enjoys sports that his friends consider unusual (archery).

I can also tell you, as a dedicated member of the ballet audience, that I can't imagine ballet without the brave MEN who follow their spirits and love of the art into the profession and who expand the joy we can feel in sharing their art.

Ballet is as demanding (more demanding?) of physical endurance, skill, and coordination than any of the so called "manly" sports: soccer, rugby, etc. American football just requires brute strength and simple coordination.

Look at any dancer, male or female, and you'll see a superb athlete, in every sense of the word. You'll also see grace, poise, balance -- benefits absent in other sports, that simply require weight training and endurance training. The benefit to your soul and spirit go without saying.

Sadly, you will be teased and bullied by other boys ... you'll have to understand that what you gain is something they may come to appreciate eventually, but don't right now ...

Just remember that you have the support of your fellow dancers, the admiration of the audience, and your own inner conviction and desire. That should be more than enough to overcome the ignorance and bias ... hold your head high ...

BB

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Not to douse any dreams here, but ballet is rarely glamorous. Even if you're one of the biggest ballet stars, you're unlikely to reach true celebrity status. That means you can walk down the street and not be bothered.

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That's an interesting point. Sometimes I see professional dancers at the grocery store, in casual clothes buying frozen dinners. Nobody else in the store seems to have any idea who they are. I would like to greet them and tell them how much I appreciate their work, but I have lost my nerve. I don't want to bother them, and I don't know how dancers perceive non-dancers who are fans of theirs. In addition, I am sort of a shy person. Do you have any thoughts on what I should do?

Thanks,

Pas

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Pas - there aren't many dancers who mind if you come up to them and say "I saw you in such and such and I really enjoyed your performance." Most actually like it. The problem comes up when you try and have a lengthy conversation. Some might want to, but others may be too busy at that moment, or want their privacy. If you're shy yourself, probably the best thing to do is to offer your compliments with a smile and then continue with what you were doing and let the dancer do the same.

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However, to return to the original thrust of this thread (at least I think it was the original): Acceptance is far preferable to hostility. Adulation can come later.

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I don’t think it is all that productive to compare ballet with other physical activities. My sense is we do that when we feel defensive, and I just don’t think we need to be defensive about anything. All physical pursuits have their demands and they are different. It is impossible to compare them. All you can say is that no matter what the activity, to perform at a very high level takes incredible talent, desire, and work.

Actually, I don’t think suffering is necessarily a bad thing. I think most people who aspire to a high performance level have to endure a certain amount of suffering. How they suffer varies with the activity, but suffer they all do in some way. But just as taking steel and heating it until it glows, then plunging it in cold water, strengthens the steel, so too do I think a little suffering makes a stronger performer.

A young male dancer may be teased about being a dancer. That may discourage a weaker willed dancer. But to really excel at dance, one has to be strong willed. Think of all of the effort it requires to learn good technique. Think of disappointment in not getting roles desired, audition parts, careers as desired. Those who are successful, you can bet are very strong willed, at least when it comes to dance. Personally, I think many of the battles a dancer fights and endures helps create that will.

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