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Momof3darlings

When you feel boys have it easier read this!

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*This post was taken from the thread So much easier for boys. We thank our long time member slhogan for allowing us to copy her exact post and use it as a Sticky in our parent forums.

 

As the parent of a boy, I would say that ballet is generally *financially* easier. I can relate to the comment about a boy only going to an SI if there was a full-ride (room and board) scholarship attached to it, but that's just because that's the way these programs work. A full scholarship for a boy means the program is very interested in that boy. For a girl, a partial scholarship would indicate the same thing. It is NOT true that all boys receive automatic acceptance or always receive full scholarships. My son has experienced SI rejections and acceptances that came with very partial or no scholarship offers. But, I'm sure he has received full room and board scholarships more often than the girls have.

But, ballet being "easier" means a lot more than just finances. Finances aside, I don't agree that the ballet world is easier for boys. Boys may have different problems than the girls, but they are still problems all the same.

Here are 10 problems my son has encountered with ballet that keeps ballet from "being easy":

#1 Finding a quality male training program. If you live in a decently-sized city, you can probably find a quality ballet program for your daughter within a half hour drive of your house. For my son, he attended 8 different schools between the ages of 7-9, before we found a program that really knew how to train a boy. Many local schools *say* they want boys, but they don't actually have the ability to teach them the way boys need to be taught.

#2 Making sure he is trained to dance like a boy. This is similar to the above, but it's something girls do not have to worry about but boys worry about a lot. Many, many 12-15 year old boys have left their local studios for the first time (for an SI, men's master class, etc) only to discover that they dance like a girl and need to have all these feminine dance habits retrained. Starting around the age of 10-12, boys ballet is a whole different animal than girls ballet.

#3 Having mentors to look up to. The young girls can watch the older girls through the window and daydream of the day they will dance like that. They see what older girls dance like, and they can internalize and understand the dance path that they themselves are on. Boys often don't have that privilege. With so few boys in local dance studios, they often cannot look at an older girl on pointe and understand where they will be in a few years. They don't understand the path they are on, and they frequently have never even seen a particular male dance skill until the day they are asked to learn how to do it.

#4 Classes that will let them be boys. Yes, it's a gender stereotype, but young boys are often different than young girls. My young son was more hyper and less focused than the girls in his class. He acted silly, was a daredevil with tricks, had holes in the knees of his black leggings (again!), and wouldn't let me brush his hair before going into the studio. Fortunately, the dance instructor he ended up with (after 8 different studios) understood boys and allowed him to be a boy. Many dance teachers SAY they want boys, but they aren't willing to put up with what boys are actually like. In many studios, boys aren't allowed to be boys, and that makes them feel unwelcome.

#5 Maturing at a later age. It was very difficult for my son to be in an awkward age around 13-14. He could easily see that the girls had all advanced to being much better dancers than him, and he felt like he was still dancing like a little kid. He almost gave up ballet, thinking he just wasn't any good any more. Luckily, his very wise teachers helped him realize that boys and girls mature differently and that he would catch up to those girls in a year or two (and they were right-- he has caught up). Parents of girls often don't understand this. They see a 13 year old boy who doesn't dance nearly as well as their 13 year old daughter, and they just don't understand how that boy could have possibly been accepted into a selective SI. The answer is that the selective SI understands the development of boys and understands that pubescent boys and girls dance at different levels. That selective SI has had enough experience with boys to see the potential behind his pubescent awkwardness and they accept him as the dancer they see he will soon be. Unfortunately, many parents and local dance teachers don't have enough experience with pubescent boys to help ballet boys endure through this awkward phase.

#6 Studios that aren't a sea of pink. My son felt very awkward and like an outsider at studios that were decorated in all pink and ballerina decor. He felt like an intruder in an all-girls club.

#7 Having friends and being included. I remember my the day my 11 year old son had his feelings hurt at a large master class for 10-12 year old dancers. There were only 2 boys in the room and about a hundred girls. Everyone was asked to find a partner and hold hands. He was standing near several girls that weren't from his home studio, and when he reached out his hand in a gesture of "Do you want to be partners?", the girls gave him horrified "you have cooties" type of looks and completely rejected him. He just stood there looking sad until one of the girls from his studio noticed him alone and crossed the room to go be his partner.

#8 Finding dance clothing easily. We have 3 dance supply stores within a 30 minute drive of my house. Only one of them stocks any boy clothing at all. Even then, the selection is limited and we often have to special order his size (a problem when you need something last minute!). We receive dance clothing catalogs in the mail, but he has to turn to the only 1 or 2 pages that have clothes for him. And, they're boring clothes. The girls get to pick out pretty leotards with neat designs. I'm amazed at how many different designs of black leotards there are out there. There are very few options for black tights and white shirt. He would love to have some variety in the clothes he wears six days a week, but he doesn't get that option as a boy.

#9 Being forced to think about sexual orientation from a young age. Girls are not confronted with the idea of "am I gay?" on a nearly daily basis from the day they walk into the dance studio as a young girl. But, Ballet Boys are constantly faced with that question-- both externally (from the rude questions and comments of others) and internally (from their own concern if their love of ballet somehow indicates they are gay). Many Ballet Boys are indeed gay and many are indeed straight, but this is a very difficult aspect of their childhood that they have to be constantly confronted with this question at an age when most kids aren't thinking about it.

#10 More likely to leave home as a young teen. This goes back to item #1 above, but as boys get older there just aren't as many quality training facilities for boys as there are for girls. There are probably a hundred places in the US where a girl can receive good pre-professional training. For boys, I'd say there are only a couple dozen. Sometimes girls choose to go into residential training at the age of 14 or 15 if they are exceptionally gifted or don't live near a training facility. But, it's not the norm. When a boy is around 14, the parents of boys are faced with the realization that unless they live in a very large city they will have to send them off to complete their training. When I chat online with parents of boy dancers, this is a huge decision that parents know is coming up on the horizon. Very few pre-professional boys over the age of 15 have the luxury of staying at home and receiving the quality training they need.

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