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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Male dropouts are a critical problem


BarreTalk

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The studio I go to teaches ballet exclusively, with classes for all ages and abilities. The adult program is very succesful at getting and keeping male students. Even though it is small, the school believes that performing is a necessary part of a dancer's education and stages two full-length ballets each year, giving all students an opportunity to dance.

 

 

In the time I've been taking class there, several elementary school aged boys have started ballet, but none have made it through the critical middle school years. That seems to be the time when peer pressure, other demands on their time, and the idea of doing anything different and therefore "uncool" makes them want to drop out. A couple of our dropouts had a lot of promise, so it was sad to see them go.

 

 

I assume other studios have the same problem. If it was solvable, the ballet world would be better for it.

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That's the problem. Relatively few make it through that critical "Middle Passage". :flowers:

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I think the pattern that Barre Talk mentions is common in all kinds of little male kid activities. Generally, little kids do those activities that their parents choose for them. As kids get older, they exert themselves more and do more what they want to do, usually activities in which they perceive themselves as doing relatively well.

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Guest Until The End Of Time

I wish more guys would get over the whole Ballet is a gay thing. I would love to see those do the things I do on stage and still act all manly man. If peer pressure was only a elementary school thing, life would be better. In life I realized you only have one life to live so you might as well live the first one the fullest. I want to be known as a man that died living the life of 300 years, meaning I want to accomplish so much.

 

I found out on my show, its going to be 8 minutes long. :unsure: , it shocked me at first because in Tap the longest I danced was like 5 minutes. But in all honesty I am so hyped, I want to see how it all turns out when I get the DVD. I am working my behind off doing everything the best to my ability, so when the show comes and everyone who sees me as the only male danseur, they will be shocked a guy who can do ballet so well. I just hope I can encourage more boys and men to get out and try ballet. I am not ashamed to wear tights or do the things I do, the only thing I am ashamed of is waiting until I was 19 to get into Ballet. Now I am 21 and I am in advanced classes. :( my next step this summer is to get to an acamedy with a male ballet instructor.

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Guest mic31

It's mostly a "what would the guys think" issue. I have a 10 year old son, even at 10 the tugs of conformity to his peer group are very strong. when you think about it, females in ballet are accepted and nobody really bats an eyelash, here's these poor boys not only do their friends think that they are a little odd, but so does the local dance shop. Try finding anything for a boy. You walk into a place there is girls stuff everywhere, and if you ask for boys stuff the sales lady will thumb through the girls stuff for things that don't look too girly and hand them to you calling them unisex. Worst she will trot of to the back room and start to bring out stuff from the dusty collection. If a boy feels like he may be a bit out there on his own, he only needs to go to his local dance shop to confirm it.

If a guy likes to dance, he needs to feel a little less like an outcast and a little more like he belongs somewhere, heck even the guy with the purple spiked up hair and all black clothes in school gets more respect.

I don't want to jump on the dance shop owners too badly, but the industry that supports dance really has a very long way to go.

When a boy takes up ballet there needs to be a peer group even a small one that can fully take him in.

My son takes tap, that has raised a few eyebrows with his friends, but there are 50 boys in my son's school. When he goes to the dance shop they have his stuff. So he is willing to take a bit of heat from his friends because he feels that he belongs to this other group as well. :grinning:

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  • 2 months later...

mic31

 

Very insiteful! It's not just the young that face these problems. If you live any where but a major city, dance clothes for men are a problem.

 

I love this one, have you ever seen a decent men's changing room? Converted broom closet! One of the school I just started taking lesson from is sending a clear message to any male who enters. We would love to take your money but don't expect that we will provide even a simply place to change.

 

I understand who their clients are now and they certainly do market to those clients. However, the schools seem to be very short cited when it comes to who their clients could be. You will not recruit more males to dance unless they at least feel welcome and have some sense of comraderie with fellow male dancers.

 

When I first started taking lessons, I had the priviliage of having a male instructor and an all male class. NO women/Girls allowed! I didn't realize how rare that was. I think, after the third week, if a women would have entered she would have been stoned! It was wonderful how we were able to feed of each others energy. Sadly it only lasted six weeks. During that period of training, I had some excellent instruction from female teachers and I learned a great deal from them. Those classes were just not the same. The energy level of the male class was way above any of my other classes. I do think one of the most important challenges to Ballet and dance in general will be how to recuite and keep men. Part of the answer lies in establishing a respectable male peer group.

 

I have a 14 year old son. I would have loved it had he chosen dance as an advocation. In his own words: "I'm not interested in that! Besides, the guys would think I was weird!" It was the second part of the statement that suprised me. I had a great feeling of failure. I had not been successful in conveying to my own son the joy of artful physical expression.

 

I envy you and your son and the special gift you are sharing.

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Is this just an American problem? I think our sports focused culture and education systems has a lot to do with it.

 

Mike

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That may have something to do with it. Apparently Billy Elliot spoke much more loudly to the British audience than it did to stateside audiences. Recently, the Royal Ballet School had a visit from its President, HRH The Prince of Wales, and he observed that there were many more boys than he had ever seen before in a ballet school. The school stated that they ascribed the upswing in male registration to the movie. RBS apparently now has a ratio of 1:1 of boys to girls. :)

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Guest Until The End Of Time

I am writing a script for a movie of my own. I am not sure if I have shared it with you. My main idea is to basically tell the story of my life. Its going to be a drama ballet movie, if it ever gets in the theaters or on a stage.

 

I want people to see anything is possible regardless of how your life started out when you were planted as a seed inside your mothers wombs to the path you are on now.

 

From when I was born until now is what the script will protray. So many things to tell I figured I might name the script the "Window to my life", because basically I am letting people peek thru and see what is going on they watch as my whole life unfolds to them like a rose blooming. the rose that grew from the concrete. here is a good poem by Tupac Amaru Shakur.

 

 

"Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack

in the concrete

Proving nature's law wrong it learned 2 walk

without having feet

Funny it seems but by keeping its dreams

it learned 2 breathe fresh air

Long live the rose that grew from concrete

when no one else ever cared!"

 

- Tupac Shakur

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It's true that "Billy Elliott" has had some impact, but this impact is mainly on middle class, middle aged people. I guess that's why the RBS has seen an increase in boy applicants. However, in your average UK dance school (to say nothing of your average UK school playground) this has had little impact. It's just as you describe in the USA i.e. very few boys, no changing room, no hope of seeing boys dance clothes on the clothes rack in a dancewear shop ( we have now discovered mail order!). A few boys have tried dance, even ballet, in the 9 years ds has studied at the local dance studio - he is the only one to have persevered. He went through stages re telling his friends at school - when he started (age 7) there didn't seem to be any inhibitions about it. Then, aged about 10 -13, he kept it very quiet. Now, he feels he's good and has got into a professional ballet school from the autumn, he doesn't mind who knows. I guess the pre- and early adolescent years are the most difficult - this is when you definitely don't want to be seen as different, and that's when most drop out.

 

Dance schools and dance-wear shops reflect society attitudes i.e. they are catering for the market they perceive is out there. It's people's attitudes that need to change - then the dance schools and shops will change too.

 

I have to say ds local dance school has been very encouraging and he has had a male teacher for several years. It's just, in a limited space, where there are miliions of little girls in pink trying to change, can dedicated space for 1 boy be afforded?

 

A wee story to end: when ds was quite young, I took him to the local dance school, but to a class he didn't normally attend (maybe he was doing an extra class pre-exam). We were, as usual, surrounded by Mums and litle girls in pink. These girls had not taken class with ds before. Most of them totally ignored him, but one said to her Mum "Why is that boy here? Boys don't do ballet". I waited for her Mum to reply, but she didn't, so I said somehing like"When you are older and very good at ballet, you'll do special jumps and then a boy dnacer has to catch you and stop you falling. Boys need to be very strong to do this.". The little girl looked at me as if I was an alien - and her Mum still said nothing! See what I mean about society's attitudes? And this was in a very "nice, middle-class" area.

 

I rest my case.

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Stitcher,

 

The last little snippet of your post sum it all up doesn't it! Missed opportunity! The mum had a perfect opportunity to change a stereotype and she just let it sit there! :thumbsup: They in eight years will be the same people who will complain that there are no men to work with in Partnering. Sort of self fulfilling isn't it! It make you want to go out and start an all male ballet school! Well, hopefully other mums said something akin to your excellent statement regarding the future!

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Yes, and normally, Men's Forum is a men-only preserve, but stitcher's comment is so valuable and valued, I think it should stay.

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"have you ever seen a decent men's changing room?  Converted broom closet! One of the school I just started taking lesson from is sending a clear message to any male who enters. "

My school doesn't discriminate. Changing rooms for both men and women are equally trashy.

- The women's room is bigger, but it's filled with racks of costumes and portable Marley rolls, so it only has room for one little 5' bench.

- The men's room doesn't have a bench at all, but you can sit on the prop chest and hang your clothes on the grandfather clock from Nutcracker.

 

When the artistic director rented the space years ago, she wanted to maximize the studio floor space, so everything else, from the entrance lobby to the office is squeezed into whatever square footage is left.

 

If a fancy environment is your goal, this studio would disappoint. But if you just wanna learn to dance... :thumbsup:

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Guest mic31

One thing that has helped my local situation a bit is rounding up the fella's and we pool of purchasing power. We frequent one dance shop on the condition that they have a guys section. It doesn't have to be huge, just carry the basics. It seems to have worked so far.

 

I don't have a huge "guys in ballet problem in my school. The guys actually make up about 30-40% of the classes. My teacher is very talented when it comes to teaching the guys as well.

 

As for my son, he's still in tap. Between hockey and tap you have to duct tape him to the chair so that he'll hang around long enough to eat something some days. What can I say, he's like me, 100% into anything that he does

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