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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Little Boys and Ballet


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K8smom said

Obviously they pick this stuff up

 

What you say is absolutely correct. We are surrounded by this discourse from the day of birth; blue for boys, pink for girls, the types of toys, clothes, birthday cards, all are directed to produce a certain gender identity. This is what we are trying to fight against when boys are often actively discouraged from participating in dance. We have accepted a masculine image that is seen as being strong, tough, and heterosexual. For males who do not fit this profile life may not be so easy. Sometimes there is active discouragement by the community (bullying, harrassment etc) and other times the discouragement may be more subtle or even by standing by and not saying anything.

However, I must say that even though we may be aware of this it is still a difficult fight. Even if a boy wants to dance he usually knows that others do not view it as a masculine identity and he has to reconcile this with being his own person and following what he wants to do.

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dancemomCA

Floss - what you say about boys developing their own identity is so important to them in order for them to be successful in dance. Boys and parents of boys must be very, very strong in the face of so many societal obstacles - it requires an early acceptance of oneself as a dancer at an early age from the boy. I don't know how many times I have told my son "You are strong and this is who you are - you are a dancer and it doesn't matter what anyone else says to you." Now, how many parents of girls have had to say that to their dancing daughters - probably never. :dry: And, I have NEVER had to say anything along those lines to my daughter who plays soccer!!!

 

Boys drop out of dance because of peer pressure, harassment, masculine sterotyping etc. and bullying IS alive and well in North America. It is a uphill struggle every step of the way for boys and I applaud each and every boy who steps into the ballet studio. :flowers:

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The boys really do have a lot of pressure. Middle school is the worst. My son's best friend still won't come see him dance because he said that he doesn't want to see him in tights. This is a great kid from a great family but he thinks he would be so uncomfortable seeing guys in tights that he just can't bring himself to come to a performance.

 

When ds was in middle school and I had to get off early 3 days a week to drive him 26 miles to class. I went into ask my boss if I could rearrange my work schedule to take ds to class. He asked what kind of class and when I told him ballet he said "What are you trying to do turn him into a faggot?" I replied no, I don't think that's possible. He blurted out his first thought but trust me over the years I've seen many people think it and not say it. Or they thought the only reason that my son danced was to make me happy. I find it amazing what people will actually say to your face. Let me tell you there is not a chance in that place down under that you are going to get a 13yo boy into tights if he doesn't want to be in them.

 

I tend to ignore idots so it didn't really bother me all that much. I would say the same to ds. People are always willing to dump their baggage on you and its up to you if you pick it up.

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Guest PAmom
Obviously they pick this stuff up, regardless of the family's (or dad's) feelings and opinions.

Floss and K8smom, I am in total agreement. The message is very clear to every age unless they are raised in a community away from many advertising type influences. Even the Amish and Mennonite communities recogize and use the blue/boy pink/girl associations. The message that a ballet school gives when it paints it's lobby pink is the same one the toy store gives with it's long row of pink Barbie®-like toys. I once overheard a young fellow in a toy store say, "I don't want to go down there, it's the pink ailse."

 

Having raised a male dancer, and currently working administratively at a ballet studio, I have many thoughts on this topic. Alas, we have 3 more performances of The Sleeping Beauty this weekend and I must dash to the theatre. I hope to post more later.

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I have an almost 14-year-old son who dances and an 11-year-old. There are two other boys at the studio, maybe 11 and 13. I think it's incredibly important that dancing boys are very secure in who they are--their looks, their brains, their maturity. Those things help them in the studio and out. All four of these boys are very secure in who they are. Parental influence helps, I'm sure, but that's not all of it. Kids check each other out by looking at the surface, (as adults also do, unfortunately), so it's important as a parent for us to help them look good on the surface--especially if we want them to continue trying something that they may end up loving. If kids are going to be out of the mainstream, it helps if they're perceived of as kind of cool because they're different.

 

Also, dadof2dancers, I don't think it's at all good to have siblings in the same class, boy-boy, or boy-girl. I would find another studio for the younger boy or older girl if I absolutely couldn't get them into separate classes, at least until they are mature enough and self-secure enough to just go into the studio and do their business. I asked my oldest son and he said he wouldn't like it at all, particularly if the older sister gave him a hard time. (And you should hear what he says those girls say to younger girls in the studio when they know the teacher isn't watching. They're pretty darned competitive at that age and don't keep their mouths shut when they should.)

 

Also, you said your son has said he hates ballet before he goes to class. Well, my answer to my son a couple or three years ago when we had a month or two where that cropped up was: Hey. It's regular exercise, and unless you're planning to do something else you could do as exercise for the rest of your life, like running or something, ballet will suffice for now. Then, I let him get an earring!

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When my son was nine, I excitedly told a friend that he had been accepted to the National Ballet School. She told me to really think about this because if I proceeded down this path of dance, my son would be dead of AIDS by the time he was 25. And guess what? This woman was a respected family doctor in our community, and a mother of four!!! My son is alive and well and still dancing at 17. Her daughter quit dancing a year after our conversation.

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Small story:

 

A few years ago, the Suzanne Farrell Ballet dance in DC. In Divertimento No. 15, there are three men. In this production, they were dressed in lavendar tights and tunics.

 

On the way out, a little boy, about 5, turned to his father and said, "Why don't you have lavendar tights like those men, Daddy?" The father looked taken aback, but asked why. "So you would look beautiful!"

 

K8sMom, I hope your husband corrected the record!

 

There are several books, now out of print, with titles like, "Men Dancing," and "Danseur, the Male in Ballet." Most people don't realize that men dominated ballet in its first two centuries -- were the stars, had all the best parts -- until the Romantic revolution brought in fairies and elves and pointe shoes. Russia and Denmark and Paris still have proud male dancing traditions. Louis XIV was a great dancer -- a few Dancing Boys Lib facts to throw at 'em. :flowers:

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Guest Until The End Of Time

Not a Parent, but a male dancer all my life since I was three. My mom encouraged me so did my sister and 4 other cousins. Girls loved how I danced and thats how I got them. When ever I get picked on my mother would always say " They are jealous, they can't do the things you can do" now I am older I realize she is right. When I hit the dance floors the girls come to me, In my own opinion. Being muscular is only a look. Anyone can stand around with big muscles and sweet talk. How many can dance around and let your feet talk and body talk. Girls love guys who can dance because they actually do something besides talk and your body can't lie unlike your mouth. Im proud I stayed in Dancing. When I am finished with school and hopefully met a nice girl and settle down I will encourage my kids the same. I guess everyone respected me because I was such a excellent dancer and into gymnastics I loved the look on their faces when they saw me do such things, especially the dancing. To me sports are too easy, Ballet is much more work concentrated the more you do the better you get.

 

Just one thing though, I hope this is not offensive at all. How can Ballet be a gay thing? We train with girls, dance with girls, and are with girls. But in sports they train with guys, play with guys, and are with guys.

 

^^ I always say that and it usually shuts them up because they can't get themselves out of that hole.

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How can Ballet be a gay thing? We train with girls, dance with girls, and are with girls. But in sports they train with guys, play with guys, and are with guys.

 

^^ I always say that and it usually shuts them up because they can't get themselves out of that hole.

UTEOT, I love what you said! I never thought of it in that way, but how true it is: an unassailable argument!

 

My DS stopped taking class a few months ago, at age 13½. Until he was 10, he didn't seem to be affected by the idea of "boys don't dance". I boasted to those who inquired whether he had problems in school defending his dancing, that he didn't even seem to be aware of the concept that he shouldn't be dancing, and that he never hid the fact from any of his classmates. It wasn't too much longer before the negative opinions started to reach him, however, and now there's another excellent boy dancer who's bitten the dust. His Fritz in last Christmas' Nutcracker was his swan song.

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Guest Until The End Of Time

Thanks, I would recommend other boys to say it but it would depend on whether or not the parent approves it. It might change their whole perspective on sports but I don't want to ruin sports on them. But I'd rather train with the nice clean graceful ladies, than with sweating grunting men.

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During elemetry school, boys and girls are "equal" in a way in ballet class. But in middle school, the girls go en pointe. Maybe many boys leave at that age because that's when they realize that ballet is about the girls, not about them.

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When my DD started dancing a little boy from her Montessori class was in the same ballet (creative movement) class. His mother and I shared the dream of hoping to see our children dancing a pas de duex. This little boy loved ballet until 4th grade, his parents were supportive but the peer pressure was just too great and he quit. There are only 2 male dancers left at the studio and sadly, one may be leaving after the spring performance.

 

Do males in ballet face the same negative pressures in Canada and Europe?

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K8sMom, I hope your husband corrected the record!

Oh, yes, he did!

 

I teach preschool gymnastics, and one of my lessons involves giving the children silk scarves and playing lots of different types of music for them to dance to. The girls always beg for ballet music, which I do play, but the boys sometimes balk and say, "Boys don't dance ballet!". This at ages three and four. Usually I put on my AMAZED face, and say, "Of course they do! Who do you think lifts up the girls and carries them around? The BOYS, of course!". That usually gets them into it. I'm always shocked at how early they pick up these attitudes. I suppose I should be grateful that they know what ballet is, but I have a sad suspicion that it's because of those two really GREAT ballets called, "Barbie Nutcracker" and "Barbie Swan Lake"... :bouncing:

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citibob, you said

Maybe many boys leave at that age because that's when they realize that ballet is about the girls, not about them.

For heaven's sakes. What are you talking about? I assume you're joking, but if so, you should make that clear. There are a lot of parents and DKs that read this forum.

 

This discussion has evolved in an interesting direction. Some of the recent posts about young teens quitting are interesting to me. My boys aren't that old yet, but I'm guessing my oldest is going to successfully make it past the critical dropout years--age 12-14. He has fairly defined short and long-term goals in dance. (I picked that age based on comments on this thread, on this board over the past few years, and from everything else I've ever read and heard. A book was published on this topic a couple years ago and I heard a review of it on NPR, but I don't remember what it was called.)

 

I'm curious though and I'd like to hear from parents and teachers of boys. When you look back on it, after the boys have quit, have you seen any clues it was coming? It could have been clear or subtle, e.g., complaining, stress, expressions of social discomfort, disinterest, self-knowledge of limited physical aptitude, family or outside social pressures, or maybe something else. Correct me if I'm wrong, but based on your posts, I get the impression their quitting is generally a surprise.

 

It seems like social pressures are the reason offered for most boys quitting, but I can't imagine that's always the case. What we are forgetting is that a lot of girls quit about this age too...not just at other ages...because they develop other interests and want to try other things. I would venture a guess that some boys have similar reasons. However, I also would guess that if parents or teachers have an expectation that a boy might quit, the seed is planted and it's awfully easy for a kid to agree.

 

I'm sure any and all of you who are parents of boys were always supportive. Otherwise, you probably wouldn't be participating or reading this forum. I'm just saying that when our expectations are low, a lot of kids don't often see a need to exceed them. Parents of boys can set reasonable expectations on their own, but unfortunately the expectations of other parents and teachers are also apparent. Maybe boys who dance should be protected from those other influences if they can't be positive. I certainly wouldn't want a 12- or 13-year-old reading this topic. How depressing.

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Mel Johnson

I recall a day in my 10th grade year, when a football jock accosted me in the hall with a bunch of his buds and proceeded to call me every male ballet dancer stereotype in the book. I just stood and listened, then replied, "Tell me Vinnie, how many times this week at practice did YOU pat another guy on the (backside)?"

 

I had gauged my target properly. He first turned bright red, then fish white, and seemed to fall into some kind of asthmatic attack. I walked away. (But I still had a good right jab cocked behind my back)

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