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Ballet Talk for Dancers

I know I can't change the world, but....


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Okay, I can't take it any more. I apologize for the vent. I know we just had a thread on a specific incident, but I just feel the need to vent in general.


I am so sick and tired of my son coming home in tears become some insensitive, ignorant little kid thinks it is funny to call my son gay because he is a dancer!! :angry:


There was an incident a few weeks ago, and my son eventually stood up to the offender and he backed off. I thought it was all going to have a happy ending because the school PTO made arrangements for the entire 5th grade to go watch my son in the Nutcracker. Well, since they sent permission slips out to everyone and put my son's name on the forms, now he has become an even bigger target. Maybe things will blow over after all the kids see the show.


My son was just crying and crying when he walked in the door and asking me why kids say such things. I feel like a broken record: "Oh, those kids are just ignorant, they don't know how hard you all work and how strong dancers actually are. Blah Blah Blah..." *sigh*


I know there is nothing I can do to change things. I guess I'm just a Pollyanna that believes that people should just be nice to each other. Is that too much to ask??? :shrug::D


Is this how it is going to be his entire life?? Gee, how's that for something to look forward to?


Thanks for listening. :(

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  • Mel Johnson


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My brother made a comment about guy dancers being gay and I set him straight right away. He was a wrestler. I told him "Look, you wear a leotard, you learn choreographed moves, you're always on a diet, then only difference between you and a guy dancer is that you've got your hands on a guys butt, and the guy dancer has his hands on a girl" After that, he actually came and took a few classes



I'm sorry your son has to go through all this. I'm sure after they actually SEE him dance, they'll realize the strength and stamina it takes

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dancetaxi, I feel so badly for your son and can only imagine how upsetting this is for him and for you. Does your husband weigh in on any of this and does it help?


Unfortunately, I don't have a son nor a dancing son - but I do know there are some old timers on this board who may not post regularly but I do hope that they'll come on board with some reinforcements.


Just another example of how important it is to have exposure to all the arts start at a very young age. Too bad you can't get your son's school to screen "The Wild Men of ABT".


Best wishes over these next few weeks and please let us know if there's a change of atmosphere after the Nutcracker. I am sorry that I can't remember how old your son is, but I hope he can weather all this. :clover:

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The 12 year old boy I drive to ballet endures horrible torture at school. He once told me that the only thing he ever did wrong was hang a Nutcracker poster at his school in 3rd grade because he was so excited to be in it.


Last week he got called to the councilor's office because other children let her know how badly he's tortured. Basically, all she said was that if he loves what he does and plans to stick with it, he's going to need to develop a thick skin. I didn't love that response, although, hopefully she's taking additional action behind the scenes. There's certainly truth to what she says. Also, in her defense, she is coming to see him in the Nutcracker.


His parents are looking into letting him do independent study through the end of middle school, at which time he can attend a performing arts magnet school for high school.


Is there any wonder we have a shortage of males in the dance world!

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I'm sorry you and your DS are dealing with harrassment. I expect my DS and I will be in the same boat someday, but have been lucky enough so far to not have experienced it.


I have prepared my DS for what may come, and he is VERY secretive about dancing, though he goes to a very small, alternative school where two or three girls from his ballet school also attend. I think there are a number of people who know, but who either don't care or don't tease him for fear of getting into trouble at school.


The school and other schools in our district also saw my son in A Midsummer Night's Dream last fall, but his school didn't advertise the fact that he was in it, and many kids might not have realized it was him, depending upon where they sat and whether or not they read the program. DS was nervous about what would happen back at school after the show, though.


Good luck to your DS and you, Dancetaxi. I really hope things blow over.

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And if all else fails, this simple expedient always used to work for me:


Left jab

Right hook

Knee to the groin



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That is actually my husband's solution. :wink: He is an ex-pro boxer and has done some work with my son on the heavy bag in the basement. I think he was teaching him how to box not so much so he would give someone a black eye at the first sign of teasing, but so that he would have the confidence to stand up to kids knowing he could back it up if he needed to. But, it's not really my son's style. He's not a fighting type of kid. He just really wasn't raised that way.


The irony of all is is that he has just started having an interest in girls (one in particular at his ballet school, but that's a topic for another thread! :shrug: )


My son did a pretty good job of keeping his dancing quiet for some time. He knew who he could tell and who he couldn't. But of course now, the gig is up. And, it's about to get worse because the local paper and the big paper here in town are about to do a story about him and the 2 kids we carpool with.


Thank you all so much for your words of support. I knew it would eventually happen, but it really stinks when it actually does. He is a sensitive kid and WILL have to develop a thick skin. I just hope he's up to it. It would be a shame to add one more casualty to the male dancer population. :angry:


P.S. BW~ My son is 11. :P

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This is the hardest age. My son used to beg to be home schooled so he wouldn't have to deal with this. What he did do was keep it very quiet and didn't let anyone know that he was dancing. It didn't help that he was very small and at the time pretty. There was no way around it he looked way too pretty to be straight (what ever that means) and was told so by many people both adult and kids. Add shy and over analytical to the mix and you have middle school hell.


It did get better. He developed a thick skin about this and developed a sense of humor to try and get around the teasing. "25 girls with perfect bodies, four guys and someone telling us to pick them up and touch them just where does this fall apart for you." It was funny even through high school he kept it quiet. He even went to a performing arts HS but was not in the program. It was the same one that Tango49's son attended. To be honest it didn't make much of a difference in the other kid's attitudes.


He still has problems when he meets girls and tells them he is a dancer he goes through this whole proving I'm not gay thing. Wish it didn't exist but it does.

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:angry: Dancetaxi - unfortunately this teasing and harassment is going to stay with your son probably into high school. Middle School seems to be the worst age and period for teasing. My DS experienced daily name-calling from one kid in Gr 7, he eventually took the boxer's route and let the kid have it. Not my choice of resolution but the kid did back off - in fact, he ran home crying to his parents about the "ballet bully"! To this day, that mother still does not speak to me - how ironic! I had to ask the Admin to change his class for Gr 8 - I just wanted him to enjoy his last year of middle school. They did it, but not without a fight.


Your son will have to develop a thick skin, if he truly loves ballet and the dance world, he will have to learn to let things slide off his back. It is not easy and I've been in tears more than once with my son over the years. As for the gay stereotype, it exists because many male dancers are gay, not all, but they are definitely in every company/school etc. My 16 yr old DS is in that group, he is far happier now and very, very comfortable with himself as a person and dancer. It is the boys who struggle with this issue for years that seem to have the most emotional problems. So now when he is called a "Fag" or "Gay" he just says, Yeah - so what? Somehow the taunters lose interest...not all though, even at an Arts HS. Different story at ballet school - he is fully accepted by all - he's just M****, the dancer and friend.


However, once the newspaper article comes out I'm sure that your son will be noticed even more, so be prepared. But I'm also pretty certain there are many people who will call to congratulate your son too - which is a good thing (As Martha Stewart would say!) You will have to be super supportive, tell him what a great guy he is, tell him to remember why he loves to dance - it is for himself, not for anyone else. It is sad when these boys have to constantly prove that they're not gay, but your son will develop true grit and determination, believe me!


Merde to your son in his upcoming Nut performances! Stay strong and keep the faith dancetaxi - you have many BT friends supporting you along the way. :P

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DanceTaxi - Like everyone else, we, too, have faced these kinds of problems. It has only been recently - at the high school level - where DS has started talking more freely about dance. But it's still limited. His elementary school in Dallas was very open to artistic endeavors. There was some teasing, but not too much. When he returned to his orginal school in Northern Virginia, he decided to wait before revealing his secret. Good thing - the people are much less supportive. Of course, this is an area which has absolutely no programs for artistically gifted - whether dance, art, drama, photography, etc. Technology and science are the focus. Or sports. He kept dancing a secret all through middle school, though we did tell his counselor. Fortunately she moved up each year with his class so he had a support system for his entire time in middle school. He's finally told his best friend who admitted that the middle school age would've been a bad time to have revealed the "secret." At their current age, it's worked out well. We still avoid photo shoots and newspaper articles. We don't post posters of performances. This is the first year he's given his studio permission to use his picture on their website. (You can google a name and find a lot of interesting things about a person - some things you'd rather not. DS found this out in computer lab in middle school!) We allow him to make all of the decisions about publicity.


Reality is that kids are not tolerant of each other. I think 11 is an age where the lack of tolerance really kicks in. They will look for anything to criticize. Perhaps ballet is just a convenient target. We know of one girl who was criticized - ballet was considered inferior to soccer or volleyball. The other kids just needed a reason to attack her. There are some books and articles out there about the new social stratification that exists in middle school. Perhaps your school counselor can recommend some. They can better explain how groups are formed and hierarchies are built. Last article I read was there is a tremendous amount of energy spent by kids trying to manipulate their positions within that hierarchy. Kind of like high school when we were younger. Except now it's at a much younger and potentially more vulnerable age. We knew that ballet would be an issue, so we always made sure DS was involved in other endeavors that kept him connected with people in school. In this way, they would have formed an opinion of him separate from ballet. (Such as yes, he takes ballet, but he also has a black belt in karate and an all-star baseball player.) If/when they found out about ballet, their opinions would hopefully be pretty well set. This took a lot of extra time on our part - and his - but we kept him in sports as long as possible, encouraged him to be involved in drama or other clubs, do after school intramural sports, etc. We spoke with a school psychologist once and she confirmed that this was a good strategy. She explained that the middle school scene was structured in a way that the kids targeted people that were not in a "group." It didn't matter which "group" a child was in - the smart kids, the popular, the drama kids, the jocks, etc. - but being able to be perceived in any one group was enough to significantly reduce opportunities for teasing and bullying. That was news to me, but we now take it very seriously.


As for ways he deals with it - when it does come up, he focuses on things ballet has given him - the material things. Like he earned money for being a super with the Kiev. Or he went to an SI with all expenses paid while his classmates had to spend the summer at home hanging out (and eventually getting bored.) That seems to get more postive attention than focusing on being in a class of all girls.


Just saw dancemomCA's post - yes, the teasing will continue. It will come and go. But ask your son to step back and take a look and perhaps he'll see that there are a lot of other kids that are being teased and bullied, too. Not for ballet, but the bullies will find something. It's also true that the less of a reaction they get, the sooner the teasing will end. Then be there when he comes home and wants to cry.

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Dancetaxi, I really feel for you and your son. Indeed, the middle school years are the hardest. In our case, my son kept his dance interest fairly private, although close friends knew. By age 13, everyone knew, but he had firmly committed to dance by then, and could have cared less what others thought. Oddly, most everyone was supportive by that time! He was primarliy dancing with older teens by then, who were very kind and respectful, and I think this really helped. Sort of an island of safety where he could develop his skill and feel a part of something bigger. And of course, he spent a lot of time there. He went on to his first SI and was thrilled to be surrounded by male dancers his own age. This cemented his determination and focus. He did go on to a performing arts high school, where teasing was not a problem. What he most liked about the school was that everyone COULD be an individual. And now, in a residency program, he is in a world filled with guys just like himself. To dance is the norm. Wearing tights all day--they all do. They spar with turns, share help, joke around, watch DVD's of ballet, etc. Life is good, life is normal. I have no clue as to who is gay or straight--can't tell, and it is none of my business. In fact, it just doesn't matter. The issue is outside of dance.


I guess my point is that he will feel most support from other dancers, and in the dance world. They get it. They share it. And your son may find such support sooner than you might expect. If he comes to see dance as HIS world, the significance of views of those outside of this world diminishes. What might be helpful is support from male dancers a little older than he is. Are there boys he can look up to? A window into how wonderful his world can be, where he can truely be who he is and do what he loves would be a comfort and inspiration that perhaps could "shrink" the importance of those crazy, bullying, unfair comments. Those comments are acts of aggression that say more about the speaker than the receiver, and speak to the discomfort this society has with men and sensuality. What a shame.


I guess we parents of male dancers can at least offer YOU our direct support; I only wish we could offer it to your son more directly! And to all those other boys out there who are going through this now. When I see male dancers now, who seem so relaxed and comfortable with themselves, and who look so accomplished, I know they share a history of some kind of scapegoating at some point in their lives, and haved moved forward, past all that. Hang in there. Your support for your son is what he most needs right now, and the dance world will offer him more and more as time goes by.

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Guest arabento

Mel, I like your solution and that would also be my husband's, unfortunately in this day and age if a child did that in school they would be at the least in an in-school suspension and maybe an expulsion (I know as we went through this with our older son, who isn't a dancer, but put up with lots of emotional abuse in school because he didn't fit in (and this was at a private, religious school) so the day he punched someone where it hurts HE was the one punished.) Didn't quite seem fair, but they have to learn to deal with life and bullies. Fortunately he went to a totally different school for high school which had a strong academic and theater program and which was very accepting of all children. So had a much better high school career.

I was talking to my DS (age 11) on the way home from class last night (before I saw this topic) as he has been taking oboe lessons since October and yesterday was finally allowed by the band director to switch from trumpet to oboe, because he said one of his "friends" was calling him names (hobo) because he played the oboe. We discussed it and he said that if so called friend or others continued then he was going to stop playing. So I asked him "well if they make fun of you for dancing, will you stop dancing". His answer was Yes, which kind of surprised me as he really likes to dance. I then asked him if playing the oboe makes him happy "yes", does dancing make you happy "yes", so we then had a discussion about doing what makes you happy regardless of what other people think. I don't know what the future will hold, but hopefully his dad and I will be able to offer him the support he needs to continue with his artistic endeavors (as this kid really has the music and motion in him), and let him know that people who make fun of dancers a lot of the time don't know what a physical occupation it is. I guess that if problems do arise then we will just have to go to the school and try to get them solved. I am hoping that he will be able to go to a performing arts high school, so that will take care of ages 15-19 (just 3 more to go).

It also doesn't help that our professional company folded a month ago, so many of the male role models that he saw before while waiting for class, etc. have now left for other jobs. Fortunately his teacher who was one of the male dancers is still here, so that is a good thing. The bad thing is that when the company folded so did the school, so his class of 8-10 boys has scattered to the wind and many times it is just him and one other boy in class and other times he is the only boy in a girls class. Good for personal attention, but the boy support system has vanished. I guess that through all of this he will learn perseverance, adaptability and to follow your dreams, no matter what others think.

By the way in May he will achieve his Black belt in Tae Kwon Do, so his answer is "I'll just put my karate moves on them." And as Cheetah said being in a group helps, so we'll make sure he continues in band through middle school.

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I agree with Mel. My DK has never been in any kind of fight but he is big (tall I mean) and very agile and finds when he stands up for himself the abusers usually back off. (He could if he had to lets put it that way and people know it) Even are nice after that. Middle school is the worst and mine went to a performing arts middle school and it was no better. He now home schools but not because of social issues which I actually wonder if that was a factor.

I really is unfair. When a girl plays soccer people do not assume she is gay. It makes absolutely no sense. And what of the kid who is gay! How difficult must it be for that kid! An almost impossible social situation it seems. Do the parents teach this attitude or is it so prevalent in society that kids absorb it. :thumbsup:

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Unfortunately, this behavior is as much a part of human nature as the need for shelter. It is seen in animals in the form of herds outcasting and isolating the 'weakest' member, so that they become the prey and thus 'save' the rest of the herd.


That's certainly no excuse for this heinous behavior, as it is no longer required by humans for survival.


But one of the things that you will see is that anyone who steps outside conformity, will be walking around with a target on their backs.


I've seen adults do it all the time. It happens in office buildings, on the police force, and at the local church, and most obviously at this time, in politics. Red vs. Blue....


Again, this does not excuse the behavior in any way shape or form, just that he is not alone. The only thing that will get people off of him, is when they find it no longer 'works', so they will move on to another target.


The funny thing is, if all of the people who fight conformity were to get together, they'd outnumber the idiots!!


I find it happens as an adult to me because I homeschool my kids. Anti-conformity is threatening- it forces them to reconsider themselves and their own flaws, and they dislike it.


Not a whole lot of advice here- everyone else has offered excellent advice, I'm just letting you/him know that he's certainly not alone.

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The upside of my quick n' dirty solution is that you only have to do it once, and word gets around. And you don't have to do it in school, in fact it works better if you don't: "3 o'clock, Cox's Alley. Be there." They don't show up, they're yellow, and you hang that albatross around THEIR neck. I hated doing that, but it worked!


But Clara is right, crisis resolution can get pretty nasty, whether you're an adult or a kid. It's rough, but you have to prepare for some pretty grim eventualities whether it's in the office, or the studio, or the street.


It used to be so easy in the old days; pistols for two, coffee for one. And there was even a way to escape that! "Genl. Jackson chooses to ignore the challenge to a duel proferred him by Genl. Garnet." - Stonewall Jackson to Richard B. Garnett.

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