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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Spousal Support! Anybody with this Problem?

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You know, you can marry someone and not really know everything about them.


I took modern dance and some ballet when I was in University. I really enjoyed it but perhaps it was a bias of mine I didn't recognize, I just didn't take it seriously enough to devote more commitment to it. Ended up in a profession, which is fine.


Anyway, got married, had kids, prospered, even survived cancer. Well, in 2000 after taking yoga for a sore back for a number of years, I took a yoga class at at a dance school and saw the ballet class going on. I thought, at 39 I bet I could still do that, and with the benefit of having done weight training and yoga, was still fit enough to do a good job at it.


So I joined a nearby school and took classes. Work and family interrupted my attendance a number of times. Having surgery for cancer interrupted it for a year. But I persisted around taking the kids to soccer etc. and was improving, getting faster and more precise in my steps, more coordinated and at ease in longer combinations; even able to piroette relatively well.


Turns out (after being subjected to the stress of going through some lengthy and difficult house renovations) that my wife really hates that I am taking ballet. It turns out she finds it embarassing that it isn't really a manly thing to do. So for the sake of the relationship at a tough time (which I guess ultimately has priority over an avocation) I'm taking a break from it.


Anyone else facing this? Any suggestions?


I've tried to explain that it is about being manly (at least the male dancer is to appear manly), it is physically challenging, it is good for fitness (helped clear up a nagging sore low back) and wearing tights is something almost every athlete does now. But she doesn't like that I wear tights, doesn't like the little black slippers I wear, that I'm the only man in the class and that ballet still has some 'stigma'.


I guess I'm looking for someone to commiserate with who might be in the same boat: having to check their enthusiasm because the rest of their life just keeps failing to mesh with their hobby.


Anyway, nice group, good information. Take care, Shuffle :)

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First of all, I am impressed by your journey to something you love. I cannot do anything but interpret the situation, and I may be really wrong but, it appears that there may be more than first meets the eye here.


Perhaps your wife is a bit worried because you are in class with lots of women wearing tight clothes, so there may be a bit of jealousy involved. Have you invited her to observe your class, so that she can see for herself how 'manly' it really is? Perhaps it will help to involve her.


It may help for you to reassure her that you would support her in any endeavor she loved as well. Does she have her own hobbies?


It would be a shame for you to have to give up what you love because of some insecurities on the part of your spouse.


Counseling could also be helpful for this situation as well.


Good luck.

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Thanks for your reply. I think you're right, there probably is more beneath but it might be pretty deep. I think her 'tolerance' level was reduced by the distress of having our house torn open in the reno's and that's why it came out. Not sure if I want to find out where it goes beneath the surface.


I saw an article in a Pointe magazine issue recently about some people just being uncomfortable with men in ballet (or in tights?). Kind of surprised to find that in my wife out of the blue :)

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Why are people uncomfortable with men in tights???

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Men in ballet goes against our society's construction of masculinity in many, many ways --- it's not just tights. I don't want to explain here what they all are, that's been done elsewhere. But the barriers are there and they're real.


It sounds like your wife is not so concerned about you flirting with the beautiful women, but with the actual act of a MAN in BALLET. Since the two of you are married, I sincerely believe that you DO need to go beneath the surface in understanding your wife, even if it is uncomfortable for you. That is part of the marital vow, to me.


She may never change. But my hope is that both you and she might be mature enough to understand that you (both) do some things that the other just doesn't like, and that appropriate boundaries are healthy in a marriage. Your body is yours, not hers. Your life is yours, not hers. Some things she can veto because they are outside your marriage vows; but some things she cannot. As far as I'm concerned, ballet is something she cannot veto.


Finally, she needs to understand that you love her and that taking up ballet does NOT mean you're about to abandon her. Many women are afraid that men in ballet (or any "non-manly" thing) is a sign of men "turning gay" and "walking on the wild side", and it can all lead only one place... abandonment of the woman (aka a "Brokebeck marriage"). Don't bother trying to cut through the misconceptions and homophobia, although you do need to frankly discuss her fears with her, whatever they might be. And she might just need to hear that you love her and you have no such intention and you are interested in her as you have always been.

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As other members have said, it seems that her biggest issue is you being involved with ballet, not the time spent around other women wearing little clothing and instructors adjusting body position. I can only interpret the situation since I'm not involved, but it really does seem, that like you said, she's uncomfortable with the fact that her husband is doing something that's not "manly."


You said you had previously taken a yoga class at your ballet studio. Did your wife have issues with this or did she see yoga as an acceptable activity for men? Maybe the best way is to just talk things over with your wife and explain how you really feel about ballet--and that it's not an expression of some kind "un-manly" desires in your life.


Perhaps a suggestion here: have you asked your wife if she would like to attend a class with you? Maybe if she's able to see the positive improvements to your life first hand she'll understand more. Really stress the benefits of ballet altogether. My studio often does this with parents of students who are interested in dance but still apprehensive--you can't deny the fact that ballet is an excellant all around workout, amazing for flexibility and strength, and is a great way to learn about the strengths and weaknesses your body holds.


Beyond that, I'd suggest really supporting one of her endeavors as a way of encouraging her to do the same for you:)

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(I dont know, after typing this I thought I was just being interfering. But maybe there's something of value here, so I'm continuing. Please ignore if you wish. Sorry if I'm intruding.)


"Since the two of you are married, I sincerely believe that you DO need to go beneath the surface in understanding your wife, even if it is uncomfortable for you. That is part of the marital vow, to me." Good words. Support for a spouse in all ways is part of marriage.


If you doing ballet is really an absolute sticking point (even though she knows how important it is for you), it suggests it is connected to something deeper - and the closer you get to these deeper issues, the stronger the reaction. Usually these deeper issues are fears to do with abandonment, isolation, loss of love, poverty, or some childhood trauma. It may seem absurd to make the connection, but it happens. Cognitive therapy is good at unravelling these things and dealing with them. However I think it would be counterproductive to suggest your wife goes to therapy to that you can continue dancing (!!).


But if you dont know about cognitive therapy, it might be worth it for you to learn about it and its techniques, so that you can indeed "go beneath the surface in understanding your wife", get insight, and then help her, maybe gently over years, if she is in fact prey to fears (even though they may be expressed indirectly). I suggest "Feeling Good" by David D. Burns, which is the standard original text, and is widely available.



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Hi Shuffle,


Sorry to hear your dilemma. It has been discussed on this board before by som eprevious balletalerters, so I know you are not the only one. so don't feel like you are :) Hey at least you found us :D

So you can talk about ballet to your hearts content.


In a complete reversal of the situation, my husband says when we have kids and if we have a boy he will do all he can to get him into ballet and dance :D how happy am I? Movement is a natural thing for all of us to do. Dance has been around since the beginning of man. Many cultures use it to express and communicate ideas and stories, and this has never changed. Have she seen some of the men that dance? Muscular, fit, athletic. Maybe she is looking at the wrong photos? Maybe she thinks that men who do ballet don't have families, and wives and children? This, I have found is a common misconception and it is hard to break. It can only be changed by her wanting to change her opinion. In the end you can't force her. But maybe reminding her that this is the 21st century where women are now the bread winners and men the stay-at-home moms.

Would she argue or complain or tell you you are 'unmanly' if you wanted to stay at home and look after the house and do things such as clean and cook and wash and sew?


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Good luck, Shuffle. As Xena says, this has been raised on the board before - when I first read your post, I did a quick search in this forum but couldn't find it, so maybe if you used the search term "wife" in The Men's Forum, you might find the thread? I seem to remember it was a long & supportive one.


I just don't understand the prejudice against men in dance - I do classes with a few men and have male teachers, and they all strike me as masculine & (as far as I know) determinedly heterosexual (married, met their wives etc etc). Not that heterosexuality is a necessary condition of masculinity, I hasten to add!!!


But it sounds like it's a symptom of deeper things, rather than a big deal in itself.

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Sorry I can't offer any deep insightful advice like some of the other writers here, but as another married guy who takes ballet class I'd just like to offer my best wishes.


My experience is nothing like yours. My wife thinks I'm largely nuts for taking ballet, but comes to my performances, lets me take a week off to go to Adult Dance Camp each year (that's her Christmas present to me), and tells her friends and co-workers about my interest in dance.


You can't stomp down someone's individuality just because they are also involved in a relationship. Following your passion is what makes you interesting and not just a member of the masses.

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I agree with everything everyone has said here and hope you can come to a good understanding with your wife. Do you thik it might help if you took her to a ballet ballet performance? Preferably one with a lot of men doing a particularly athletic program? ( like maybe Sparticus) She could see how great and athletic ballet ( and dance) is. Or rent the movie about the little boy in England who became a dancer( Adam Cooper played the character grown-up) I can't think of the title.

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All great comments, thanks. I'm a little astonished at the number of replies made in one day - Wow!


Obviously there are a lot of opinions/perceptions of men in dance but there really is something tangible in our culture that views getting a little white ball into a cup as a challenge worthy of manhood but an aesthetic pursuit as unworthy. I think at the end of the day our culture (is it a majority?) still places more value on the hunter, the warrior and the chiefs. I guess it doesn't help the mens' cause that you have quotes like Balanchine's "Ballet is Woman" floating around. Rightly or wrongly do people here find that this bias against ballet is still prevalent? Has anyone had to confront really strong reactions to men in ballet? Is there a lot of it out there? Pointe magazine thought it was enough of an issue to do an article on it.


The other reason I ask is that there are sometimes pockets of perceptions in the public domain that sometimes you just miss. One example I came across had to do with swimsuits. As a child I was involved in competitive swimming and you wore a speedo for that, period. I also grew up in the era before bermuda shorts; people didn't wear the surfer shorts to the beach or to a pool; they were still only found on the North Shore. Speedos were worn by everyone. Anyway times changed and kids started wearing the baggy shorts. I was completely out of the loop about this when a woman I worked with explain how offensive she found it to see men in speedos on the beach. And this was not just a change in the fashion but in the culture: I asked a number of people and there is a large group of the population that really hate seeing speedos. I had heard nothing about it. Turns out speedos are a real issue with some people!!


I think the fear aspect is probably where my wife is at and I know she does not talk about her fears well. We have been to the ballet together in the past and have taken all the kids to the Nutcracker at Christmas. And I have gone out to play sports with her - she's a bit of a jock. Yoga didn't seem to be a big deal, maybe because it was for a sore back - I enjoy it but find it boring compared to dance.


For me, marriage and family is the top priority so ballet will have to suffer if this continues to be an issue. But talking about it more as suggested seems to be the right answer. Hopefully we'll be able to talk about it and come to some better resolution - will keep you posted.

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