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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Why 'should' boys do ballet


Kiwi

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The school where I teach has a small number of boys.

 

I was out socially the other evening and the father of one of them asked me the question "why should boys do ballet"? I answered the obvious, exercise in a warm environment, core strength, time management, discipline and since then have been thinking about the question.

 

Please can you give me some more as this question does pop up from time to time.

 

Thanks in advance.

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My youngest started simply because he enjoyed it. So, my first response would be "because they enjoy it". My first son we encouraged to take ballet to improve his posture, now he thoroughly enjoys it. So, my second answer would be "to improve their deportment". Let's face it people who carry themselves well get more respect in the world than those that slouch and shelp around. I've tried to think of other avocations that would be as beneficial in this aspect. I don't feel the team sports offer this to the degree that ballet does. The closest thing in my mind for the poise, discipline, and fitness would be JROTC (military training for minors). That program doesn't start as young as ballet. There are a few similar programs as ROTC for young ones, but they are not as structured and compared to the ballet available for my boys not nearly as rigorous. If either of my boys decided to join the military I would feel confident that they were physically and mentally prepared as a result of ballet.

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AS a mother of an 8 yr old boy dancer (and a girl)...my reply would have been..

 

"why shouldn't they?...let me tell you about..."

 

I am extremely pro on the subject of boys in ballet. There are so many reasons why ballet it would take me a day and half to list them all! ;-)

 

Most people (most likely excluding the father in question) who ask this question don't really "know" about ballet, so it gives us a wonderful opportunity to fill them in!

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My son started doing modern and jazz classes because his sister was taking them as well as ballet. He absolutely refused to take ballet. Then, around 10 or so he decided (on his own) that he would like to take ballet too and now his ballet classes are amongst his absolute favorites (now 13).

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Try one that my mom used on an aggressive dunce: "Because he wants to go into show business."

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My son has learned a lot through his interactions with mostly women and girls at his studios. I think for some teenage boys, the opportunity to socialize with a whole lot of girls is pretty appealing. For a parent, it is socialization that also involves a constructive activity.

 

This isn't why my son dances, but I think he has benefited from that aspect of being the only boy at this studios. I think what Vicarious said about poise and the great physical conditioning a dancer gets are also positives. I have also noticed that my son has quickly become much more detail-oriented in most things he does.

 

My son dances because he finds it both physically and mentally stimulating. He also has an affinity for classical music, and is a physical kid. He wasn't content to sit in a chair and play the cello, so dance was the next thing we tried. It stuck, and he is beginning his fourth year of ballet this week.

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When I first looked at ballet as an option for my first protégé (first! gah! sounds like I'm accumulating a collection!) it was because ballet offered a fairly significant number of plusses and only a handful of minuses.

 

Chiefly it was a physical activity. With more and more youngsters slobbing it in front of the idiot box to either get spoon fed toxic drivel or to play even more toxic video games, it was clear that something physical away from all of that needed to happen. Ballet itself is an astonishingly effective workout, with the added level of difficulty in that it has to look graceful, elegant and easy to the casual observer. It is this reason I feel that many non-dancers (especially men) consider it too easy, weak and non-athletic, hence question why their masculine, active, sweaty boys need participate in something that appears the antithesis of toughness.

 

It isn't until one witnesses the whole thing up close, where the sweat, blood, passion and occasional injury becomes more obvious that one can appreciate just how much of a workout it is. Then those observers take a step back and begin to adjust their way of thinking.

 

Another reason why ballet was considered was because my first protégé desperately needed discipline. Many martial arts were considered before ballet. Cadets. An assortment of other possibilities too, but of all these ballet was the least founded on the basis of conflict, and the most creative. My protégé's propensity to be a bit of a show-off also suggested that rather than suppressing his tendencies in that area it was better to channel and mould it all in a creative fashion.

 

Deportment was certainly a consideration, and is one of the reasons I myself have taken up dance (I'm terribly clumsy and wobbly but I'm getting better thanks to dance). Rhythm, co-ordination, dexterity and agility are important lessons that come from ballet too.

 

Ballet is a world unto itself. Many immerse themselves in that world and live it their whole lives, including males - yes there is a place for guys as well.

 

As for 'should', well, I guess there's as good a many reasons why a boy 'should' do ballet as there is he 'should' take up athletics, swimming, rowing, football, cycling, rock-climbing or gymnastics. They all have their pro's, they all have their con's, and in all of them the boys have to wear tights (yup, it's not just ballet), so any suggestion tights-wearing is effeminate is an argument that holds no water at all, especially in this day and age.

 

Everyone is different, everyone has their own weaknesses, their own strengths, their own likes and dislikes. For some boys ballet is the last thing they want to be trying, not because of some ignorant social taboo but because they're simply not suited to it, mentally or physically. For others, it's possibly the best thing in the world they could be doing, but for whatever reason - social or family pressures, availability of classes, fear of its outwardly elitist culture, affordability of classes, not being aware of it in the first place, whatever - they can't or won't do it.

 

I believe though that dominant social perspectives are slowly shifting, especially in western culture. Thanks to movies like Billy Elliot (now a smash stage musical it seems) prejudices are slowly dissolving, due in no small part to a growing awareness and understanding that ballet is not just an art but can be - in some people's eyes - a sport as well. With increasing mainstream respect, it is very possible there will be a rise in appreciation and participation, especially in those places that have media outlets who continue to report events and feature participants in a positive light.

 

Art is a fickle mistress. There will always be those who don't understand it, fear it and deride it. It is up to social structures to ensure that negativity is as marginalised as it deserves, to better ensure that new generations coming up through the ranks are provided with an unprejudiced perspective on all that art has to offer - ballet included. To this end, all children should be provided with an opportunity to experience it either as a participant or as an observer (just as they should be exposed to most things in this world), so they can make their own assessment, and then have the support of family to take it the rest of the way should they choose to follow that path.

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Many martial arts were considered before ballet.

 

This evening at church one of the retired ladies said to me "(DS1) seems to be doing very well with the ballet. I know he was very athletic before but it didn't seem to do as much for him as the ballet is doing. He looks so much better."

 

He was taking Tae Kwon Do several times per week but couldn't get into shape. It just wasn't enough to offset the video games. In fact he got in worse shape, it wasn't keeping up with his intake. Many people have noticed the remarkable (and they do remark) change in his physique.

 

Improvement in musicality is another benifit of ballet. DS1's deepest gift is in music. Ballet gives him the opportunity to feel and understand music in another way.

 

It gives the extroverted child a forum with clear limits. DaveS mentioned the showoff element. It has been very good for my DS2 to have an outlet for that and to have specific instruction and boundries around it. He's learning how to shine when it's appropriate.

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Because the ratio of men to woman is excellent (for the boys)!

Because it is athletic and artistic at the same time.

Because it is a great activity without getting muddy.

Because it doesn't get cancelled due to the weather.

You don't have to touch other sweaty boys when you do it.

Because there are lots of great job opportunities for talented boys.

You get to meet lots of beautiful girls.

Fame and recognition

Everyone likes to wear costumes

You can pretend you are someone else.

You meet lots of people from different backgrounds.

Speaking French is involved

Everyone likes to dance with a guy who CAN dance.

Because dancing professionally offers excellent travel opportunities.

Because the food at the Theater is better than the food at the ball park

Champagne on opening night

Because boys love to wear tights.

 

OK maybe the last one isnt true. But those are mine and a male dancer friends compilation. :)

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Because the ratio of men to woman is excellent (for the boys)!

 

This can also be intimidating, and in fact put some prospective male dancers off, as a room full of giggling girls can be just as terrifying to a boy as the cocking of a loaded weapon is to a cornered quarry...

 

Because it is athletic and artistic at the same time.

 

The athleticism is probably of greater interest to a boy than art. The two reach parity a little after getting into it a little, though.

 

Because it is a great activity without getting muddy.

 

Yes, not every kid likes to get muddy all the time, especially when the sports paddock has the evening before played host to dog walkers and errant inebriated local partygoers (who tend to project from essentially every orifice repeatedly on the grass leaving special 'gifts' for the soccer kids the following morning - I speak from experience here).

 

Because it doesn't get cancelled due to the weather.

 

Except duing periods of extreme weather. Or in my own situation, a dose of APEC :angry:

 

You don't have to touch other sweaty boys when you do it.

 

Eeuwww ... thank goodness. And sweaty girls smell nicer, too :sweating::thumbsup:

 

Because there are lots of great job opportunities for talented boys.

 

To be fair there are job opportunities for good talent, period. Regardless of gender, race, creed etc. Granted though the guys tend to be more in demand than the girls.

 

You get to meet lots of beautiful girls.

 

Once some time ago I met a young fellow who danced, and wanted to be a professional dancer when he grew up. He told me he had been teased at school about his dancing until he pointed out that there were few other activities where beautiful women in their underwear threw themselves at the men. As he and his school chums were all about 15 or 16 at the time, I could even then imagine the clanging silence and ensuing contemplation at the pronouncement of that observation...

 

Fame and recognition

 

A greatly desired goal for some, a deterrant for others... :unsure:

 

Everyone likes to wear costumes

 

Especially little kids B)

 

You can pretend you are someone else.

 

I sometimes have difficulty dealing with being me. Why the blazes would I want to be someone else and get all their problems as well? :D:P

 

You meet lots of people from different backgrounds.

 

Oh my, yes. Such a diversity, united by the common language of dance (and French).

 

Speaking French is involved

 

And this is good how? :ermm:

 

Everyone likes to dance with a guy who CAN dance.

 

This is certainly true. At my protégé's 10th birthday party, the music started, and he hit the dance floor running. He was the only one though, the other kids looking on in startled amazement. Pretty soon however other kids joined in (mostly the girls - the other boys couldn't dance to save their lives, and became pretty embarrassed about that, too), and he remained a source of amazement and inspiration for the other kids. It was wonderful to watch.

 

Because dancing professionally offers excellent travel opportunities.

 

If that isn't an incentive for some, I don't know what is.

 

Because the food at the Theater is better than the food at the ball park

 

Absolutely.

 

Champagne on opening night

 

Not good for kids, but you don't hear the parents complain...

 

Because boys love to wear tights.

 

OK maybe the last one isnt true.

 

As a matter of fact...

 

My protégé was a tiny bit apprehensive when first introduced to the concept that tights were involved in ballet and that he was going to have to wear them as part and parcel of dancing. I think this reaction was less to do with any self-consciousness he had, and more to do with the association of his sister being the tights-wearer of the kids in the family. Once he was assured he was only going to be wearing tights designed for boys, he relaxed a bit, and never a grumble was heard, no reluctance was expressed ever again.

 

Now, after he finishes dance lessons, he throws on a pair of jeans or tracksuit pants over his tights, and keeps them on for the rest of the day. In the warmer weather, I've even seen him wearing his big shorts over the top of his tights. Come bedtime, he removes his pants, and hops straight into bed, sleeping in his tights.

 

He also owns a pair of "Skins" tights, which he never wears to dance lessons, but still happily wears to the beach, and even as casual wear sometimes. They do look pretty cool (most Australian footballers, be it soccer, AFL or NRL wear Skins or similar during training and this is well publicised on TV, and a lot of kids look up to these guys), and I reckon he likes their sleekness and stylish design.

 

Maybe it will be a new fashion trend. Goodness knows the latest 'skinny jeans' look isn't far off anyway...

 

But those are mine and a male dancer friends compilation. :)

 

Well done! :)

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Nice list, Memo, and Dave S - love the commentary :-)

 

Perhaps we could add ruby's find of a young skateboarder at the RBS

Skateboarder attends Royal Ballet School

 

Edited to direct to already existing Cross Talk topic so we don't double post :)

Edited by Clara 76
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Champagne on opening night

 

Not good for kids, but you don't hear the parents complain...

Well done! :clapping:

 

OH come on a little sip of champagne, It wont hurt! :innocent:

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People have given many excellent reasons, but I think most of the time that question is asked, the person asking has some sort of issue or agenda. Most likely, how effectively you can answer the question will depend on how well you can divine the questioner's issue or agenda and rebut it ;-)

 

Also, while I certainly respect that many boys are apprehensive or unexcited about tights or classical music or hanging out with girls or whatever, I do get a tiny bit tired of everyone assuming my boys are always a hair away from wigging out over the whole thing. They *like* classical music. They don't have a problem with tights. They don't mind being around girls (though they wouldn't admit it on a bet). They didn't need anyone to change the art to keep them interested. They don't need someone to keep telling them IT'S MANLY!! YOU GET TO JUMP!!! IT'LL MAKE YOU BETTER AT SPORTS!!!! Sometimes I think they get more freaked out by people in the dance world assuming they ought to be afraid of ballet than they are by any negative comments from small-minded peers! Actually, every time they try to do something to make it more "boy friendly" it tends to backfire for DS1. He's a bit of a stick in the mud, and likes his dance (and music) quite classical. Must take after his mother ;-) (I'll admit, though, that DS2 does enjoy going beyond the strictly classical more.)

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Good post, Ericka! My DS also gets tired of people assuming someone is forcing him to dance, or that he is strange because he loves ballet as much as the girls at his studios. He also doesn't study ballet for the benefits it might have on some other athletic pursuit, which is an assumption we have heard mostly from ballet dads who seem to be grappling with the fact that there is a boy in their DD's class.

 

While I know DS would welcome the opportunity to have actual boy's/men's classes, I am fairly certain he would not like a watered down version of a ballet class made "boy-friendly".

 

He has never complained about the tights, either, and has worn them from day one.

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