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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Encouragement....???


Clara 76

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Just wondering here-

 

In my opinion, male dancers face obstacles that female dancers don't necessarily have to deal with. Are you all finding that your ballet studios are working hard to encourage your boys to stick with it?

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Good question, Clara.

 

Where my son currently dances, I would say they are not discouraging him. But they don't go out of their way to encourage him either. I realized early on that his dad and I had to be his cheerleaders, because nobody else was really doing it. Actually, that is how I wound up here, at the Ballet Talk for Dancers site.

 

At his previous studio, he had a lot of problems, which I have written about here. He was definitely discouraged and treated poorly in general there, but thankfully, we have moved on. We plan to relocate this summer so that he will be at a place where he is supported and comfortable, and getting the sort of training he needs. We are also considering residencies.

 

Since I don't really have experience with places that really work to encourage boys, how exactly is that done? It would be great to hear some examples of how your studio or other studios work to keep the boys interested and feeling wanted.

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Speaking as a parent here-

 

I think that more could be done everywhere, in every school, to encourage the male dancers. I agree with you that sometimes the parents are the only cheerleaders, and while it's a terribly competitive world especially for female dancers, it just feels to me that more should be done to even it out.

 

Anybody else???

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:wink: Well, schools could start by providing proper change rooms for boys, hang pictures of male dancers in the school, not use the colour "pink" everywhere! Provide choreography which includes decent roles for boys, provide adequate male costumes, if the school wardrobes, provide details on where to buy boys' dance clothing in the city or online - my biggest beef - going into a dancewear store and finding NOTHING for boys, except for a box of dancebelts stuck in the corner. :wink:

 

Possibly providing different types of classes for younger boys to keep them interested ie/ mock sword-fighting/fencing, more dynamic classes? I know, somewhat crazy, but boys seem to have all this wild energy. Possibly organizing a ballet video night showing DVDs of say "Wild Men" or other great ballet/dance movies which showcase boys/men. Providing some type of financial assistance to boys to attract them into class in the first place. Treating boys as if they were an integral part of the school too - after all, when older they do partner!

 

This would be a good start. I could write a novel I'm sure, but must get off to the office!

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Not a studio but a school. Support for boys where we are:

 

Administration- I think they really need to provide more financial assistance for boys. I understand they feel that for the level of training they are providing that everyone should pay. That said, they only have 3 teenage boys (2 are seniors), two younger boys and one adult male student. For a program of this calaber they ought to have and encourage more boys. At many of the studios in the distant area, boys go for free. Even this school's larger competetors such as Royal Winnepeg and SAB provide financial insentives for boys.

 

The decor of the facilities is gender nutral. The girl's dressing room was decorated by the girls. The boys haven't done anything with theirs. The studios have posters from previous performances and photographs of the graduating classes.

 

Teachers- Firm but supportive. They don't gush over the boys, but they do give them extra corrections and instruction. They are well utilized in performances. They are challanged and stretched. For some who are more accustomed to an emotionally demonstrative environment they might not find this supportive. Our family understands that correction and instruction is caring and nuturing. They are told when they are doing a good job, when they need to work harder, and when the teachers know they can do what they've been asked to do.

 

Girls (many of them)- They are very supportive of the good looking/cute boys. The ones that aren't really good looking are outwardly encouraged in a piece that they are working on, but are treated indifferently otherwise. This is something that bothers me and I try to discuss it with the girls when they are at my house.

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I think studios would do well to try treating boys as equals. That means having the same expectations for boys as they have for girls. Ensuring a level of respect towards everyone. Offering scholarships based on merit, not because they are boys, etc. Offering congratulations when girls - and boys - receive good roles, SI acceptances, etc.

 

DS has faced different scenarios. One school fawned over the fact that he was a boy. It was annoying. Another treated him extra harsh - and drove him away - because they wanted to drive him to success. At this same studio, however, some girls would harass him (and the other boys) and make rude and embarassing comments. It seemed to be OK because it was the girls doing it. (Or maybe no one really saw how mean they were.) If DS - or other boys - got frustrated and said something back then they were criticized or punished. Especially since one young lady would burst into tears if someone said something negative to her. Then it was all the boys' fault, though I overheard several of her nasty comments. I've even seen DS punched and hit by girls for no apparent reason - even leaving bruises. The mothers would deny their daughters would ever do this - even though I witnessed it. The boys know better than to hit back, though. For a short period there was one teacher who was accessible and we felt comfortable confiding some of the behavioral issues with her - she was appalled and took care of it immediately. But she didn't stay long. While she did she insisted that everyone be treated with respect in the studio - including no laughing at the boys rear-ends when they were in the front row during center work.

 

I have all boys. There are frequently situations where girls want to be part of what would otherwise be an all-male group. Such as baseball. The girls aren't treated differently - either exceptionally good or exceptionally bad. They're treated as any other person on the team. If they have the skills, then that is recognized and respected. If they don't have the skills, then coaches work with them just like everyone else (but they don't get extra or special attention.) If they have behavior or attitude problems - it's addressed. It works well.

 

DS' current school is not outwardly supportive, but not un-supportive. But it's a different environment. All the boys and girls that are at the school want to succeed in dance. They know that it requires males and females. It's a professional environment. If someone doesn't want to work hard, then they are welcome to leave - there are others waiting in line to get in. I don't know the scholarship situation because it isn't discussed. Not all boys are on scholarship, though. I don't think a school has to be a residency program in order to generate a professional and respectful atmopshere.

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I think the biggest problem we have found at the schools here in Oregon is the lack of male teachers and other boys to dance with. The one studio in the state that I am aware of that has an actual men's program has a total of about 5 young teenage boys dancing right now. They do have a track record of sending the older boys away to nationally recognized programs, and have in total about 4 male teachers who are available to teach.

 

I would not say boys are given special treatment at this school compared to the girls, but they are definitely recognized as equally important and worthy of their own class, their own locking dressing room, great male teachers, and they are given actual male parts in the school productions with costumes that are just as lovely as the girls'. This is very different from what my son has experienced in our home town, as he was just always lumped in with the girls for everything; choreography and costuming for him was merely an afterthought, if anything. So I think this particular school does right by the boys, for sure.

 

I think it helps that the school is owned and directed by a husband/wife team, and it seems they have really put forth the effort to make their men's program strong.

 

Oh, and there is no pink at all in the decor! :shrug:

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I can't tell you what a huge difference boys classes make. My son liked ballet a lot before-- he now loves it 100x more! He begs to go to ballet classes every day. His class only has 6 boys in it and they are a mixed group of Levels 1-4, but somehow they make it work.

 

At first I was confused as to how they could have such a variety of levels in the class, but from what I understand from my discussions with the school (and I'm no expert, so feel free to correct me) is that girls have to follow a set syllabus to have them ready for pointe at L4. Boys have no such early milestone they are reaching-- they are simply learning technique and building muscle for their teen years. So, all the boys simply work on male technique and have extra musle conditioning; the L1 and L2 boys are learning the technique for the first time, and the L3 and L4 boys are refining the technique.

 

Anyway, having a boys-only class seems to be a huge encouragement for boys. The school admits they are losing money on it right now, but they're betting it will pay off in the long run. I think it would be great if more studios could offer them-- sort of a "if you build it they will come" sort of thing. This is a repeat of something I just wrote over in cross-talk, but perhaps a 6-8 week free-of-charge initial trial period would help attract boys to a new boys class.

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I agree: having other boys and a male teacher makes all the difference. The last studio we were at sent all letters to the dancers to "Dear Girls" with "and--my son's name" handwritten in to his letter. That--and the pink everywhere--would have driven him away long before now if we hadn't found his current studio.

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:) Well, schools could start by providing proper change rooms for boys, hang pictures of male dancers in the school, not use the colour "pink" everywhere! Provide choreography which includes decent roles for boys, provide adequate male costumes, if the school wardrobes, provide details on where to buy boys' dance clothing in the city or online - my biggest beef - going into a dancewear store and finding NOTHING for boys, except for a box of dancebelts stuck in the corner. :dry: ]

 

 

 

 

Here, here dancemomCA. Couldn't have said it better myself. I'm tired of hearing: " all of you girls need to do this and OH! (male name) you can do it too. Nothing worse than feeling like an after thought when support is what you need.

 

silvergreydancer

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I'm tired of hearing: " all of you girls need to do this and OH! (male name) you can do it too. Nothing worse than feeling like an after thought when support is what you need.

 

Would your DS be brave enough to ask if he can change the step slightly to make it more masculine looking? That might just give his teacher a gentle reminder that 1) he is different from the girls and 2) he is worthy of a few seconds of special attention to find a suitable alternative for him. I always used to change the arms or style of a step slightly so that it would be appropriate for our sole male dancer - on the rare occasions when I forgot him, he always reminded me (very politely) that he needed something different.

 

On behalf of teachers of lone boys, I would like to note that it is difficult to have to accommodate a single boy's needs in a sea of girls. I always did it for our lone male student and also gave him as many opportunities as I could to work with other boys (SI's) or have coaching and master classes with male teachers. Eventually we sent him away to vocational school and he's just come back and joined the company here, so I know the effort was worth it. However, it is an effort and a teacher who finds herself with a boy in her class may find it really problematic to find the happy medium so that the boy gets the support and extra attention he needs without the majority in the class, the girls, being neglected. Personally, I can't wait until the little boy currently with our junior classes teacher gets up to my levels! Wish we had more!

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DS2's teacher addresses the class as "Children..." I really like that she makes it a point not to alienate or single out DS2 in group directions. I understand how easy it would be to get into a habit of referring to the entire class by saying "Girls..." but then the teacher would have to adjust the reference, as discussed above, for the lone boy. This way she has a habit that doesn't need to be adjusted, unless she's teaching adults.

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:yes: I like that! At DS's former home studio, it was "Girls and Mxxxx"...part of being the only boy in class. As Hamorah stated, it IS difficult for the teacher to manage class full of girls and one boy. That is why DS decided to pursue the vocational out-of-town ballet school route, he liked his home school, but knew that he could never be developed to the level he wanted with only a few ballet classes a week, combined with his status as the only male in the class.
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DS' old studio always used "Ladies and Gentleman/men" - even if there was just one boy. Even for the younger ages. It seemed to communicate a certain level of decorum that we felt very appropriate in ballet.

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Here's a nice story to warm all the boys' hearts! In Hebrew even if there is only one male in a sea of females you have to use the masculine pronouns and verbs in the plural, so when I had one boy in class I would automatically have to refer to the 16 girls and one boy in the masculine tense! The funny thing is that it doesn't work the other way round - females are obviously not as important as males! :yes:

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