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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Maintaining positive mood for the only boy in 5 y.o. class


pianolady

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Hello,

 

My 5 year old DS joined once-a-week ballet class at my dance school at Pre-Primary level (5 y.o. to 7 y.o.). He joined ballet class after being introduced to videos of male / boys dancers leaping and pirouetting in youtube, after joining my ballet class as an observer, and that I offered him the option of joining the class (with the prospect of being able to leap and turn like the dancers in youtube).

 

The situation has always been delicate, firstly him being quite a shy boy and needs a lot of encouragement in joining any new activities / new school - and secondly, him being the only little boy in ballet sphere in town. During the first day of class 4 months ago, I took the time to accompany him in the first class and spoke to the teacher on what my DS's interest in ballet and advise the teacher on the my DS personality (shy, dislike being excluded, and not keen on talking about his feelings - will develop positively with encouragements). The teacher, whom also teaches me in my interfound class, was very understanding on my DS situation. The teacher would often give leading role for my son in class and always emphasises my DS uniqueness as a boy. During the past four months, my DS has always been enthusiastic about the class and would constantly do ballet steps at home. He even said he loves ballet!

 

One day, out of the blue, he said to me that he doesn't want to go to ballet class anymore. He said that he hated ballet. After a heart-to-hear talk, finally he mentioned to me that he disliked the role of Prince in the class while the rest of the girls are Princesses. He said he wants to be superhero instead of a prince. Then I advised him to try to talk to the teacher about what he wants, but he also needs to follow the class.

 

Right after that talk with DS, I went to talk to the teacher, and there I found out the reason my DS dislike the Prince role very much. It's because the teacher did not have the props for boys, while the rest of the girls were given princess crowns. My DS who disliked being excluded, refused to join the dance during that class. Hence I advised the teacher that my son needs to be included and treated equally - and that he prefers to be superhero than prince.

 

After that incident, we tried to coax my DS to ballet by screening youtube videos of Billy Elliot and Spiderman Musical (which has balletic dance in it too). Of course it motivates him, but he still refuses to go to class. His class since the Prince incident will be tomorrow, and my husband and I plan it to be business as usual - DS goes to school, and goes straight to ballet class after school because it's his routine. I am very anxious hoping that DS wouldn't cause any drama tomorrow...

 

So that's the story of the Prince incident which keeps me anxious now..

 

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On a more general perspective, it's been four months since my DS joined ballet class and I found it quite challenging in a number of ways. First challenge is the environmental pressure. In our town, ballet is stereotyped as girl's activity. My husband and I faced ALOT of opposition sending my son to ballet class. We encountered dumb questions such as "would ballet class alter my son's sexual orientation?" and that "boys should do manly stuff and ballet is not one of those". Luckily, my husband supports the ballet decision all the way and would always encourage my son on the virtue of doing ballet. My husband would defend my son's ballet decision with everyone who opposes it.

 

Moreover, the ballet school has ZERO male teacher, ZERO boys, and as far as i know, only one male student joining interfound class as adult - a late starter. Even the ballet teachers are hesitant in enrolling their sons into ballet class. Even the ballet school initially discouraged me to enrol my DS in the ballet school, saying that "ah, they won't last long - they won't enjoy being the only boy in class". Luckily, the class teacher is more open and would strive her best to adapt the class to my DS's needs.

 

Second challenge is to keep my DS motivation alive, which is difficult since there's no role model. Youtube come to the rescue. Being the only boy in class has so far not a problem. He established good relationship with the girls in the class. However, I think he sort of struggle to define his identity in the class since there's no boy counterpart. This makes it quite a delicate situation that needs extra effort in nurturing.

 

I am so afraid with the prospect that my DS would get bullied by other boys because he's doing ballet. I would be really sad if that's the case.

 

And I often think on the reason why we are doing this in the first place. Well, one thing, my DS eyes sparkles when he sees dance performance and he would try to emulate the steps. I would think this is a sign that he has great interest in dance and I want to show the avenue for him to develop his interest. Fingers crossed, my husband and I hope that we are not making a wrong decision to take this uncommon path of sending him to ballet class.

 

Meanwhile, as a parent who did ballet when I was a kid, I felt the benefit of doing ballet to my personal development. I felt that starting off early (I began ballet when I was 6 year old) would provide good basics that enabled me to do other kinds of dances / activities easily. Even though I quitted ballet at 16 year old, I found it quite easy re-starting ballet again when I was in my thirties. I would imagine, if my son wants to quit ballet later and re-joined ballet when he's older, his early training would enable him to catch up easily and enjoy dance even more, not to mention other side benefits of doing ballet like flexibility, posture, balance, agility. And if he wants to be serious in ballet and pursue opportunities in it, well, it's good that he had started early.

 

Well, thank you for listening and supporting, sorry for giving such a long rants, this is more of my anxiety of tomorrow's DS class which I hope will get him motivated again. Any additional advice is very much appreciated.

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HuckleberryDawg

Wow, lots there. Just a few thoughts which are worth about what you're paying for them:

 

1. I think your son might benefit from being at a ballet school with a few male role models; but I'm not an expert on that. My DS's school has a boys ballet class each week and it's the highlight of DS's week to dance with the other boys. In fact, when he first began, the male instructor of the class let DS hang out in the boys ballet class for a few weeks before nudging him toward a mixed class that was at his level. DS was hooked by then and had no problem going to a mostly girl class. Is there any chance of finding a ballet school nearby that has more (any!) boys? Or at least male faculty? (ETA: I know your son has no problem being in a class full of girls; I only added about the boys class because it really helps my DS's overall morale to be able to dance with boys once each week.)

 

2. The instructor for your class sounds like she's a great find in terms of being understanding. Still, remember that as special as a boy ballet dancer can seem, she still owes her best teaching to *all* her students.

 

3. If DS is going to be treated "equally" I don't necessarily think that means mom gets to dictate that he is a superhero-vice-prince or whatever else. It would be nice if the teacher had props for boys; but given the lack of history of boys at the school, it's not surprising she doesn't have any (yet). Give some time; but if lack of a crown is all that stands between your son and his class, why not take one in for him? Or a sword? When DS's school had ballet camp last year, on "Princess Day" the girls got crowns; but the teacher made sure DS had a sword. Plastic ones at TRU can go pretty cheap. I think, and I'm not married to this, you could be more of a help here even if maybe you shouldn't have to be. Informing the teacher that he'd rather be a superhero if she is doing princesses, though, strikes *me* as being a little too directive; but that's just me. I think 5 yo is plenty old enough to understand that sometimes we suck up what we don't like in order to achieve the things we love. Being a prince instead of a superhero might be a good time to emphasize that lesson; and that the reality is, unless you find another school, he's going to be a prince or he's not going to dance.

 

4. My son got teased a little at his school (small, private) when he first started ballet; but he benefited from a teacher that caught the first whiff of it and used it to teach an impromptu class on Why Male Dancers Are Phenomenal Athletes. That pretty much packed it away for the first year. The next year when it started again, I called the moms of some of DS's friends and just asked them if they would very subtly point out to their sons that ballet for men was an activity demanding skill and strength. The moms were happy to be part of the solution and, later on, my son told me that when another kid started making fun of him, his friends, having been coached, stuck up for him. This is first grade if it gives you an idea of the age group. If I were you and you are worried about teasing, I would be proactive in making the teacher your ally on this. Also, if teasing does start, I've found that other moms would definitely rather their kids be part of the solution than the problem. Enlisting their *subtle* help might be helpful. You may also want to role play with your son so that if he *does* get teased he has answers ready that don't sound pitiful or hurt; but rather sound strong and sure. This is a practiced skill, not a born one.

 

5. The fact that your husband is fully onboard is a wonderful thing. Be glad for that! There is a boy at my DS's school who was in the Nutcracker this year. He wanted to start taking dance lessons after; but he can't because his dad said "Nope." Kind of sad actually.

Edited by HuckleberryDawg
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Well, I don't know how much I can add, as I am quite a newcomer. But my boy was 7 when he got started, and he already had taken a keen interest to classical music at age 4, so I think he was geared to go. He started in tap though, and then decided he would give ballet a go. I don't know what would have happened if he started younger. And fortunately for him, he has a boy in his class, and the other boy's 13 year old brother is a dancer and my kid thinks he is super cool, so he has that role model.

 

If he seems to want to dance but not liking what is currently available, maybe he needs to be in a tap class or activity class, till he is old enough to take a class that is really teaching him ballet, not focussing on role playing props.

 

As far as bullying, read through the many threads on this forum, you will find plenty of that. I was concerned. I read some of these threads, saw what people have endured, and it weighed heavily on my mind. When guys at work found out, I got some strange looks and rather unfortunate comments. My wife had to guide me to the realization that all you can do is be supportive and try to build confidence. It hadn't dawned on me that little kids who do things like talk about the great trip to the symphony concert for show and tell are used to being ridiculed. As for me, I walk and talk confidently about ballet, just like I do for the activities of my older 2 boys. Yes, there are those that think ballet is a fast track ticket to the great gay way, I deal with that at work. Can't change their minds and don't care to. Any of my children could be, nobody elses business, and why would they even care? Being no expert, but having been taking crash course on the ballet world for the last 6 months I would say see about getting something that keeps him interested. If this class turns him off he may give up now and never get a shot at trying real ballet training. My kids big hero is a guy named Ethan Stiefel, from ABT, and he didn't get started till he was 8, and was working as a pro at 17 or something like that. So there is plenty of time. My opinion for what its worth. Good luck!

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I have 2 boys in dance - 6 years old (has been dancing since 4) and 10 years old (has been dancing since 3). My older son and I took a mom and tot creative movement class when he was 3 and he has loved dancing ever since. He started in CM, that transformed to jazz and hip hop, and only at 8 did he start ballet. Ballet is now his favourite class, but he kind of eased into it with no pressure and just discovered how much he loves it.

 

We are in a small town so they are the only boys in ballet in our town (there are 3 schools), but there is another boy in jazz. My 6 year old started off in a tiny tot class at 4 - he loves listening to classical music so we thought he would like ballet (trust me there is no correlation here we have learned). He really enjoyed the "everyone is looking at me" aspect I think more than the dancing. His next year he started primary ballet and although he always enjoyed going to class he was also a typical 5 year old boy and let's face it - ballet does not keep pace with most 5 year old boys! I agree with the earlier post about maybe a different form of dance is a better place to start with your son - he may enjoy a creative movement class or jazz better - or even a children's drama group. It's not untypical for a 5 year old to care more about the costume than the dancing, but again as the earlier post mentioned if boys are new to the school the teachers need a chance to adapt also and the child needs to know who the teacher is and who is the student - as does the mother. It sounds like you have a good teacher who genuinely cares about all her little dancers so try to be patient as this is a new experience for her also. My boys have had a range of teachers, but all were pretty new to boy dancers, but each year we are at our school it gets better and better. They even have their own dressing room now! You also mentioned that since he enjoys watching dancing he should enjoy doing it - well I enjoy watching action movies, but I'm sure not interested in becoming a stunt woman! Do you know what I mean? Both my boys love watching the dance shows, and when I took my 10 year old to Moulin Rouge by RWB he loved it, but when I took my 6 year old to Swan Lake he slept through the second half. I discovered 1) classical music makes great lullabies and 2) even though he loves to listen to classical music (and play it on the piano) he likes a faster pace when it comes to movement. So this year the 6 year old dropped ballet for soccer. 1/2 the dance year is over and he misses dance now so next year we will try again probably with jazz. I don't worry just quite yet about what happens if he wants to dance professionally one day and didn't dance when he was 5 or 6 or even 7 - just let him do something he enjoys and everything will fall into place.

 

The little one has not experienced teasing yet, but my older one has. We were sworn to secrecy for the first 6 mths of ballet. My husband and I are proud of our dancing boys but we don't shout out the "b" word to everyone we talk to we just call it dance unless someone asks. We have found that helps the boys feel like they can dance without being judged in our little town and as they became more confident and comfortable in dancing they just starting telling people they do ballet all on their own.

 

Good luck with whatever you decide! Children are wonderful no matter what!

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I really have nothing to add- you wonderful parents have said it all!

 

It would be nice to some day, get him in a bigger school where there would be other boys his age in class.

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