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How come there are so few males in adult ballet?


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Does anyone have any ideas why there are so few men in an adult ballet class? Almost every ballet class I have ever taken, I've been the only male in a class of between 6 and 10 women. Does anyone have any ideas how to maybe change this around a little bit?

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I suspect a lot of it has to do with gender role expectations, i.e., "ballet is for girls and women". Lots of fun stuff seems to get arbitrarily divided along oppositional male vs. female lines, which is really a shame because PEOPLE of all sorts, in all cultures, across all time enjoy dance...it's in our DNA :)


As a very tomboy-ish girl who was a serious athlete for the first part of my life, I found it difficult to get past some of the "pink and glitter and tiaras and princesses" idea of ballet even as an adult...I can only imagine that being more difficult for men. I try to encourage all my friends to try ballet, especially my male friends who are musicians or athletes or do other kinds of dance...if you can get them to come to the first class, it can be addicting. I'd love to see more guys in class as well!

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Courage. That's how I was able to walk in a ballet studio. I called first of course and asked the teacher if I could take classes. I needed to know if they were comfortable with having a guy in the class. I don't know why, but I was a bit surprised to be the only guy in the studio and I think everyone was surprised to see me walk in, except the teacher who was a lady. Guys need to know that there are male ballet dancers and not just ballerinas. And they need to learn a love for movement. Ballet is good for guys in so many ways even if they're not shooting for a career. One part of why there aren't more guys in ballet is that ballet is classical art. I don't know a lot of guys who are into poetry, classical music, or a guy who cries to a black and white film. I guess it's the male western stereotype that guys can't be sensitive and that they can't appreciate beauty.

Edited by Daedalus
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When I first thought about this question many years ago, my initial thought was that guys were just uneducated and inexperienced with regard to the arts in general and ballet in particular.


I began dancing as a ballroom dancer and where I trained there were more males than females who were what I'll call dedicated dancers. I know that was unusual, but the place where I trained was highly competitive, so perhaps that was a reason. Later I found myself at a few folk dances and all I can say is that there were plenty of guys around. I spent some time in a little impov dance company--four guys and two females--and the problem there was not with the guys, but with retaining females. Based on those and other experiences I've come around to the notion that guys do participate in dance and are not anti-dance to the extent some people think.


When I look at the arts I see that historically the visual arts, music, and literature are dominated by males. Yes, much of that has to do with the lack of opportunity for females. But even now, I see plenty of males in these activities (my experience in classical music differs from that of daedalus). From that I conclude that males don't lack artistic sense.


What I'm left with is that there is just something characteristic about the nature of theatrical dance (add modern, theater, flamenco to ballet) that makes it relatively less appealing to males in comparison to other art forms or even some other dance forms. What that is, I have no idea.


I began dancing not because I felt the need to dance. My choice was objective. I had led a physical life throughout my lifetime and I was looking for a physical activity that was new, different from what I had been doing, and didn't require the physical attributes of what I had been doing. I picked dance. I wasn't in love with dance, but then I had nothing against it either. I was ignorant beyond belief. With time and experience, I've come to enjoy it. In fact I've now danced longer than I have done any of my other physical activities.


In my case, the uneducated and inexperienced idea seems true for me (perhaps that's why it was my initial thought). But there are always people who think different from the norm and now that's how I think of myself.

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This would have to start from youth. If you go to most ballet schools in the U.S. you will see that some of them have no boys in the classes. There is definitely still a stereotype about men dancing, especially ballet, in the U.S. In some other performing arts too, women outnumber the men. There are always many more women in musical theatre, choirs and opera, and a scramble to find the men, especially at the lower levels. I had a discussion about this with a male ballet instructor a year ago--how to get more men in the studio. I suggested an all-male class but he thought that it would not attract more adult men. It is a commitment to step into a ballet class, whether male or female. We may have only a certain number of extra hours in the day--and less free time especially if one has a family. Considering that and the stereotypes that men might have to deal with if they take ballet, it is not going to be on most men's list of priorities if they haven't an innate love of dance or started as children.

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It seems very much a matter of lack of education and experience. I am not male, but most of my friends are, and when I mention that I dance, I frequently get reactions which suggest they're picturing me in a pink tutu skipping around a room. Of course they're not interested in taking class! Odd to me, because I started as an adult and associate ballet class with sweat and grungy black dancewear - not glitter and pink. Even my image of the ballerina comes more from Giselle or Swan Lake - no pink there.


Perhaps too many men's experiences with ballet start and stop with their daughter's first dance recital (or the many stereotypes of it presented in movies, TV shows, etc.). I had hoped movies like Black Swan would help present a different side of ballet for once, I guess I'll have to see if opinions have changed at all in the future!

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I think it's also up to the teacher to make the guys feel comfortable in class and to automatically adapt the steps for them. There are a few men who take our adult open classes and it actually quite annoys me that none of the teachers change the steps for them, so they end up doing courus and stuff like that. I teach two little boys this year and I always adapt the steps for them, if I give something which I think is too feminine for them. Perhaps if the word got out that there was a particular teacher whose classes were guy compatible more might turn up!

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I do think it should be up to ANY proponents of ballet to "sell" the idea that boys and men and boys can practice ballet. I think that dancewear companies and shops and especially schools need to place images of both boys AND girls TOGETHER in their pictures and as their business logos, not just a girl in a tutu. And especially in the dance school lobby, have pictures where when a parent drops off her daughter for a class, the son that is usually in tow can see the pictures and say "I want to do that, too, Mommy!" Eventually, everyone wins because ballet is a lot more normal for both males and females. Then dance schools make more money because they'll have even more students. Dance shops and manufacturers will make more money because they're selling more products, and so on. And, of course, I won't be the only man in a ballet class!!!

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I have heard (does anyone have more information?) that this is not at all the case in Russia and the Slavic countries, where ballet has for a long time been more widely admired. (Similarly, I gather that a much larger proportion of the Italian population are opera fans, compared to the USA.)


I felt free to try it because I didn't have to worry about my image any more after I retired. Even then, I would never have thought of it if we had not been long-term season subscribers to PNB. Which was my wife's idea. There's a young man in some of my classes recently who was interested but says he didn't have the nerve until he saw this old guy taking class (that was me) - "hey, if he can do it I probably can". I conclude that having a visible example is significant. I certainly encourage ladies to drag their male friends to a ballet whenever possible!


Another hobby of mine is hi-fidelity music reproduction, which is almost exclusively a men's hobby. I know perfectly well that there are women out there who like music (!) so this makes no sense to me either.


It's not a "private club" thing, in my experience. I've always felt welcome in ballet class, and my audiophile friends would LOVE to share their enthusiasm about music with women.

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