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Ballet Talk for Dancers

Concerned about Son's Friend at Ballet Class


Westsidemommy

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My DS is 8 and really loves his ballet class... he started in September and most of the moms and kids at his school have been supportive. DS has become good friends with another boy who is quite popular with everyone at the dance class. This friend is also 8 but just seems more athletic and self-confident than my son. DS is quite shy and is sometimes teased about being wimpy or too girly. We are all glad that he made this new friend and he is a polite boy with lovely Goldilocks-blonde hair... I have become quite close with his mother too and one day when no one else was around she just happened to blurt out that her son wears girls' underwear... he just finds the panties softer, more comfortable and perfect for when he does ballet. I just smiled when she confessed this, after all, she has an adorable, talented son who everyone seems to like and no big deal really that he should prefer girls' underwear.

My DH, unfortunately, is concerned about all this... our DS has been called gay by some bullies in his class starting in first grade and now, of course, we have to worry about the whole stigma of being a boy dancer. DH realizes that DS is lucky to have a friend like this but he just afraid that if DS found out what his friend wears, he would want to wear panties too. How would you have reacted when the mom's friend told us what he wears?   

 

     

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Just wanted to add that DS has been missing ballet class very much since it was interrupted in March... and I totally think that had they not been interrupted, the friend would have eventually told DS about wearing girls' underwear. Maybe just as a casual piece of advice, "You might find this more comfortable under your ballet shorts...."  The friend is not shy or easily embarrassed, let's just say! 

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I understand parents' fears that their sons will be bullied, but don't let that fear determine your every action. 

It sounds like your son's friend has a great mom who is not obsessed with societal norms and prejudices.  If her son is the same way, he may prove a treasure as a friend.

Parents of boys learn to improvise in a lot of interesting ways when it comes to making dance clothes work.  They often have to use clothes designed for girls--In the past, we have had to make use of girls' leotards, leggings, tights, shoes, etc.  It's often the case that the appropriate item isn't available for young boys or that the item marketed to the girls is much cheaper.  Loose or thick guys' boxers & briefs don't work well under tights--they bunch up and have a lot of lines.  I can see why a dance mom might look for underwear that is made from a thinner, stretchier fabric.  There are full-seated dance belts for young boys, but they are more expensive.

In a few years, the boys will both be in thong dance belts anyway.

Keep the friend. 

 

 

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Yes I agree. Keep the friend. Your DS will meet a wide range of people in the arts world. He has the opportunity to become a kind person who is not just open minded but open hearted. Encourage and embrace this with him..oh and wearing girls underwear is not terrible or a slippery slide to more outlandish behavior. These boys are likely to have enough challenges without worrying about that. All his male dancer friends will be special to him. They have a vital bond. 

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I have a son in ballet who now wears dance belts but I wish I knew this tip a few years earlier! The knit boxers he used to wear always left a line under his tights. I understand your concern, but I agree with previous comments-be open and kind, and boys in ballet need all the support - pardon the pun - they can get.

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mln is correct that your son and his friend will both be in thongs in a few short years if they stick with dance. Personally I wouldn't worry about the 'girls' underwear on the friend-- you don't even need to tell your spouse-- after all its underwear, and really a private matter for the wearer, regardless of age. I wouldn't read too much into it. It might mean something about the gender identity/expression of this kid, or really it might be a sensory issue.

However, I think it sounds like it might be worth having some discussion with your son's father, if he is open to that, about whether it bothers him to have a son who he and others perceive to be not sufficiently masculine. I know we want to protect our kids from harm, I do remember discouraging my son from wearing hot pink shoes to school because I knew other kids would mock him (and in the end he wore them, and they did make fun). Many ballet boys have to deal with assumptions (which may or may not be correct, but certainly aren't other people's business either way) about their sexuality even from a very young age. It surprised me that in this day and age "gay"- and ruder words for it- is still being used as an insult in elementary and middle school, but we coached our son to respond to that in ways that hopefully avoid reinforcing the underlying homophobia. Dancing-- or being wimpy or girly, or wearing girls underwear for that matter-- doesn't actually make anyone gay, and I think its beyond time to embrace that there are a multitude of ways to be a boy. Being feminine is not a bad thing, and "gay" is not an insult, and doing ballet doesn't mean that someone is girly or that they are gay (though perhaps they are, which is also ok). Furthermore, whether or not someone is gay is really not the business of classmates, teachers, relatives, and so forth. And CERTAINLY not at age 8. All of this can be hard to talk about with a young kid, but I think its an important conversation to have early and often, in age-appropriate ways. I know I was kind of surprised that it was coming up with my son when he was in 4th grade, but I am glad he told me, so we could talk about it. Other kids calling him "gay" got worse in middle school, and then seems to have really stopped. Or maybe my son just doesn't care any more? He realizes it says nothing about him to have other people making ignorant comments. 

How great to have another boy friend at dance, so that your son doesn't have to feel weird or singled out. My son is a teenager now, and still dancing, he has always had male dance peers as part of a boys program from early on. Its nice because they can easily see that there isn't one way to be a boy who dances! And the girls at ballet school also don't seem to find it unusual at all for there to be boys. He feels like his ballet boy friends are his real true friends, the ones who really understand him. 

And agree with Thyme-- my hope is that these experiences will help our sons to grow up to be men who are more comfortable with themselves and others, and who have a more open-minded and relaxed idea of what it means to "be a man". 

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Oh, and you can buy what is called a "full seat dance belt" for a younger boy to wear to dance. It kind of looks like girls bikini underwear but has a slightly padded front. My son didn't have that at age 8, but really you can just address the underwear issue head on. For many sports, boys wear specialized underwear, and dance is the same. As the parent of a boy who dabbled in baseball and hockey as well as ballet, I can say that I was perusing the special undergarments for sports before I ever had to for ballet! 

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Thanks so much for all the kind, helpful comments. You are very sweet and seem to understand what I am going through. DS is quite slim but still cute. Yes, he is on the girly side and needs to get over his shyness. DH does accept him but he also needlessly worries about the feminized nature of ballet.

Yes, ballet class does seem to be where our real true friends are and I’m guessing that’s why the mom was so trusty with me… 🤗

I think I told my husband what the friend wears because I wanted him to see that other ballet moms have to deal with a lot of the same ticklish issues that our family does and the whole ballet is for girls stereotype. I know that neither my DS or his friend are looking forward to wearing tights. Not that being feminine is a bad thing, as you say, but the first time wearing white tights is embarrassing for many guys… the ballet class starts boys in the white t-shirts and black shorts and that was fine.

Your son sounds nice and thanks for telling me about the hot pink shoes. Kids can be mean. My friend bought her son a pack of pastel-colored bikini panties and he happily wore every pair to ballet class but the pack didn’t have a pink pair, haha. Smart mom!       

You are right that wearing girls’ underpants doesn’t mean a boy is gay. Good for you and I’m sorry I had such a negative reaction when I found out. We miss ballet class and this mom and her blonde son. I think he has a lot of self-confidence and the fact that he was such a good sport and willing to wear the bikini panties for more comfort must mean he really has gotten the ballet bug. And we wouldn’t have him any other way, would we?     

 

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The ballet boys are a really special bunch, and their families too ❤️ these months away from ballet have been hard for many of them. 

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  • 1 year later...

It’s fun to go back and read an old post you wrote over a year ago. DS is 10 and enjoying his break. We wish he had more friends and are concerned that DS will likely be the last boy in his class to go through puberty. Maybe he will always be tiny and adorkable, haha. 

The great thing about living in New York is getting to know some amazing families. At a Christmas party, I spoke to a mom and her lovely son who is only 11 and pursuing a career modeling and acting on Broadway, as well as dance.  

I have mixed feelings about the NYC boys’ ballet schools that we always hear are so wonderful. Are they really best for boys and young men psychologically? But this boy, who is only a year and a half older than my son, seems able to handle all the pressure. A little star in the making and I admit SAB does seem better than anyone else at developing their talent. 

You can kinda tell when a tiger mom is pushing too hard but he seems like a happy, confident kid who really loves ballet. When asked how he felt about wearing tights, he blushed but was able to smile. “It’s whatever, and it’s all about the art, anyway!”    

This boy is lucky enough to go to a fancy, private school in Manhattan where he says he is not mocked for his dancing. But the mom understood why my DS would feel ballet is unfairly outing him at age ten. Perhaps in the New Year, DS will discover a new sense of power and an appetite to live bigger and bolder than before. Or at least make the switch from tighty whities to a dance belt. Happy Holidays.  
 

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Westsidemommy there are plenty of ballet (and dance) schools in NYC! If your son is wishing to continue and to be in a program with more boys, 10 is a great time to start looking around (for next year?). I don't think any of the programs would be particularly high pressure at that age. SAB is certainly not only for prodigies or stars-in-the-making (though some kids there are like that)-- but if your son is small-for-age he might have some really fun performing opportunities with New York City Ballet as an SAB student! (well, assuming they can get back to performing 😭) Manhattan Youth Ballet is a really special school and has good numbers of boys (of all ages) and excellent male teachers. Other schools that attract boys include Ballet Academy East, ABT's JKO school (also has the connection to a professional company and thus professional casting opportunities).. Alvin Ailey has a boys program (though its not only a ballet-focus school) and you could even look at Ballet Tech which is a public school with ballet instruction included, I think it starts in 4th grade and goes through middle school-- certainly nobody gets teased for dancing since everyone there are dancers! I am sorry he feels like he is being mocked for his dancing at his school. My son went to a not-fancy public school, but in a kind of "artsy" neighborhood and he experienced some teasing, but it was not extreme. He also was not the only boy who danced, which helped. 

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On 12/29/2021 at 11:08 PM, 5uptown said:

but if your son is small-for-age he might have some really fun performing opportunities with New York City Ballet as an SAB student!

You are right and DS could be ideally cast in NUTCRACKER as Fritz, the younger brother. And, who knows, maybe a little squirt will make a big splash. 

Thanks for responding to my post. You seem very nice… true, SAB is not all prodigies but still it can be hard not to feel jealous and sometimes your SAB story becomes more of a sob story.  Seems that in these top NYC ballet schools, some boys are doomed to get lost in the shuffle and feel second rate. Boys who might have been highly treasured in a small-town dance studio, see what I mean?   

DS seems so colorless compared to some of the stars-in-the-makings in his class. The boy at the party has amazing poise at age eleven and I guess everyone is telling the mom he is so adorable that he should do commercials. This kid has an agent at William Morris, if you care. 

But other times people will compliment me on my son and act as if he has a path to stardom. I realize he still has time to get his foot in the door...  

DS is lonely and my husband has been calling me a bad mom. DH can’t understand why he doesn’t hang out with other boys in his ballet class. But some kids are socially awkward at age ten.  

DS and I sat in the kitchen with my sister-in-law and the female teen cousin who have been so supportive of his dancing and sympathetic to any bullying or slights the past two years. 

At first, DS rolled his eyes and didn’t want to talk about whether he was shy about inviting other ballet boys back to his apartment. DS then had a hard time answering whether any of the nice dancers were really his friends. 

My sister-in-law now was quite blunt. “Sounds like you’ve spent some time at ballet school feeling left out.”  

DS at last admitted that two of the boys in his ballet class often mimic him because they think, “I have a like, gay voice!” This surprised us because DS never uses the word gay… his cousin quickly told him she likes his sweet, little voice. And, of course, she hugged her cousin and made him feel much better.    

I asked one of the ballet moms and she admitted that DS is considered something of a target. Everyone’s a little mean in fifth grade, right? 

One mommy told me not to worry that your DS is a late bloomer. Different boys need the dance belt at different ages. Awww!

And another mother emailed me that her DS has worn black underwear since he started ballet at age 8... Black briefs make him feel like a professional dancer and are less likely to be teased in a fifth grade locker room than tighty whities. My son liked the idea... Happy New Year! 
 

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Oh boy! these pandemic years have been hard enough with all the isolation and I feel sad for your son reading this. My son has never been a prodigy and can be pretty socially awkward, but it has gotten easier as he's gotten older. (I also have a non-ballet-dancer kid who is in 5th grade, she would feel terrible if people were teasing her like that! ugh!) 

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 1/3/2022 at 10:47 PM, 5uptown said:

My son has never been a prodigy and can be pretty socially awkward, but it has gotten easier as he's gotten older. 

Thanks, 5uptown that's good to hear! I was also happy to hear that a few years ago the ballet school had a boy with an embarrassing lisp ("My name is S-s-Scotty") but he lost it at age 11 and now fits in with other boys at dance class. My sister-in-law tells DS just imagine how many boys are out there who could’ve been ballet stars but never were because of stereotypes and the idea that ballet is for girls. DS is self-conscious about his voice and it isn’t nice that some boys mimic him. But the problem with ballet class is not teasing so much as shyness about making friends and being afraid that other boys who dance won’t like him. Should I talk to a teacher about this? 

One mommy that I met in the city told me that one of the nicest boys her son has met through ballet is a 12-year-old who happens to be a rainbow. That was the term she used but said it with affection.   

Aww, you always feel so protective when there is a young male dancer like that. The way they described him to me, seems like there’s no point in trying to hide it. He does get bullied but this mom and her son obviously think he’s an awesome kid and just accept him. 
 

 

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