Should boys be taught ballet differently than girls? Um, yeah …

I posted this a while back on my site on tumbler, but I also thought I’d post it here.

I have to admit it, I had a love-hate relationship DDN (dance.net).

It is one of the most active dance sites for an old dance geek like me.

One of its charms is that it attracts an eclectic mix to the ballet board. You’ve got those who danced professionally. You’ve got recreational dancers. You’ve got those who’ve danced maybe a couple of years and suddenly they’re an expert. You’ve got people who over-exaggerate their experience and knowledge and lambast everyone else. You have fetish people, too. 

A woman who is a teacher (at least it was implied she taught) asked about the differences of teaching boys and girls on the site, or more exact what steps should one be taught.

Maybe she used a poor choice of words. She was criticized for asking if there were different steps boys should be taught.

It amazed me. It floored me.

The vast majority of steps in ballet are done by both genders. But there are steps boys should be taught, such as tours en’ lair. I don’t think it’s a tragedy that a boy isn’t encouraged to go en pointe or do bourees (I’m not opposed to a boy doing that if he wants to, don’t get me wrong).

But I do think there are times when boys should be taught to dance differently than girls. I’ll be honest, I think there is a reason why ballet doesn’t retain a whole lot of boys who try classes then they are young, and why you can’t get some in the door who might otherwise be interested.

The perception is sometimes reality in a lot of cases.

I don’t think there is anything wrong with being the only boy in a class with girls and a woman teacher. That was my reality the first few years I took ballet and strongly took a position that a boy didn’t really need a man teacher or be in a class with other boys to flourish.

And don’t get me wrong. I am forever grateful for what my women teachers have taught me. My base, my technique owe a lot to what I learned under them. And my female peers forever encouraged me, and the love I have for dance comes to a degree from their enthusiasm.

But my perspective changed when I started taking class from a male teacher and found myself in a class with other male dancers.

Part of what you learn in ballet comes from the steps you learn from the teacher. Part of what you learn comes from what you see from your classmates.

I remember being the only guy in class with a female teacher one day when we were being taught to run. I hated it. I thought, “I’m a guy, am I supposed to move like that?”

The teacher, to her credit, did her best to teach me “male steps” and demonstrate male movements, and in hindsight, I thought she did well.

But you glean so much more if you are a guy from a good male teacher and from peers in class. You learn a lot more about movement, how a male dancer is supposed to move.

And I’m not talking Nureyev, stately prince type of movement. I’m talking every day, move as you’re supposed to move, movement.

As much as I love my female peers and try to emulate some of the things they do, men don’t move quite the same as women.

And even in steps we both do, we do them differently at times. Men are supposed to jump higher. We’re supposed to do more pirouettes. We don’t flitter. There is a gracefulness a male dancer should have, but it’s much different than that of a woman.

I don’t think you get a full picture of that when you’re the only boy in a class full of girls and a woman teacher.

I’m not saying every boy should all of the sudden seek out a male teacher and join a class with there are other boys. I do think that’s a good idea if the option is available without abandoning the classes they already take. I still feel one great woman teacher is better than a mediocre male teacher.

But I do think boys who are in the all-girl environment should be encouraged to take master classes with male teachers and participate in intensives where they’re not the only boy. It’s in those environments when steps and variations male dancers perform are truly worked on and not somewhat ignored.

And it’s in those environments where you see just how male dancers are supposed to move.

But that’s just my opinion.

What’s yours?

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One response to “Should boys be taught ballet differently than girls? Um, yeah …

  • http://google.com

    This excellent article, “Should boys be taught ballet differently than girls?
    Um, yeah | loveballet89” shows the fact that u know precisely what you are writing about!
    I really 100 % approve. Thank you ,Elana

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