The elephant in the room

So how is the ‘ballerina’ today?

That was the question I was asked by one of my classmates between classes the other day. She’s about my age, and I don’t think she meant in any other way than to be a little humorous.

I didn’t correct her, and tell her that male dancers aren’t ballerinas. I just rolled my eyes a bit. Some of my best friends are ballerinas, as are some of my dance heroes, so it’s not a big deal to be identified as one by the non-ballet public.

It’s part of the life of a male dancer. You deal with stereotyping and jokes, and questions about your sexual orientation. I’ve been dancing long enough, and love it so much, it really doesn’t bother me as much … I did dance in drag during our Nutcracker Gone Wild performance and would jump at the chance to be a stepsister in our spring performance of Cinderella.

But a comment by one of the young male dancers in our company at a dinner party really made me think.

I have always been the first to stand up against the gay stereotyping of ballet, challenging the statistics that some throw out that as many as 50 percent of male dancers are gay.

I’ve based it on my own experience. Both the artistic directors our company has had since I’ve been taking classes at the school have been married to former partners who teach at the school.

All of the young professionals who have danced with our company had been straight, had girl friends (most were dancers) and even the teenagers who have danced with the company who came up through the school were straight.

We’ve had a couple of guest artists I’ve suspected (and now know) were gay. But that was about it.

Until this year.

I’ve mentioned we have two new young pros with the company. We have two young teenage boys who dance with junior company who are about 14.

One of the two teens was the boy at the dinner party, bemoaning the fact he was now the only “straight” male dancer in the company (while I perform with the company and take company class, I am not in the company). I suspected the two pros were gay, and that was confirmed at the party when one of them brought his boyfriend.

It appears the other teen has come out, which is pretty brave considering what part of the country we live in.

I can sympathize with the young dancer who shared his concern at the dinner party.

Maybe it’s bad of me, but I was reluctant to have a male teacher until Mr. O came around. He’s not only straight, but comes across as the average Joe.

And it helped that the two young professionals who danced with the company most of my years  at the school school were the same way. I value them as friends and shared a few beers with them as they helped me grow into my own skin as a dancer.

And, I’ll be honest, it made it easier for me that the younger teen male dancers were about the same say.

I’m hoping it’s progress that I’ve reached the point where it no longer really matters. It’s really none of my business. I am now comfortable dancing with whoever is in class. It doesn’t matter to me what the sexual orientation of the dancers I dance with are, male or female.

I’m in class to dance. 

The two new young pros with the company seem like nice guys. I’m sure they’ll do well and bring something new to the company.

 

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3 responses to “The elephant in the room

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