Category Archives: boys in ballet

The Only Boy in the Room

He felt the stares as he walked into the room.

This wasn’t the first time. He still felt a little nervous each time class was about to begin.

He observed the girls as they put on their shoes and checked their hair.

They were nice to him. He didn’t complain.

He took his place at the barre, hoping he didn’t seem like an intruder in their space.

He was new at this studio, but not new to ballet.

But still, he didn’t quite feel at home.

He knew he wasn’t one of them. He wondered what they thought.

He’d heard snickers before when he had the audacity to know what few boys in the South ever did.

Take ballet? Are you serious?

Wouldn’t you rather play football, basketball or baseball?

Aren’t you afraid people are going to think you’re gay?

He’d heard those questions before from family members and friends.

Or at least he considered them friends.

He had been called a sissy at school.

And sometimes he didn’t want people to know that he took ballet, that he wore tights, that he loved dance.

Having moved to this small town, he still had thoughts that he didn’t quite belong.

Boys don’t dance. At least not in the South.

Especially in a town as small as this.

The nerves went away it seemed when his teacher entered the room.

She was strict. But she was kind. And very encouraging.

“Ladies and gentleman,” she would say, with an emphasis gentleman, as they began their combinations at the barre.

He lost himself when the music began to play.

Tendues, degages, frappes.

“Point your foot, Michael,” Madame Sherri would say. “Susan, use your head.”

The corrections, they came.

Trying to stay on demi-pointe was a challenge for a boy of 12 and he tried to stay in time with nine girls.

Fondue, grande battement.

Stretching in the middle of the combinations.

Aren’t you afraid you’re missing out not playing baseball, his mother asked him once.

He didn’t mind playing sports. But he wasn’t that great at them.

People didn’t understand the challenge of ballet.

If only they knew the challenge of keeping your balance during adagio.

It took more stamina than football, he once thought.

Glissade, jete, glissade jete, glissade jete right.

Glissade jete, glissade jete, glissade jete left.

He tried keeping up with the petite allegro combination.

Glissade assemble, glissade assemble.

“Very good Micheal, now use your arms,” Madame Sherri commanded.

Did he really belong here.

Yeah, he still thought that at time.

“Ballet is woman,” is a phrase the great George Balanchine once said.

Too many in the culture he lived, that was an attitude, but not in the sense the great ballet master meant.

He felt a sense of accomplishment when he finally consistently started doing triple pirouettes consistently.

He smiled as even the best of his female peers struggled to do that very thing.

His favorite part of class was grande allegro.

If petite allegro was his weakness, grande allegro was his strength.

The girls in the class took notice as he soared higher and farther than they during combinations.

Any combinations with tour jetes were his favorite.

He felt as if he was flying.

Ballet gave him a feeling he never felt playing sports.

It usually took him to the end of class, but he realized he was at home.

He didn’t mind feeling different afterall.

As his classmates curtsied and he did his princely bow, he couldn’t believe how fast class went.

He couldn’t believe how good he felt.

Editor’s note: This is a short story. It may eventually be part of a book. It is to a degree autobiographal, if there is such a word.

 

 

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Here’s to the dance moms who support their sons

It couldn’t have been easy for her watching her son dance in a purple unitard that matched the girls he was dancing with on stage.

That was probably the worst costume ever for a teenage boy performing with his jazz class back in the 1980s, especially in the South, where boys play football.

They don’t dance.

But to be honest, I was in pure bliss dancing the choreography to the song “Shout” by Tears for Fears.

I don’t know if I truly believed my mother when she told me she liked the dance.

She was at best a reluctant dance mom. My sister dancing, that was no big deal.

But I think me asking to take dance classes, don’t think she was really all that thrilled.

I played baseball, and sucked at it. I also played high school football.

But the notion of her son asking to take ballet and jazz, well I know it through her.

My father wasn’t thrilled, that’s for sure.

But to her credit, she let me do it.

I know she was worried about what other people thought.

No one question’s a boy’s masculinity or sexual orientation when you play football.

But back then, taking ballet or any other form of dance. That’s another story.

My mom’s a great mom, don’t get me wrong.

When I returned to ballet as an adult, she seemed excited when I invited her to whatever performance I was in, whether it was the Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet or Billy the Kid.

 

I do wonder, though, what it would have been like to have had a mother who fully supported me earlier. But I’m not complaining.

I’ve know other guys whose mothers flat out did not let them dance.

That’s why I truly admire the moms of the few boys at the schools where I’ve taken class.

While I think its more culturally acceptable nowadays, the stigma still exists and is a reason parents don’t encourage their boys to dance.

It takes a truly courageous mother as well as son to embark on a dance journey.

I’ve heard some say they’ve had to put up with snide comments. Others fear, and legitimately so, that their sons will be bullied.

But still, I’ve observed mothers and parents in general, who have given their support through hours of classes, rehearsals and performances, with words, money and even put in hours helping with costumes, props and other things backstage throughout their career.

I am thankful with Mother’s Day tomorrow for the moms who have encouraged their sons when their sons have wanted to dance.

They play a vital role in the dance world.


Longing to restart the journey

I’m too old. I’m too fat. The drive is just too far.

Those are among the reasons I haven’t been to a dance class in more than three months.

I stopped going to the pre-pro school in Albuquerque I briefly attended because of the lack of consistency. You never knew if anyone was going to show up.

The motivation to continue to go just wasn’t there. I made the decision to end my dance journey.

But my love for ballet, and dance in general, never disappeared.

The truth is, I’ve missed the barre and centre work. I miss feeling the music and moving.

I miss the combinations.

I miss the healthier lifestyle I live. I miss the one place I could go and de-stress.

I plan on going back in the next couple of weeks to the adult program that I tried during the summer a couple of times.

I don’t go with any goals, even though I love performing.

I’m three weeks away from 50. I will do what I feel my body can do.

I will just go and enjoy class.

My dance journey is in transition.

I’m going to look for other ways to express my love for the art form.

I may use this blog to discuss all things dance.

As a writer, I’m thinking of writing  young adult novel about a boy’s dance journey, in part because I feel there are very few books that cover the subject.

There are plenty of books about girls pursuing ballet dreams, but very few about boys doing so.

The same can be said for television shows featuring young dancers. Bunheads was a favorite. The Dance Moms shows not so much.

Male dancers in either play only minor roles.

Maybe that will also be featured in this blog.

 

 


Respect for women: Why a boy should take ballet

I’ve found myself on the sidelines on some interesting “Should Christian women were yoga pants or leggings” in public debates.

While I’ve found a lot of the comments a bit amusing … I was stunned by some of the comments from some of the other guys who were sharing their opinions about a question asked by a very sincere, well meaning friend of mine who asked whether it was OK to wear yoga pants in public.

She’s a fitness freak who went from 320 pounds to about 130 pounds in a year’s time and appeared on the Today Show because of her amazing drive to get fit for her two kids.

When you’re a guy who has been in ballet classes as a kid and as an adult, yoga pants on a friend doing leisure activities doesn’t really seem all that extreme or immodest.

Basically, I was in the minority of her Christian guy friends who said it was OK. Maybe not to work or church, but for a day in the park with the kids and a quick trip to the store … no big deal to me if you’re totally comfortable wearing something like that.

Apparently, I was wrong. Apparently men have a “lust” problem and women should dress accordingly to keep men from falling into “lust,”

Look, I’m not advocating for women to wear immodest clothing or any that would send some type of inappropriate message. But comments like the ones I read seemed creepily like something out of the Taliban manual.

What is wrong with wearing something you’re absolutely comfortable wearing when you’re out doing some time of leisure activity?

And what does ballet have to do with this issue?

When you take a coed ballet class when you’re young, and its one with a strict dress code, if we’re honest, little is left to the imagination on both sides of the coin. For new kids, I know it can feel awkward (it was that way for me, especially since I was the only boy at first).

But the more you go to class, the more comfortable you become. And because of the structure of a ballet class, you learn to respect your classmates, their feelings, their bodies. And that is especially true for a boy in a partnering class, where building respect and trust are of the utmost importance. I know it was a learning experience for me.

It’s hard to find a place anywhere else in the modern times we live where you’re taught a certain etiquette, how to be a gentleman around a lady like you do in ballet, especially at schools were male students aren’t that much of an oddity.

I admit I received a refresher when I plunged back into class as an adult as they only guy in a class full of soccer moms a few years ago. They helped redefine my definition of beauty.