Category Archives: culture

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.



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.

It takes two to tango … sort of

I have to give my girlfriend credit.

She tried to do something to connect with me.

She knows dance is my thing, although I don’t think she fully understands that ballet is my thing, but I do have an appreciation for other dance forms.

We tried a beginning tango class tonight. Ballroom is not really my thing, but I do know some of the basics to the tango. She’d never danced before.

She lasted all of about 10 minutes. She freaked a little bit when we had to change partners (not something I was prepared for, either).

She was overwhelmed. The grand dance experience was over.

She was apologetic the rest of the date. I kept telling her she needn’t be.

It made me feel special she wanted to do something to connect with my dance world. She didn’t have to.

She’s a Southern girl, and a bit country.

We’re a little bit of a role-reversal.

She’s been known to hunt and fish.

Me, I dance.

We have fun together. It doesn’t bother me at all that she doesn’t dance and doesn’t fully understand.

Ballet is my love when it comes to dance, and I’ve done hip-hop, modern and jazz. And while it would have been cool to have a ballroom partner, ballroom is a little further down on my list.

A slow dance would be cool in private, and I’ve promised her I would teach her some steps.

It doesn’t bother me that she doesn’t dance, or quite get it at all.

I like her just the way she is.

From Carmen

Just something beautiful to share. Love Alessandra Ferri.

Ballet and football, how do they compare? (Just for fun)

I know…there are people who don’t want ballet to be compared with any sport, least of all football (the American variety), a sport considered so uncultured by many, but loved by many, especially in the South or blue-collar areas of the north.

Leaping, jumping, footwork-wise, basketball, soccer (football to everyone else), gymnastics and diving might be more comparable.

But football is the sport I played in high school. And I do find some aspects comparable. And since this is the start of both football and dance season, I thought I’d compare them just for fun:

In ballet, you have an artistic director who puts together a plan for the performance, a ballet mistress (or master) who assists with that plan and with rehearsals, and teachers who make sure the dancers focus on technique.

In football, you have a head coach who puts together a plan for the game, two coordinators who assist with that plan and with scrimmages and position coaches who make sure the players focus on technique.

In ballet, dancers spend more time in class and rehearsals than they actually do performing.

In football, players spend more time in practice and scrimmages than the do actually playing games (that is not the case with basketball or baseball).

In ballet, you have stars called principal dancers and soloists. They are supported by the corps and dancers who have parts as extras who do the grunt work needed to make the show successful.

In football, you have stars like the quarterback, running back, receivers or linebackers. They are supported by linemen who do the grunt work needed to make a game successful.

In ballet, you have the barre.

In football, you have pre-game or practice warmups.

In ballet, you have auditions that determine how you’re going to be cast in the show.

In football, you have two-a-day practices that determine who plays what positions and who starts in the first game.

In ballet, the biggest performance of the year, the Nutcracker, is a holiday tradition.

In football, the biggest games of the year, bowl games and playoff games, are also holiday traditions.

In ballet, a performance is divided into acts with an intermission in between.

In football, a game is divided into halves with halftime (an intermission) in between.

In ballet, you have an orchestra.

In football, you have a band.

In ballet, dancers wear tights in class and under costumes during a performance.

In football, players wear Under Armour (a thicker, manlier version of tights) during workouts and under uniforms during games.

In ballet, you have wardrobe, costume, prop and tech people who do vital work behind the scenes.

In football, you have equipment managers, trainers, public address announcers and field maintenance people who do vital work behind the scenes.

In ballet, you sometimes have patrons who like to make fashion statements at performances.

In football, you have fans who like to make a different kind of fashion statement at games.

In ballet, you have receptions.

In football, you have tailgating.

In ballet, you have slippers and pointe shoes to help you move freely across the floor.

In football, you have cleats to help you move freely across the field.

In ballet, you have shoulder-sits.

In football, you have shoulder-pads.

In ballet, male dancers sometimes catch women who are flying through the air.

In football, players sometimes catch balls  that are flying through the air.

In ballet, footwork and timing are very important.

In football, footwork and timing are very important.

In ballet, it takes hard work, athleticism and stamina to be a great dancer.

In football, it takes hard work, athleticism and stamina to be a great player.

So maybe they have more in common than most people think.