Tag Archives: male dancer

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.


Ran into a backdrop, plowed into a tech guy in the wings, and was a fairy in class, yeah, an eventful day.

I know, a long headline. Theater week is turning into a fun one.

Tonight was “learn the Act 3 part I didn’t have until Monday” night.

I am a boatman in Act 3 who ferries the prince and the Lilac Fairy to Aurora so the prince can wake her up.

First time I’ve ever gone into theater week not knowing a part, Didn’t know the music, didn’t know my cue, didn’t know the pace of motion.

There were some glitches tonight. First run through, I was too much upstage and a backdrop came down on me. Second time, I plowed into a tech guy in the wings as I was exiting the stage, While humorous, I don’t count that as a mistake since I was already in the wings.

The next four (or was it five?) run throughs were pretty much fairly flawless. I’m no where near stressed out with dress rehearsal tomorrow night. Hard to believe the performances are almost here.

My Act I part of a court man, I pretty much have down, It’s not the most complicated part I’ve ever had, but Sleeping Beauty is turning into a lot of fun.

Speaking of the fun, we ended up working a little bit on the performance in the open class this morning. There is a scene in Act I where all the fairies come out and do first arabesque and then a pas de bouree and pirouettes in order in a line.

Not all of the fairies were there, so our artistic director drafted everyone in class to be fairies, including the guys, We spent about a half hour on the combination.

When you’re a male dancer in ballet, sometimes it’s good to have a sense of humor … especially when you’re asked to be a fairy,

It was fun and I “felt pretty.” It was a hysterical,sbatc3

The photo is from the wings, just before my time to rehearse.


White shoes, white tights required

The law of averages finally caught up with me.

I’ve performed in Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, Firebird, Dracula, Billy the Kid and Cinderella without hearing the words “white ballet shoes and white tights are required” from the wardrobe lady.

Through almost nine years of performing, I’ve gotten away with the security of black tights and shoes.

That is not the case for Sleeping Beauty and my role as a Court Man. Had a second fitting today, and that’s when the wardrobe lady dropped the bomb: You’ll need a pair of white ballet shoes and white tights.

For the record, I didn’t pitch a fit.

I may be an old recreational dancer, but I am a dancer.

I know that if I’m asked to perform, weird and wacky costumes are part of the territory.

A tunic, white shirt, nickers (thank the Lord) are part of the costume this time around along with white shoes and tights.

There is a store in town that is a sponsor of the ballet, so I got the shoes. And since I’m wearing something over the tights, the store lady suggested ladies tights as opposed to ordering a more expensive pair of men’s tights that I would never ever wear in class and may not ever again in a performance (although you never know).

Cue the laughter, I’ll be wearing an extra-large pair of ladies Capezio tights under the nickers (maybe I should have read the few reviews my fellow bloggers who happen to be female did about them …lol).

Seriously, though, I am liking this role more than I thought I would. There is a little partnering involved and a few other ballet steps to it.

And I was assigned a role front and center since I have more performing experience than the rest of the Court Men, which is really cool. We’re on stage for the entire opening act, including the opening scene.

We really got into the meat of the role today.

It was fun. And it was cool to see Act I finally unfold. The fairy dances were absolutely beautiful, which is remarkable considering how many classes and rehearsals that have been missed because of the wacky winter weather we’ve been having,

And once again rehearsal followed a very kick ass class (pardon the expression).

The petite allegro combinations were a bit more tricky today, but I thought I acquitted myself quite well today.

We also did a tricky combination across the floor today that included a pirouette that went into a fouette. And amazingly I was able to go into fouettes pretty well during most of the combination.

Amazing to me considering I hardly ever do fouette turns during center work, normally turns from second.

I’m hoping to get back into the swing of things with classes. Hopefully, the weather will start cooperating.


Drawing assignment part 1

shoe

In my drawing class, we had to pick an item from life, draw it and describe it, and write what it represents, what emotions and memories it brings.

We then have to revisit the item and redraw it from a different perspective a couple of days later. I haven’t reached that point yet.

My object is an old ballet shoe (it might look like a warped canoe).

It’s primarily a charcoal drawing with some graphite on the inside.

Here are my thoughts about the object: As an object, it’s dark on the outside, graying on the inside. It’s flimsy. It has wrinkles. It has holes. It’s a bit worn, but still capable of being used. It’s lightweight and somewhat flexible and best used on a somewhat slick floor.

When it is worn, it can bring joy to its wearer and those in an audience. It helps an artist express himself. It can be a symbol of gracefulness, beauty and strength. It can literally and figuratively help some leap … a great distance or for joy. It can help the wearer turn in movement or in emotion. Like it’s appearance, it can have a dark side. It can be a symbol of judgment, bullying or ridicule from someone who doesn’t understand the art form. It can make the wearer hide or hold back the artist within for fear of being labeled something they are not.


Why ballet?

I’ve known for a while that I’m not exactly a guy who lives inside the box.

Most men my age who are active do things such as softball, golf or maybe bowling. Some are a little bit bolder and still play some soft of sandlot football … although when you’re approaching 50, that might can be physically punishing.

But then again, if you’re really hard core, so is ballet.

I’ve actually been taking stock in that, re-examining my goals, when it comes to that.

I haven’t been back to class since December, an amazing thing for those who know me. Sickness and personal matters have meant only one class since the end of Nutcracker.

I miss it. I intend to plunge back in on Wednesday and just enjoy moving and being in class.

There are so many reasons why ballet shouldn’t be my favorite hobby, or passion, especially when you are male, and you’re old.

1. Ballet is unforgiving for those of us whose bodies don’t fit the stereotype. There is at least one mirror in any studio you take class, and sometimes there are as many as three. If you are hard core enough to wear anywhere near the proper attire … it is extremely difficult if you have body image issues. And while poor body image is often more thought of for girls or women, they exist for men. I’m overweight and I cringe when I see myself in a mirror, especially when most of the people I dance with are in really good shape.

But even if you choose to cover up, the mirror exposes really how “bad” of a dancer you are, especially when compared to others in the room. It exposes your lack of technique or flaws.

2. Ballet is difficult. Trust me there are easier dancer forms. I’ve taken jazz, modern, hip hop and have experienced ballroom and contemporary either as a teenager or adult. And ballet doesn’t come as easily as the other. I’ve have been in a struggle to consistently do a double pirouette (spotting it seems eludes me), one really nice tour en’lair (much less a double) and don’t get me started on doing a coupe’ jete leap with a turn or just about any complicated petite allegro. And even things I can do, tour jetes, pique turns, chaines, balance’s can look horrible if done with bent legs, feet not pointed, or the arms and head doing the wrong thing.

3. Stereotypes die hard. I put up with bullying when I danced as a teenager and in college. Even the lighter stuff nowadays “Do you wear a tutu … how is the ballerina doing today?” Even though ballet has come a long way from when I dance, there are still the questioning of sexual orientation or really how much of a normal dude you are.

I used to hide the fact that I danced. I don’t any longer. Kind of hard when you’ve performed in eight Nutcrackers, Romeo and Juliet, Firebird, Billy the Kid, Dracula and Cinderella. Still not as much “in your face” about. And it gets tiring telling people that no, I don’t wear a tutu, or a leotard (not since I was a kid) and that male dancers aren’t called ballerinas … although I’ve since embraced it, sure call me a ballerina if you like … lol And no, guys don’t normally go en pointe (more power to you if you do).

4. I find myself constantly in class with kids, including the few adults, who are pretty much young enough to be my children. Moreso this year than in the past, it can be a little uncomfortable if you are a guy. Women, maybe not so much …

So why do I do it? Why do I have a longing to get back in class? Why don’t I embrace other dance forms which can at times seem more fun like I do ballet?

Maybe it’s kind of hard to explain.

1. Ballet is my refuge. I live a stressful life. It is for me an escape. Once I walk in class, the struggles of being a parent, an over-worked newspaper page designer and stressed out back in college student are left at the door. For 90 minutes, it’s nothing but ballet. Nothing like getting lost in the music. For me, it feeds the soul.

2. Ballet works both the mind and the body. That’s important to me. My father withered away with dementia and heart problems. The fact that you’re working the mind as much as the body in ballet to me will pay dividends long after my final class is over. And the health benefits? Unless you’ve been a professional dancer who has been a little bit pushed too far past the limit, the benefits are numerous. My back has been strengthened because of the lessons of posture and proper body alignment. It used to go out about twice a year. That rarely happens since I’ve been doing ballet as an adult. Yeah, I’m a little overweight, but I’m a lot more limber than most men (and a lot of women) that I know. And my knees, because of the work, are in a lot better shape than most people my age.

3. The camraderie can be amazing. I was the only man in classes with a bunch of soccer moms for about three years. My definition is beauty was redefined by a group of ladies aged 20-something through about 70. They were encouraging and inspiring. As a single parent, I got tips galore. Even though I no longer dance with many of them, they’re still my friends. They are the reason I stayed with it when many beginners seem to flee after a few classes.

4. There is no feeling like it when you are dancing full out, when you nail that grande allegro combination … and you feel like you’re flying. Or when you are dancing in a flowy balance’, waltz turn, pas de bouree, pirouette combination. I will confess that I do love those “beautiful” combinations.

Even in classes where I completely sucked as a dancer, I’ve always felt better, my spirit up lifted when I left than when I first entered the door.

That is why ballet.


Male ballet dancer problems …

“Why yes, I am wearing makeup, don’t judge me,” I thought as I saw the strange look on the lady at the McDonald’s drive-thru between our Saturday Nutcracker performances.

“Gentlemen don’t normally do this,” my female teacher said before we did bourees across the floor along the diagonal.

“Seriously Capezio, can’t you make men’s tights that aren’t see-through?” I thought after an epic fail online order.

Male friend who invited me to work out with him at the gym where he has membership: “So, what did you think?”
Me: “It seemed to be a little weird.”
Male friend: “How so?”
Me: “I’m not used to working out in a room full of men.”

Thought I’d throw in a little true-life humor. Hope everyone has a happy holiday.


The Road Not Taken

We have an assignment in my web design class to create a poem page based on our favorite poem.

It did not take me long to come up with my poem. “The Road Not Taken” seems to be a constant theme in my life. So many of the roads in my life have been the roads less traveled, most of my choice, but others not so much.

The first thing that comes to my mind when I think of Robert Frost’s poem is my love for ballet, and that very first ballet class I took as a teenager.

I can’t really remember what the lure was that had me wanting to try a class. I saw “Children of Theatre Street” when I was about 10, and an ABC Afternoon Special called a “Special Gift” when I was in middle, and it struck a chord with me.

I don’t remember what was harder, telling your parents you wanted to take ballet, or actually scraping enough courage to walk into a ballet studio for the first time. But I do remember hearing from my father that ballet “was for girls,” and in Alabama back in those days it was true (and for the most part, still).

The road was full of boys on the way to football, or baseball. And for the record, I traveled both of those roads. I love both sports, although I was lousy at baseball.

The road on the way to a ballet class, or just about any dance class, for that matter, was pretty much empty for me. 

My heart was pounding that day I walked into that class on the top floor of Fort Decatur, a former National Guard Armory that was converted into a recreational center as a 16-year-old. And the class was a recreation sponsored one (which they no longer have), taught by a young teacher who was still dancing in the company I now perform with on occasion.

“I can’t believe I’m doing this … What have I done … I don’t belong here … what if someone I know finds out I’m doing this,” were the thoughts running through my head when I saw my classmates … leotard clad teenage and preteen girls. There were about 10 of them.

I think they were as shocked as I was that I was there. 

Madame Sherrie, our teacher, gave about a five minute speech about the fact that boys and men belong in ballet, and that ballet, in her opinion was not complete without them.

It made me feel a lot better. And I think it made the girls feel better, too. To their credit, they made me feel welcome. And one remains a friend. She now sits on one of the local school boards.

Yeah, I took a little ridicule going down that road not taken. It wasn’t easy.

It introduced me to things that most boys in the South never experience, ballet shoes, tights, unitards, jazz class and dance recitals.

It also introduced me to a lot of fun that I would not have experienced had I not taken that road. One cannot put into words how it feels when you are caught up in a dance, or how it feels like flying when you’re sailing through a tour jete during a grande allegro.

It was a lot of fun I missed out on when I gave dance up after college.

I’m so glad I rediscovered that less traveled road later in life as an adult … and let’s face it, it’s still a road usually not taken if you’re an adult, male or female.

But like Frost says in his poem, taking that road not taken has made a huge difference in my life.