Ballet training for young men can be of enormous benefit in muscular development, discipline, and mental focus. Still, even today, ballet is often not considered a viable option by parents in the United States.
Male dancers in Europe and Russia are well-respected, and I believe the prevailing view of young men in ballet training in our country is gradually changing.
If your son is interested in classes, here are a few tips about what to look for in a studio.
- Does the studio offer strictly male classes? If so, at what level do they begin? When are the boys integrated into regular classes?
- Are there any male teachers at the studio? Are they positive role models?
- Are the roles in the ballets produced by the studio challenging and supportive of your son’s desire to dance?
- Is your son’s participation in class seriously nurtured?
I have taught many young men, some of which have gone on to dance professionally and others that used the skills ballet offers to excel in other sports endeavors including soccer, football, basketball, and tennis. One young man grew up to be a member of the US Olympic ski team!
The studio where I received my early training was well known for producing excellent male dancers that even now hold positions in national companies. As the girls in class, we were challenged daily by the “male” grand allegro and tour en l’air exercises we tried to master. So…
My last piece of advice may sound strange because it refers to a common attitude of misogynists toward women.
Don’t let the studio use your son as “window dressing.”
What do I mean?
The instructors should expect every bit of hard work, attention, and respect from the male dancers that they receive from their female dancers. Your son is not in class to clown, flirt, or otherwise entertain. His roles should be tailored for the male dancer and offer steps appropriate to his skill level. He should be treated as a valued member of the class or company, not as an anomaly in the everyday workings of the studio.
He’s not just another pretty face!
The male dancer is as important as any Swan Queen. His strength and noble presentation are as compelling as any Giselle. In fact, the prince often steals the show!! But he can’t expect to be treated like a prince during class. He must work as hard as any of the girls, and he can’t expect to get by on a smile. How’s that for role reversal!!