What image comes to mind? Pirouettes performed by slender ballerinas in sparkly tutus and tiaras? If your son is showing an interest in taking ballet class, it is time to take a second look at the powerful, masculine dancers in tights who take the stages by leaps and bounds.
Chris Spaulding, of Dance Tonight Fort Wayne, can attest to the value of a dance education in sports and social life. “[Dancing] develops an understanding of the way the body moves on and off the ball field. I learned the rules of chivalry; how to treat a woman like a lady. There’s something very attractive (to a woman) in a man who dances.”
The Good and The Ugly
A boy ballet dancer has many reasons to dance. Ballet develops strength, flexibility, musicality and body-awareness. The class structure requires patience, discipline, focus and hard work, and instructors demand respect and emotional control. Ballet requires acting ability, offers cultural exposure, employs teamwork and constantly exercises the memory.
The ugly side of being a male dancer is publicized disproportionately—the side that holds a risk of bullying. As much as bullying is discussed, it is not as commonplace as you might expect. Zach Hench, a dancer, is amused by the gay ballet stereotype. He recently said in an ABC interview, “I think it’s quite silly because let’s think about it. You are working around beautiful women all day who are half naked. It’s a great job for straight guys.”*
If you do experience negative reactions from parents and children, try these responses:
- Remember their criticism is out of ignorance about, and inexperience with, ballet.
- Prepare your child with answers such as: “You can’t take ballet unless you’re strong enough” or “We do push-ups in class and get to be with the prettiest girls” or teach him tricks to control his temper and walk away if there’s no winning. Educate the ignorant offenders by encouraging them to visit a class.
- Deflect it by gushing over how talented your son is and how strong ballet has made him.
Best Local Boy Ballet Program
The Academy of Fort Wayne Ballet is an outstanding ballet program for boys in our area. Full scholarship is given to every boy, over age three, enrolled. Men take classes separately from girls, which allows their training to develop according to their strengths.
Ernesto M. Lea Place, originally from Argentina, is a dancer with the Fort Wayne Ballet and an instructor with the academy, teaching men’s classes, pointe, repertoire, floor barre, conditioning and partnering. In Ernesto’s classes boys wear a fitted white T-shirt with tights and are encouraged to participate in weight lifting, once mature.
“Man’s greatest quality in ballet is to be strong without giving the impression that it’s hard to accomplish.” In higher levels, partnering classes are added where men learn to support the ladies with gentleness and respect. “In most sports men do weight training, but male ballet dancers also get to lift beautiful ballerinas as part of their regimen.” What’s not to like about that?
There are many reasons to enroll your son in ballet. Fathers concerned about bonding with a son who takes ballet lessons should learn as much about ballet as possible to show support. Attend an open class with him occasionally, take his friends for a post-class treat, or lift weights together. There are also several ballets dads may enjoy: “Don Quixote,” “Dracula,” “Peter and the Wolf” and “Peter Pan,” to name a few. You are the most important influence in his life, and that is what matters most.
Photo by Bonnie Manning, Feature Photographer