Watching a ballet performance or tagging along to his sister’s dance class may spark a boy’s interest in ballet. And then what? The next logical step might be enrolling him in class! Let him experience classical ballet’s joy, strength, and confidence-building benefits.
Chances are, the girls in the class will outnumber a young man, but that’s ok. By staying with it and working hard, he’ll build a solid foundation for a career in classical ballet. We will look at some of the challenges and rewards of a ballet career for male dancers, starting with the challenges.
Male Ballet Dancer Challenges
The first challenge is the most significant – stereotyping. Male dancers, from beginners up through professionals, still fight the notion that they are “less than” somehow and that “real” men don’t pursue classical ballet. Slowly, the world is getting kinder toward male ballet dancers, but teasing and bullying still happen far too regularly.
Another challenge many male dancers face is the need for more male-specific instruction. After they progress out of basic classes, their studio’s teachers, often women, do not know how to teach performing a lift, for example. For that kind of training, seeking out summer intensives is often necessary.
The last hurdle we’ll look at is the physical demands of classical ballet. During a performance, male dancers are expected to lift their female partners repeatedly and perform dramatic turns and jumps. The top dancers make all these steps look effortless. In reality, these moves require unbelievable strength, agility, and flexibility, mostly from countless hours of practice.
Despite these and other challenges, a career as a male ballet dancer has its fair share of rewards.
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The Rewards of Being a Male Ballet Dancer
So, what are some rewards that lie ahead for a passionate male dancer? Perhaps the top of the list is the satisfaction of unleashing your inner artist. Many male dancers in corps de ballet, principals, and soloists agree that’s one of the best aspects of what they do. So is taking a bow in front of a theatre full of people who were transported into a world you helped create.
Eventually, a performance career takes its toll, often unlocking another reward: a second act in a ballet-related role. Many dancers go on to become choreographers or artistic directors. Opening a studio or teaching in one to provide the male-specific instruction mentioned earlier can be another option.
The world of classical ballet is as exciting as it is demanding. There are challenges, for sure, for a male ballet dancer. But perhaps the best reward comes from knowing you’re being true to yourself as you follow your passion.
The journey to a successful ballet career begins with early training specific to male dancers. To help defray the costs, there are ballet scholarships for males. The Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet offers two-year ballet scholarships for males between 14 and 19. The scholarship covers tuition and registration fees and includes a monthly housing stipend. Extras include a five-week summer ballet program, a two-week August course, and access to a personalized conditioning program. To learn more, click here.