Boys Deserve a Spot on the Ballet Barre
Updated: Dec 19, 2019
For many little girls, most have taken a ballet class at one pointe in their lives. Some stay in the art form, others don’t. It has become a cherished landmark in American childhoods for one sex, but for the opposite sex, even expressing interest in ballet can be seen as social suicide.
The opposite sex is men, or gentlemen in balletic terms. In America, ballet is overwhelmingly seen as a “girl’s” activity. Within classical ballet, the story is almost always centered around women, some notable examples being Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, and Clara and the Sugarplum Fairy in the holiday classic The Nutcracker.
Yet, men have always had a place in classical ballet. First and foremost, ballet has its roots in the Italian courts of the Renaissance, and ballet flourished in the courts of King Louis XIV. Even though classical ballet is centered around female characters, gentlemen still have a presence in classical ballet. The story of The Nutcracker or Swan Lake could not exist without gentlemen. So why aren’t more boys in a ballet class?
The answer is more complicated than a simple explanation. The concept of “toxic masculinity” is one term used to describe traditional gender norms applied to men. Ideas of masculinity permeate every lens of American childhood, and that includes ideas about men in the arts. In ballet studios across America, it is not uncommon to see rambunctious little boys running around the lobby, while their sisters are jetéing across the floor in class.
The truth of the matter is that preventing boys from dancing simply on the basis of sex (not personal preference, keep that in mind), is only the reinforcement of outdated gender stereotypes. There is nothing wrong with letting boys take a ballet class. Ballet is not only good exercise, but the art form teaches self-discipline, respect for others, and respect for the artists and traditions who have come before you.
There are no “masculine” and “femenine” activities, just as professions are not inherently for just men and women. Ballet is an athletic art form, and all dancers are athletes. Is a man who can jump four to five feet in the air using only his body no less athletic than one who can pitch a baseball at 90 mph?
Are those ideals only suited for one gender and not the other? Any child, of any gender, can benefit from learning ballet. Ballet, like all other art forms and sports, is now meant for everyone. Ballet is meant for those who have a passion for it, not just the ladies.