The public often see male dancers and men in ballet, and think nothing of it, but for some reason there is a stigma attached to men in ballet. Maybe it is not seen as manly for a man to be seen doing ballet, and most fathers would rather have their sons on the rugby fields than in a dance studio, but here are some answers to the question ‘should I let my son dance?’
Overall men in ballet have real advantages. They can start a lot later than the girls and continue with their careers a lot longer. Because there are far less male dancers, they find it much easier to gain scholarships to study dance and even jobs later on.
Dance companies world wide are always looking for male dancers, so if they shine at dance, they will have loads of opportunities.
Once men retire from performing, they more often than not get into offstage positions with great prestige, for example directors, choreographers or give classes at a dance company.
To develop a male ballet dancer, or any type of dancer for that matter, it takes a tremendous amount of athleticism and strength. For that reason there are a few differences in the training of men and women. A male dancer is taller and heavier than a female and has less flexibility in the spine. He has narrower hips and all of these attributes affect his placement. For a boy, flexibility and turnout are harder to achieve than for a girl, and he also needs to work a lot harder in general on his coordination.
Men in ballet need to become solid partners, so he has to develop his upper body strength a lot more than a woman. Male dancers are also expected to turn better than women and jump a lot higher. It is always best if possible to have a separate class for your boys as they get older, so that they can concentrate more on these things, while the girls concentrate more on their pointe work.
Men need to look a lot different to the women when dancing – broader movements, weightier look and strong – as opposed to the women who look more waif like and delicate.
If you son expresses an interest in dance, there is no reason you should try to deter him. Let him try a few classes first and see for himself. For one the ballet will definitely help with your sons rugby. In fact a lot of the national teams have weekly ballet classes for strength and coordination. The strength and flexibility they gain from their dance classes also help them to recover from injuries a lot faster.
Remember that ballet is not the only type of dance form. There is also hip hop and jazz, which is becoming increasingly popular with boys at the moment.
If you are worried about the teasing at school, don’t. It doesn’t last long, especially when as teenagers they become the envy of their friends as they get all the beautiful girls to dance with.
I am not fortunate enough to have a son, but if I did, I would totally encourage him to take lessons if he enjoyed it, as it will go far in building not only self discipline, character and determination, but also strength and flexibility which also helps with most sports. So should I let my son dance – of course!