Busting Myths about Masculinity in Ballet

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When someone says “ballet,” odds are the first images that pop into your head are tights and tutus. For years, our society has positioned ballet as an activity that is “feminine,” a perception that has led countless males to avoid stepping up to the barre. Although the acceptance of boys and men in ballet is changing, many young male dancers still find that they have to hide their dancing.  Ballet, especially in suburban studios, continues to need male role models as instructors and dancers in classes, including adult ballet.

The truth is, ballet has some very masculine attributes. Let’s take a look at some of the most prominent myths about ballet and masculinity and see how these stereotypes are completely bogus.

Myth – Ballet is about being submissive and feminine.
Fact – Ballet is about projecting power and confidence.

While the core techniques are the same for male and female dancers, many people don’t know that there are subtle distinctions in training and choreography that separate feminine and masculine dancers. For example, female dancers will work en pointe, emphasizing balance and turns on a single foot which projects a delicate grace. In contrast, male dancers will place more focus on jumps and leaps, projecting power and masculinity.

In addition, when working with a partner, the male dancer plays a critical role in supporting the female dancer. Whether you are performing a stag lift to carry your partner across the stage or providing her with a base as she executes several pirouettes, male dancers have to make these moves appear effortless which only comes through strength and confidence.

Myth – Ballet is about being dainty and delicate.
Fact – Ballet requires incredible strength.

Ballet centers on total control of the body. Most movements require activating different muscle groups in a seamless fashion. Even a basic plié requires that the dancer work through all of the major muscle groups in the leg at different points in the movement. When you move into pas de deux work, or leaps, turns and jumps, dancers must have well-conditioned muscles to support their partner and ensure that they can achieve the necessary height and distance a step requires. In fact, several articles have recently been published detailing how professional ballet dancers are in just as good of shape as most professional athletes.

Myth – Male ballet dancers must wear tights and a dance belt.
Fact – Adult male ballet dancers do not have to wear tights but should wear a dance belt.

The reason ballet dancers wear tights and a leotard is to showcase the lines created by each movement. In a classroom setting, it’s important for students to wear fitted clothing so that the instructor can see your alignment (you wouldn’t want to do a plié and have your knee buckle) but tights aren’t often a requirement. Usually fitted sweatpants or workout shorts will do the trick. For males, a dance belt is needed primarily for safety and is as important as a cup worn in baseball.  In addition, a dance belt provides support and creates a smooth appearance if you do want to wear tights.

Despite the stereotypes, male dancers epitomize masculinity in ballet. By taking class, you are not only benefiting yourself, but standing as an example to others who also want to dance. From a well-toned physique to projecting an air of confidence and power, we encourage all guys to step up to the barre and give ballet a shot.

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