The Struggle of a Boy in Ballet

by David on January 17, 2010

Ballet for Boys

Travis in Texas, a BalletForMen.com reader, shared his ballet experience with us.  It really portrays how stereotypes about males in ballet can and do exist in children.  It can be a tough road for any young male dancer…

Travis says:

Some of my earliest memories involve dance.  My mother owned a dance studio and I used to take classes with her when I was a child.  I started taking classes at about age 3.  I took tap, jazz, and ballet, with ballet being my favorite.  It was so graceful and the movements were fluid and beautiful.  I grew better and better each year and loved going to my dance classes.

Fast forward to 6th grade.  A cruel girl in my class at school was also in my dance classes.  She threatened to tell everyone my terrible secret:  that I was a boy in ballet classes.  I begged her not to tell anyone, but she was vicious and told everyone who would listen that I was in ballet classes.  I was instantly ridiculed and isolated from everyone else in the class.  I loved my ballet classes but I hated the constant teasing I was getting from the other children.  I remember being called “faggot” and “sissy”.

I told my mother that I didn’t want to take dance classes anymore.  She was confused that I suddenly wanted to quit something that she knew I loved, but I refused to talk about it.  I was ashamed that my mother and father would know that the other kids would tease me.  I stopped going to dance classes and I truly believe it is one of the worst decisions I have made in my entire life.  I wish so badly that I had had the strength to continue doing what I love, in spite of what other people thought.  But I was young and weak-minded, and I craved the acceptance of my peers.

I never danced again until I was a sophomore in college.  I started watching videos of ballet on Youtube and it inspired me to start up with dancing again.  I enrolled in Ballet I at my university and began the process of learning how to dance again.  I loved dancing, but in the back of my mind, I couldn’t stop thinking of how regretful I was that I quit dance.  If I had stuck with it, I could have been an amazing ballet dancer.  It’s uncommon for a male ballet dancer to start training as young as I did, and with my potential, I could have been a professional dancer if I had just continued my training.  I’m still taking ballet classes and I love dancing and getting stronger in my technique.

The moral to this story is that if you have a desire to dance, just get out and do it.  There’s no better time to start than right now.  If it’s something you truly want to experience and accomplish, disregard what everyone else thinks.  Mark Twain once said “Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.”  You owe it to yourself to pursue your dream without reservations.

Thank you Travis!

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Steven January 17, 2010 at 5:39 pm

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I have similar regret as I grew up in a small, rural town in the Midwest and took dance classes “in secret.” My instructor said that I excelled at ballet, but I quit after one year because I had no support…I didn’t even tell my parents what I was doing. I’m now 41 and looking back and wondering what would be different if I pursued dance. I also encourage all young men to go for it. Times are different, and others’ opinions should never stop you from pursuing your dreams.

2 KevLO January 17, 2010 at 6:42 pm

Great Story! I started ballet at the age of 23! I wish that I had started earlier in life! I am still dancing and I am currently 41!

Just ” Follow your Heart ” and have fun in life

3 Catherine January 18, 2010 at 11:22 am

I so sympathize with men in ballet…for girls it is considered such a wonderful thing, but for boys it is still stigmatized. Still, this has gotten much better over the years – but it has a way to go! Thanks for sharing this.

4 Debora January 18, 2010 at 9:51 pm

It’s also incumbant on the teachers to be aware of the attitudes of the girls in class to the boys. My son “retired” from dance classes at the age of *6* – because the girls in his class were picking on him for being a boy in ballet.

5 Amanda-Louise January 22, 2010 at 1:56 am

In Scotland very few boys do ballet… In our school we only have 6 (2 are pre-school!) and around 600 girls.
Over the years many talented young boys have given up at an early age because of taunting from their peers at school. Fathers are openly embarrassed and mock the fact that their son does ballet. Even the boys who study jazz and tap won’t start ballet because “it’s BALLET”.
The RAD are running a boys only course in Edinburgh soon – I’m hoping that it will inspire and encourage our young dancers and their parents and challenge the prejudiced attitude in our Society. http://bit.ly/5OeD2H

6 Henrik January 28, 2010 at 5:45 am

I also almost quit ballet at a young age, because of getting a hard time from other kids.. This is a serious problem for young male dancers anywhere, and it’s important that adults give them good rolemodels and act supportive – it’s such a shame that someone is being robbed of their passion because of prejudices.
Today, I am a professional dancer. I write a blog (http://tightsandtiaras.blogspot.com) on ballet from a male dancers perspective, hoping to enlighten my readers on “our kind” – we’re really not that different from any others.
I am happy to find more people with the same opinion, keep up the good work!

7 Meta February 2, 2010 at 7:55 am

my brother and myself take ballet he started at age 12 and is now 13 he doesn’t get alot of guff from his freinds but there are people in his scout troop who think he’s a sissy

8 Manfred February 14, 2010 at 1:12 pm

For me it was somehow different. We had a girl in class (3rd grade) and she was in ballet. I was fascinated and then my parents decided that we would go and see a gala of great ballet dancers. That made my desire go real high. I saw men there and they did what I wanted to do. I remember carefully asking my mother about ballet. I did get a lot of explanation but somehow was told that its something for girls and that it was not god for the feet and would make them crippled.
I stopped asking. When I was 16 years old I still had the desire to do ballet. I secretly started to investigate where I should go. The theatre in our town had a school and I started hanging in the area. At that time it was fashionable to have long hear, so did I. It was also fashionable to wear a leather coat with hand stitching, and mine was original from Afghanistan. Well it was mid 70s.
One day I dared to enter the ballet school, I wanted to get more information. My hart was at 100 beats per second. I was in the lobby in front of the door to the office which was closed, so I had to wait. Then the lessons where finished and out came all the girls as well as the teachers. I was immediately spotted and told to get out and not to hang around here, thee was nothing to see and I should not dare to come in again. I was so perplex, I went out, it was a nice day, I just remember that I went to a nearby park, sat under a tree and cried.
Finally when I was 43 my doctor said that I would not be able to go on like I was (workaholic) and that I should find some sport to help me get out of that situation. I tried going to clubs (Tennis, Volleyball) but I did not fit in. I remembered what I wanted to do as a kid and started to turn the yellow pages of the phone book. Then I started to phone and got to hear that I was to old or did not fit in to any class they where offering. In one school a lady just said that she had no time but I should look in in about 4 weeks.
Well I did and only one day later started with ballet. Now 9 years later I do not regret anything. I am still going to class 2 or 3 times a week and will stick to it as long as my feet will support me.
Its not easy for us males, but its possible!

9 Bart11 February 23, 2010 at 4:40 pm

I have been on both sides of this issue. When I was young, a male cousin of mine was taking ballet and so excited and enthused. But, as children (and some adults) do when they are envious, I picked on him for it. I was brutal. Finally, when I was 16, and able to drive myself to class, I took the plunge. I caught some grief at my smalltown high school for it and only took a year of class. Later in college I took again, but I never had the ability that I did when younger. I tell kids who are bullied that those who pick on them are envious because it is something that they don’t have the guts to do.

I should know

10 matthew July 22, 2010 at 11:06 pm

I’m 27 take adult dance classes and love ballet.

11 Cindy May 18, 2011 at 10:47 am

My son is in his second year of ballet…with a male instructor! He is the only boy his age at his dance studio who takes ballet. There are several older boys in the touring company who take ballet in different classes.
The kids @ the studio love my son, but my extended family and kids@ his regular school and in the neighborhood give him a hard time, calling him a “girlboy”, questioning his gender, making him feel really bad.
I ask them…what would ballet be without male dancers for the ballerinas to dance with?

12 Annabell August 9, 2011 at 12:22 am

Wow I do ballet and I love it. Thnx for making sure I don’t quit!

13 Paul October 6, 2011 at 2:15 pm

I was 11 when I was introduced to Ballet while staying with a family who lived in Montreal. I had met them while they were staying in Queens, NYC during the NY Worlds Fair. The father was working with the Canadian and French pavilions during this time. When they moved back to Montreal, I stayed with them every Summer from 11 to 14, when the family moved to France and I moved to New Jersey. The mother was the director of one of the more prestigious Ballet academies in Montreal and after watching the children in their class for about a week, I was asked to join. Even though there were quite a few boys in the class and also the son of the family, I refused at first. To be honest, I was absolutely terrified of it but relented after speaking about my fears and being assured that no one would make fun of me. No one did, at least not in Montreal. However, when I tried to study Ballet when I returned to NYC, it was a different story. Still fearful of what others would say, I tried to find a school in another borough so I could study in secret, but it was very frustrating at first, as most of the schools I would call would tell me ‘No, sorry, but we can’t accommodate males’. I wound up studying in a school in Brooklyn but even thought that was great in a way (I was far enough away from where I lived to keep it secret), I soon found myself being taunted mercilessly by the locals in the neighborhood where the school was and then even worse experiences, which I won’t go into here or at least now. When I was 14 we moved to New Jersey and I made a terrible decision, at least in retrospect, that I would drop Ballet altogether. I had been bullied for so long that I simply said ‘No more!’ Sorry I did that as when I began to study Ballet again in college, it was very difficult to pick up where I had left off. After a few years, I injured my ankle and that pretty much did it for me. Had I kept Ballet going continuously, the injuries probably wouldn’t have happened. I’ll never know, however, I am very sorry that I gave in to the bullying and also, giving up something I loved to avoid the stigma of studying Ballet as a male. By the way, when I first started Balled, at 11 years old, it was 1965. I hope things change.

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