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Ballet dancing sons: a touching article from a mother


toursenlair
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Wonderful article.  My son danced for about three years and enjoyed it very much.  He was a big sturdy boy and well able to handle any teasing from his friends - who very soon learned that teasing him came at a price.  However, at the age of eleven he was not able to handle the derision of a male teacher who found a pair of ballet slippers in my son's jacket pocket.  By the time the situation was resolved (the teacher was relieved of duties for another reason) the damage was done and my son quit dancing.

 

He has never regretted the three years of lessons, however.

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Having started dancing at 6 and now 14 we know what it's like for a boy who life is dance. A boy who can never just walk anywhere but needs to leap or spin.

We've been very lucky, the only person who has ever been derogatory about his dancing has been my sister who has always told me I should stop him (as if I could) as I'm making him different.

I got a phone call at work yesterday to tell me look at the Bloch Europe Facebook page as his picture is on it - he was more than happy to share that with all his family and friends because he is very proud of his dancing.

His friends are envious of his physique and his strength and at performances he can always be found surrounded by girls, one of the benefits of being very much in the minority    :D

Hopefully that boy will grow up with a similar positive experience.

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What a lovely article. Is too have a dancing Son. He started just over a year ago aged 7 and has well and truly been bitten by the ballet bug. He has won a place on the Elmhurst Junior Associate scheme and it will be his first class in Saturday. I am hoping his passion and strength of character keeps him dancing.

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DH started dancing at 39 (not Ballet) - he hadn't been allowed as a child; neither had he been allowed to train as a chef as cooking was 'women's work'

 

He is an amazing dancer even training so late - he went from amateur to teacher within 3 years.  But he was never really able to perform as he was too old when he started (a few ads, a TV show but realistically it was mainly charity and amateur productions)

 

I feel such resentment to his family about it

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I do understand, Katymac. There was a dear little boy in my dd's first ballet class who loved it and was good. His father insisted on calling the class "Music and Movement". By the time J. was seven, he was no longer dancing, thanks to daddy dearest insisting that he did more "masculine"pursuits. The man was a Grade A divot!

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I have just returned from a meeting with my ds's A level Physical Education teacher and have experienced for the first time the head tilt and raised eyebrow. Ds keeps his love of ballet a secret from his school mates for fear of being tormented ! We have supported and encouraged him to be proud of what he does and so to declare his 'sport' for his A level. Ds was reluctant to do this ! Now I know why ! "We will call him Billy Elliott from now on " says his teacher. I understand teenagers being silly about it but not a grown man !! This is going to be tough ! Dh is a nurse so our family is accustom to 'really' !!

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Yes, great article, but I have to admit that I was rather astounded that he was doing 6 hours of dance practise a day at 7 years old! It's very hard for the boys and I've taught a number over the years. They have to be very tough to get above all the teasing and stick to it, but the few that really get the bug are usually even more determined than the girls.

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It might surprise some people who think of dance as effeminate to know that historically dance has been in the main a masculine activity. 

 

Classic dance comes from folk dance which through the ages and in most cultures has been the purview of the men of the tribe/culture.  Think of war dance, or rain dance, or religious dance, etc.  Think of the variety of  tribal African dance, Spanish dance, Irish dance, Scots dance, classic Japanese dance, American Indian dance, or dance through the wide expanse of the Russia steppes and mountains.  Then there's hip hop, Greek dance, Chinese dance, European court dance, etc - and  in almost every instance men predominate.  And, yes, even in the ballet it was mostly men in the beginning.  It didn't change until the advent of the pointe shoe.  As for wearing tights - it was a sign of wealth and no one thinks the Three Musketeers less manly for wearing tights and "making a leg" at Court.

 

Though women certainly did participate - it was usually on the periphery and in some cultures were either severerly circumscribed or forbidden to dance.

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My son who is off to Central this weekend has has said that he has never once been teased for doing ballet or for doing dance. He went to the local comp here in Manchester which does have performing arts status and has a very mixed catchment. It makes me sad that boys in 2013 are being ridiculed or discouraged from whatever they want to do but it makes me realise how lucky my boys have been to attend school with such supportive teachers and fantastically supportive peers. I must let the school know!

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I have two dancing sons, both who love ballet and have had their share of teasing but the strength they get from each other is fantastic. Boys really need support from other boys to keep going which is why vocational school is so fantastic for boys. Thanks for the article toursenlair. Xx

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A science teacher I know was once a Chelsea player (retired just before Sky went into football, hence the teaching!).  They took regular classes at White Lodge, sometimes with the dancers.  Idea was to develop their core stability to improve ability to turn and also to kick with the "wrong" foot.

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Very inspiring and comforting to read too, as our son is just the same. He is now nine and already knew when he was seven that he wants to become a professional dancer and is doing everything he can to achieve this, including up to 13 hours dance practice a week, hardly ever having the time to meet up with friends, having to refuse birthday invites because of rehearsals, etc. I will show him this article too, just so he knows there are morer boys out there just like him. Thanksfully, as he has been dancing since the age of three, all his friends accept and respect him for it, they have (so far) never mentioned a negative word. Let’s hope it will stay this way and that he can fulfil his dream….

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My ds nearly gave up ballet because of teasing but then he got into JA's at 8, performed at the Royal Opera House twice a year with the Royal Ballet and at the London coliseum with The Milhailsky Ballet (with the beautiful Natalia Osipova). when the boys in question saw him in Alice Adventures in Wonderland on tv at Christmas they wanted to be friends! now he is at WL at 11.

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A science teacher I know was once a Chelsea player (retired just before Sky went into football, hence the teaching!).  They took regular classes at White Lodge, sometimes with the dancers.  Idea was to develop their core stability to improve ability to turn and also to kick with the "wrong" foot.

I remember reading a story about one of top clubs getting their players to swap places with ballet dancers for 1 day of training.  By lunchtime the footballers were exhausted and couldn't believe they still had 5 hours of rehearsal to follow their morning class.  In contrast, the dancers were asking, after a typical (for footballers) morning's training, 'when does the real work start?'.  Pity more sports masters haven't seen this. 

 

But I also know of one famous male dancer who started dancing at 6 years old but never had problems with teachers or fellow pupils because he was also good at rugby and athletics.  I am sure that any boy who is good at ballet must also have the strength and co-ordination to be successful in practically any sport.  Sadly, sport will always offer better financial prospects as well as being more socially 'acceptable' and maybe that's where so many would-be dancers go.

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When I first started teaching in a fairly tough area of Liverpool I used to run a lunch time ballet club.

 

One day whilst we were doing a port des bras I caught sight of someone standing at the playground entrance doing this port des bras with us....a tough boy usually in his wellies and all.

 

I asked him if he would like to join us but then he said ...no way Miss that's for girls....and ran off.

 

However he was often there on the edge joining in a bit and I could see he was genuinely fascinated. I tried to encourage him to join in fully and find some other boys who might be interested but 40 years ago this was a step too,far unfortunately!!

I often wonder what would have happened if he had as he had a natural grace inspite of all his outward toughness.

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This kind of thing makes me want to weep. I used to teach in a small prep school in Surrey and ofered a "dance and drama class" to the younger boys because they were too young for full contact rugby every day. There were a couple of really talented boys and encouraged their parents to take them to a proper ballet school. When the PE teacher heard about it he gave them such a hard time they both stopped. I was spitting blood! I only lasted one year at the school, I couldn't bear to work with such prejudice! DH is a hardened rugby player but is quite happy for my son to dance if that is what he wants.

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When my DS had to leave his prep school in yr 5, because JA'S ment he couldnt do Sat school, he had a terrible time with bullying in his new Prep school.

This stopped immediately after the first sports day, when DS left them standing in all his races. He then proceeded to break the Junior High Jump Record.

When the boys asked how come he was so fast, and good at Athletics he replied that if you train for 10-12 hrs a week one-one at Ballet, plus JA's every Sat Athletics were no problem.

He never experienced bullying again. When i called the school to tell him that WL, TRING and ELMHURST had offered him a place all the boys cheered. He danced a Ballet solo at The Leavers assembly and received a standing ovation.

The school are planning a trip to ROH to see him dance in The Nutcracker.

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DDs friends older brother started professional football training at 16 with one of the big clubs about 5 years ago and found ballet classes were part of his training schedule.  Injury meant he changed course but I heard he kept up with the ballet at university  Another 3 boys I know (2 of them brothers) were advised to take up ballet by the health visitor/nurse as they were a little lacking at 4/5 years of age in motor/coordination skills.  One is now 15 and still dancing - the brothers both took ballet until aged about 11/12.  One went on to play cricket at county/national level and the other to represent his county in football.  Both have talked in local schools about how their initial ballet training helped them with their sport.

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