Men’s Class… doing those pushups, doing those double saut de basques, working on double tours, 540’s and all of those other ridiculously wonderful, show stopping tricks… It was my least favorite class, no that’s a lie, conditioning class was my least favorite, but men’s class was pretty low on my list of favorites. It is one of the five things you have to get over as a younger dancer… keep reading.
Most ballet schools offer a men’s or boys’ program… If your school doesn’t offer it, and you are a male, you probably should start thinking of heading to another school. It is important to be around other male dancers, not for the masculinity factor but into the male competitive environment. A lot of guys in ballet get thrown into top classes simply because they are the only guy around, and that can be hurtful to their training career. Sometimes, slow and steady does win the race.
Okay, here we go… five problems to overcome in men’s class…
- Pressure. Men’s class creates that masculine alpha dog tension. Men’s class is the one time all of the guys are grouped together to learn ridiculously hard techniques. In class you have to fight to make it to the top. It is hard to not compare yourself when guys are pulling seven to ten pirouettes and you are in the corner working on a triple. The pressure can be intense. Just as intense as the women’s pointe class. The most important thing is to focus on yourself and try your best to not fall behind.
- Egos. Men’s class sometimes can bring out egos. Who has the most pirouettes, who has the highest jump or who can do the most tricks. It can be exhausting. It also shapes up how casting might unfold for school performances or end of the year showcases, or what boys will be asked into the company… Don’t fret. The universe rewards those who are patient and diligent. Stay on your own path.
- Strength versus Power. In men’s class you start to figure out if you are upper body or lower body dominate. Strength in your arms and back or power in your hips and legs. There is no secret to make a better jumper or better turner, some people are just gifted with natural ballon or the ability to spot. Sometimes, you figure if you are upper body dominant or lower. For me, I was lower body, in fact, I was criticized a lot for not using my arms as well as I could so I would have to do a ridiculous amount of pushups and upper body workouts to maintain even. Remember you want to be balanced throughout your body so you do n’t become an uneven dancer; proportionately or technically.
- Flexibility. Nowadays you need to be overly flexible. It is important to maintain a healthy stretching routine. It is easy for a man’s quads to become overdeveloped and if that does happen it can cause for a lower arabesque, a sub par saut de chat, or poor extensions. So, keep up your stretching and keeping a strong core.
- Finding who you are as a dancer. I struggled with this one the most. It is hard when teachers are telling you to dance one way and you want to dance another way. For me, I never wanted to be prince charming, I didn’t want to be Albrecht. I didn’t want to do a million pirouettes. I just wanted to dance to beautiful music. I didn’t dance effeminate or over the top, I just didn’t want to be prince charming or a knight in shining armor. It was a battle I constantly faced in ballet school. I remember we were doing Raymonda and I was thinking, “What the hell am I doing?” So, it wasn’t until I found a Balanchine school that I really hit my stride. You can be cavalier dancer without being a bravura dancer and still be successful.It is a hard balance trying to find who you are as a dancer and as a human. If growing up in ballet is hard, growing up as a boy in ballet might be just a little harder. It is a struggle, but a struggle worth it. I think the most important thing is to remember who you are, why you started dancing and what you love about dancing.
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