Manly Ballet… 5 misconceptions about male ballet dancers

Male ballet dancers get the worst reputation… And there is a reason why…

Honestly, it comes down to tights and a dance belt and for some reason that equates to effeminate, which equates to gay. But, if you look at the spectrum of dance, ballet is probably the most manly when it comes to repertory, with the exception of Dresden SemperOpera’s version of bluebird… That one is just… well… flashy… (click here to watch the youtube video)

The roles for men in classical ballet are the following: prince, cavalier, slave, pirate, prince, cavalier, lover, prince… you get the gist. Because of these roles, the vocabulary is limited, say compared to a jazz dancer. Now, because the way the music was written, and male variations are these extremely heavy, weighted variations, the steps a male ballet dancer usually performs are… well limiting. While women are known for their pointe shoes and flexibility, male ballet dancers really only do the following (via my doodles):

male ballet drawing

So, because I have only posted twice this month (it is LA FASHION WEEK, and fashion month so my real job has been taking up a ridiculous amount of time… okay, and also it happens to be my best friends’ birthdays… so I have been traveling and such)..

Here is my 5 misconceptions about male ballet dancers:

1. Male ballet dancers are weak and frail like girls…

mmmm... Alexandre Hammoudi photographed by NYC DANCE PROJECT... he is my baby daddy....
mmmm… Alexandre Hammoudi photographed by NYC DANCE PROJECT… he is my baby daddy…. (okay that was gay.) Ken Browar & Deborah Ory for NYC Dance Project.


2. Male ballet dancers prance around all day… actually bro, we lift too.

Actually bro, they lift too. They usually are lifting all day.
Actually bro, they lift too. They usually are lifting all day.

3. All male ballet dancers are gay…

nyt wedding ballet dancer tiler peck
Actually, we marry hot ballet girls. Tiler Peck and Robbie Fairchild, via the NYT VOWS sections. Both are principals at NYCB

4. Boys in ballet just want to be girls…

Actually, quite the opposite. No male in ballet aspires to be a girl. In fact, unless you are going to join Trock… you will never dance a girl role. Again, you really aspire to be a prince. I mean that is really the only role you can aspire too… I don’t think any boy saw Drosselmeyer and was like when I grow up I want to be that crazy loon. Do I think that boys see professional men jumping and turning, and lifting girls… yes. Do they become intoxicated by the beauty, maybe.

5. Men in ballet are not athletic.

While skateboarders do 720s using momentum v-force… men in ballet do it from a static position.

While track athletes jump hurdles that stand at 42″, ballet dancers are clearing more air while looking relaxed. (Granted track athletes are on a time constraint.)

While football boasts the manliest sport, they are still basically wearing tights…

While wrestlers are wearing less than ballet dancers and touching each other, very rarely do two men ever even touch in ballet.

While soccer players are drilling for foot speed, ballet dancers are are drilling for foot speed at a faster pace, and in exact positions.

While regular guys are at the gym lifting and taking selfies, male ballet dancers are lifting women for 8 hours without straining their necks, and making ugly faces and grunting.

While hockey players are gliding down the ice, well… that is just a hard one to find a comparison.

While baseball players are coordinating catches, male ballet dancers are coordinating catching women.

And finally, while joe schmo is sitting eating a pizza and drinking a beer… well,

male ballet dancers are probably doing the same thing… unless they are about to do a ballet in white tights.

mens ballet guide

50 responses to “Manly Ballet… 5 misconceptions about male ballet dancers”

  1. thanks for this – 63 year old man here – still dancing – been a great way to go through life

    • Somebody needed to say this- Danseur, just turned 61 and still going to class (Started in college). Proudest accomplishment? Being able to participate in all three of the big Tchaikovsky ballets, “Nuts,” “Lake” and “Beauty!”

  2. Articles like this trying to “break stereotypes” do nothing but to oversimplify and encourage sexism and homophobia in an artform steeped with uneducated generalizations. The article essentially tells us that male dancers are great because “very rarely” do they touch other male dancers and because they aren’t “weak and frail like girls.” It’s articles like this that encourages ignorance and keeps ballet as a whole way behind the times we live in.

    • Homosexuals are rageful and seriously overly sensitive. This man has a right to HIS opinion and we are ALL interested in seeing things in ballet from a different perspective. Chill out.

    • Was reading about how male dancers are looked down or called gay in Indian classical dance , same is in ballet , so basically all male dancers are concerned non masculine … Sadly ..

  3. Wow, this is both homophobic and misogynistic. You have to spend time denying any femininity in male dancers and vociferously denying that some of them might be gay. Shame on you.

  4. I’ve never heard anyone say these except for being gay. That danseur gets to hang out with your girlfriend all day, and then on stage at night!

  5. Not all ballet dancers marry “hot ballet girls”. I’m a ballet dancer and I’m gay. Fun post though

    • Good Lord Courtney get over yourself. The point of that statement is that not all ballet dancers are like you.

      • Exactly! The gay men are so angry over this man’s point of view. He is only stating what many of us wonder about. Yeesh.

  6. “While football boasts the manliest sport, they are still basically wearing tights…”

    Especially if your name is Lynn Swann!

    • For those of you too young to remember, Lynn Swann was the semi-legendary wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers during their glory years in the late 1970’s under Coach Noll. He was known for his fabulous “circus catches” where he would jump high to catch passes, seemingly oblivious that there was usually 1-2 opposing defensive backs trying to “re-arrange his necktie” shall we say! Lynn was also a classically-trained danseur and though he never danced professionally, he served on the board of directors of the Pittsburgh Ballet for several years after his retirement from the Steelers!

  7. Thank you for this post. As a mother of two boys dancing in a southern rural community, several of these myths still persist. We are preparing them to be strong leaders in life and not cave to the nonsense of other kids…and unfortunately adults. We enjoyed the humor and light heartiness of the post, and it can certainly diffuse any situation.

    • Hey Mother of Ballet Boys! I also live in a rural Southern community and have a young male dancer. I understand the frustration of the comments from kids (and sadly adults). My dancer is a young 9 year old boy in his first year of dance. He loves it and I encourage him to ignore everyone else. We hope your boys stand strong. Whether they know it or not, they are being role models and ambassadors for all boys in dance behind them. Stay strong!

      • Good on your kid! People are just too stupid for words at times.,he will find that out soon enough. So long as it doesn’t put him off from doing what he loves. It takes courage, stamina , strength, hard work and a sense of beauty, grace and art (I think) to be a dancer. Maybe that’s why I could never become one! Good luck to your kiddo and I hope one day we shall be fortunate enough to see this young lad, and all the other Young lads, dancing their hearts out on stage.

  8. Great to dispel misconceptions about the strength, speed, heights attained and unbelievable skills of male dancers but whether gay or not ……not important. Many people in all walks of life are gay after all……
    Fun post though!

  9. Problematic!!! Girls are frail? While well intentions, this author adds nothing to the stereotypes of men in ballet. Since when does whether dancers are gay or straight?

  10. I think anyone with misconceptions about ballet should actually go see a ballet. Not read trivial, misguided, and sexist blog posts like this.

  11. Hi David. I have read and enjoyed your blog not knowing who it was written by til now. I don’t know if you remember me, I am Alexander McGowan mom’s. Also wanted to say congratulations on your school and company. What incredible accomplishments. Toi toi toi.

  12. Well, I guess I’m the exception here. I started ballet at the young age of 63 years with an objective to get back into shape. I am now 71 and continue to take ballet even though I will never experience the excitement of being a performer. I am 6 feet and 173 pounds and simply cannot believe the exhilaration and energy needed to stay fit and in shape. I am a firm believer that, if anything is to go first, I don’t want it to be my legs. After that, everything else fails shortly thereafter. Best to you all.

    • NOTE: I do happily wear a dance belt, black ballet tights and slippers and, NO, I have 5 beautiful grandchildren thus answering the other obvious question(s) you might have.

  13. I’ve always been very envious of male ballet dancers… not only are they phenomenal athletes with gorgeous bods but they are engaged in a very high art form, with wonderful music, beautiful staging, costuming, and lights — what a magical world. And finally, it’s a contact sport with girls! 🙂

  14. As a man who trained as a classical ballet dancer for 10 straight years, I couldn’t agree with you more. And when I retired from classical ballet, I took up motorcycle roadracing. Male dancers can do ANYTHING.

  15. I think this article rings as more than slightly homophobic. Some of us male ballet dancer ARE gay, queer and bisexual. Many of us, who have made the ballet world what it is today) That has nothing to do with how masculine or feminine we are. Completely different topics. Sexuality and gender expression. I have heard this “bro, dude, man” discourse bandied about a lot in the ballet world. I find it to be ridiculous and low brow. You do not need to “prove” what a man you are. Just be a man, because you are. It is rather simple. And do not take credit from those men who are gay, or maybe feminine just because you have a chip on your shoulder about how your precious male ego is perceived. It shows a lack of good breeding and more importantly a lack of education and cultural sensitivity.

    • Word!! Thank You for writing the thoughts that so many must have been thinking!

    • THIS, pretty much.
      And not to mention the sexism. “Weak and frail as girls”… really? Females in general are not as strong as males in general, but that doesn’t make them weak and frail, not at all.

  16. weak like girls … proves that male ballet dancers are also fucking sexist assholes.

  17. Great article! Those who think there was intended sexist and/or homophobic undertones are just overly sensitive. I’m sick of hearing about it all over the news. No one can voice their opinions anymore.

  18. I loved your blogg. My son wants to dance ballet and I was scared that other boys might tease him or call him gay. Now maybe he is, maybe not. BUT this artical just changed my mind… He can dance what ever he wants. Thank you.

    • I realize you posted this awhile ago, but I sure hope you let your son dance. My 12 year old has been dancing since he was 8, and it’s the thing that gives him the most joy. I don’t think he’s gay, but if he turns out to be, it will not be because he danced. He has been teased a time or two by jerks at school, but I am so proud that he doesn’t let it bother him at all. He is very proud to be a dancer.

  19. I think this is an excellent article andI do not understand why some people are looking for ways of getting offended. Yes, there are gay ballet dancers but this article is dispelling the myth – many male dancers are manly men and I salute that. It’s great that we women have a chance with one of these amazing, graceful dancers, because society likes to portray them as gay, which is untrue.

  20. Thank you very much for this blog. My son has been teased for years due to accusations of being gay. He is FAR from it, but I was concerned that things would escalate now that he is choosing to do ballet in college. I have never done ballet myself, but have always heard the stereotypes that all male ballet dancers are gay and effeminate. Thank you for shedding light on this subject. I really appreciate this (and now have some fuel for when anyone tries to make accusations again! 😉 ).

  21. Well some male are in fact gay and trans. And they could dance with other quality of movements as an adagio. So it’s more complex than it looks.

  22. Whenever a male ballet dancer tries hard to parade his straightness by saying things like I’m athletic, I’m strong, I like girls, I like team sports blah blah blah, I cannot help but roll my eyes. You protest too much and that doesn’t look good coz the more you do it, the more immature and desperate and more homophobic you sound.
    I’ve read somewhere that 50% of male ballet dancers in the US are gay. I’ve also read that according to physicality studies women and gay men tend to be good at fine physical movements whereas lesbians and straight men tend to be good at gross movements (throwing etc.).
    More women are good at learning languages than straight men and more men are good at maths than women…the list like this goes on. I would say, hey, that’s interesting, that’s all.

  23. I enjoyed reading this. Just thought I’d give some support. Don’t mind those haters and name-callers (commenting here). Your post was encouraging to read.

  24. I thought that everything this article said was very true, and I enjoyed reading it. I know many male dancers and they are probably much more athletically capable than most non- dancer men. They are extremely skilled, and regardless of whether they are gay (I know some who are and some who aren’t), very impressive people.