Manly Ballet … pt 3

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Tights. Dance Belts. Sequins…. the common things associated with male ballet dancers. And while all three of those things apply… There is a lot more underneath the costumes of male ballet dancers. There are tons of male variations out there in the world, and I definitely have posted quite a bit about it under my “manly ballet series” and … truthfully, I have been neglecting talking about men in ballet. Recently, I posted a video of Osiel Gouneo killin’ them turns on facebook questioning whether or not it is dancing or tricks… Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of his… I can verify that via old posts… But seriously… In today’s day and age… Tricks are a dime a dozen, and ten pirouettes are everywhere… Hell even young girls en pointe are killin’ 6 or more turns, and doing the craziest turn sequences… Instagram proves that…

So, it raises the question what is good male ballet dancing?

By old school standards it was that wonderful definition of male bravura… which later evolved and equated bravura with cockiness and tricks. This became the age of male superstars of the 70’s and 80’s… While this was happening, women were perfecting pointe technique and becoming ridiculously flexible and artistic directors were changing the shape to be a longer even leaner body type than what Balanchine created… In the 90’s we were given a generation of male superstars that headlined ABT, and not only were they amazing to watch, but they had ridiculous tricks… Tricks that have become the standard for men… Then in the early 2000’s ballet shifted back to the ballerina as the world became interested in the dynamics and quality a ballerina had… This became the age of overly flexible women, and brought back the Russian Prima to the world… aka Svetlana lol…

As we are in the teenage years of the 2000’s ballet is now once again shifting… Whether you are male or female, ballet dancers are becoming superstars off of social media by performing elaborate turning combinations, being ridiculously flexible and creating lines that only cartoons used to be able to do… Senior corps de ballet members are being overlooked for promotions as new, young, talented, and powerhouse apprentices are joining the ranks. It has already started happening all over the world… And audiences love it… we eat it up… we share their videos everywhere… We die over them… Ballet brands endorse young kids based off their followers… It is crazy…

So what does this mean though? What does it mean for men in ballet?

It means that if you want a job in ballet you need to be technically perfect and have a billion pirouettes… It means that you have to just as flexible as the girls around you… It means that over the next ten years there will be a shift towards male tricks or female tricks… It means that men who don’t have tricks will be obsolete, and being fundamentally interesting isn’t good enough anymore. This goes for females as well… Unfortunately… the more kids that come to ballet, the more options artistic directors have… and right now there is an abundance of talent in ballet and dance… This trend though has caused something extremely interesting for male dancers who are already dancing professionally… While they may have gotten their contracts off of body type and solid technique, and while they might have 4 or 5 pirouettes… They have become choreographers… movers… and have become fundamentally interesting dancers… While tricks might sell tickets… Men in ballet have become more interesting to watch over the past 5ish-10ish years than women… While the tricks are fun to watch, men have embraced a contemporary vocabulary of movement, removed the line between masculine and feminine vocabularies in ballet and thus have created a new archetype for male ballet dancers… I don’t know what to call it but it has happened gradually…

Marcello Gomes shifted his dancing maybe 5 years ago… Roberto Bolle shifted his dancing maybe 3 years ago… Sergei Polunin shifted his dancing  early on in his career and left Royal…. Daniil Simkin, Jeffrey Cirio and Robert Fairchild shifted their dancing endeavors since the beginning of their careers… Mathieu Ganio shifted his dancing in 2005 after winning the Benois de la danse for developing Proust. Frederico Bonelli of Royal Ballet shifted his dancing recently as well… (FYI baby daddy…) This new aesthetic of movement is both masculine and feminine and can be interpreted differently, but it is definitely happening and choreographers are taking advantage of it. Myles Thatcher and Justin Peck, have definitely capitalized off of it and have launched stellar choreographic careers.

So… there will always be the place for male bravura in male variations… but with the body type of male ballet dancers changing… Is it time for the choreography within these variations to change as well? Yes… you can manipulate the turn sequences and jumps but overall… does the aesthetic of these variations need to change?

POSTS on male dancing:

Manly Ballet… 5 misconceptions about male ballet dancers

Manly Ballet… Part Two

The New Ballet Bodies

Fantastic Five: 5 Really Great Male Variations