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

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A BALLET EDUCATION: THE GUIDE TO MALE BALLET

Here in this edition, we will kind of go over some things for boys in ballet to help make this journey easier. With the first few blog posts about male ballet dancers doing well, I thought I would expand on some things that might be relevant. I hope you enjoy, Surviving Ballet: The Guide to being a Boy in Ballet.

mens ballet guide

24 pages

digital download: $19.99

For teachers and ballet schools please e-mail aballeteducation@gmail.com to receive a discount.

The New Ballet Bodies

Each era, ballet redefines the role of a male ballet dancer. The last era, was the era of gods, Fernando Bujones, Jose Mannuel, Ethan Stiefel, David Hallberg, Steven McRae, Jonathan Stafford and Marcelo Gomes. .. With classical Greek body types, each of these men represented the best of the best, but once again ballet has evolved, and over the past five years we have seen a new breed of male ballet dancers. While the former generation has taken jobs as Artistic Directors, these young men have already started their own artistic vision. The next group of ballet dancers became slightly leaner and slightly longer like James Whiteside, Roberto Bolle, Alexandre Hammoudi… I was going to include some men from Paris Opera buuuuut they have always been kind of on the skinny and sleek side. Now we are seeing the new male body type… They are like Italian sports cars, versus Greek gods. They are shorter, more compact, lean, sleek and have powerful engines. Not only do they possess all these qualities but they are also creating their own space for movement, artistic expression etc- like Jeffery Cirio, former Principal Boston Ballet now a soloist at ABT and Daniil Simkin, Principal ABT. I think they are like the predecessors for the next male body type. While the ranks of ballet companies are filled with the sleeker longer bodies of men like Roberto Bolle and James Whiteside, I think these bodies will slowly be replaced by these now thinner, sleeker bodies. How this is going to affect women? I don’t know? Currently in fashion, we are going through the same aesthetic… where male models are as thin or thinner than female models….

 

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Don’t forget… no one will hire a dancer who isn’t flexible. Bikram yoga is a great cross training aspect for ballet dancers. If you aren’t familiar with it, it is basically heat yoga. Get gumby real quick.

Manly Ballet… Part Two

MANLY BALLET MEN IN TIGHTS BALLET BOYS

So, you have a beard, you drink independent craft beers, and on the weekends you are hiking, rock climbing or making funny Youtube Videos. What does this all mean? You might just be a ballet dancer, or you might just be one of the thousands of men who are embracing the lumbersexual trend. If you are into this trend, you might be one of the male dancers who drinks overpriced, but luxurious hand crafted espresso, or you might own some top of the line cool bike. Sounds about the majority of the younger male ballet dance population. While in a recent articles of beards and facial hair, a conclusion was drawn that as facial hair is an extremely popular trend, men are now more than ever overcompensating for masculinity (Esquire, Details, GQ, and NYT Style). How does this translate into ballet? It really doesn’t, because most of the time, you have to be clean shaven in performances.

Now, if you aren’t at this point of coolness, and you are still training, or you are a mom/dad reading this trying to prepare your son for ballet… Well, here we go again… MANLYBALLET

The Dance Belt: Things to Know about Dance Belts

While pro athletes use cups and jock straps, ballet dancers have the feared dance belt. Mostly feared because of it’s thong back, a dance belt offers support and protection for male genitals. Reasoning for the thong back? Because tights, booty shorts and other male ballet costumes are so tight, the avoidance of lines is necessary. Also, dance belts create a smooth clean line in front, so the audience isn’t distracted by lumps and bumps. The Great Debate: Besides Gaynor Mindens, a controversial topic in ballet is how to wear a dance belt. The debate is somewhat like the toilet paper over or under debate. While some men prefer things to face down, others prefer everything to point up. Preference of comfort? Or what actually protects the goods?

What is the purpose of a male ballet dancer?

It seems that the glory always goes to the ballerinas of ballet, but men seem to be the ones who gain notoriety and make a place in history for themselves. Why is this? While balletcompanies need a lavish number of females to stage productions like Swan Lake, and Balanchine glorified ballet as woman… The majority of the population sees female ballet dancers are the epitome of grace and elegance. Male ballet dancers are recognized as athletic and powerful.

It can be argued that male ballet dancers are there to support, lift and partner a woman, but if you took out men from ballet… You have nothing. Even though most ballets are female driven, the male ballet dancer plays a crucial role: The Hero. While feminists who have written in say that this blog is ______(insert any number of words)____, the reality is ballet, as an art form, is the one who is sexist. So, recently, I saw a Southern California, crappy school production of La Slyphide with zero men… I was so confused. Seriously… What if you were to do Swan Lake and take out the men… Who would save Odette? There would be no need for Black Swan, or any other act. Literally we would just be left with a prologue… Wait, not even that. No one would turn her into a swan. I guess we could argue maybe if there were no men in the world, there would no drama? Haha Just kidding.

While new choreographers have utilized men in outstanding ways, and have created vibrant roles for men, the male ballet dancer is still shrouded by mystery.

We know male ballet dancers are just as athletic as any sportsman.

We know that male ballet dancers are just as graceful and musical as any ballerina.

We know that male ballet dancers have some of the most beautiful bodies in art.

Myth: There are more jobs for men and the women in ballet.

Well older ballet teachers say that there are more jobs for men than women in ballet that would be a lie.

There have always been jobs for both men and women in ballet, but unfortunately there are more female students training in ballet making female jobs more competitive. This has slightly shifted. In the 70’s there were more women studying ballet than men. This has shifted due to amazing men, the progression of society and social norms, and brilliant men who weren’t afraid to push the boundaries.

The first generation of super start male ballet dancers included men like Rudolf Nureyev, Edward Villela, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Jacques D’Amboise and Fernando Bujones. They made ballet more accessible and relatable and presented ballet as athletic, powerful and regal. These men ushered in the powerhouse male ballet dancer. This brought us the golden age of ABT: Ethan Stiefal, Angel Corella, Jose Manuel Carreno; Paris Opera’s Manuel Legris and Jose Martinez. Royal’s Carlos Acosta. The tail end of this generation of powerhouses are: Roberto Bolle, Marcelo Gomes, David Hallberg,  Steven McCrae etc…

Now there is a new generation of male ballet dancers that have surpassed the technical abilities of everyone previous and have created a new vocabulary of movement, quality, and choreography. This generation we have Daniil Simkin, Jeffery Cirio, Justin Peck, and other really young stars. Most ballet super stars are still in training right now. This gives credit to social media like IG, VINE and YouTube. America is becoming a lot like the Vaganova school in a sense, by prepping superstars at the school level and publicizing them greatly before they even have a job.

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

Tu-two or three-three… size does matter?

It is about the quality of movement… It is about what you can bring to the company and how you fit in as an artist…

That is just some of the bull shit that you might hear an artistic director spew while he makes a speech before giving an audition class. Reality check, it is about the body, as ballet is art with your body. I wish more directors would just own up to it and say, “This is exactly what I am looking for… (insert requirements).”

Now, if you think this post is going to be about being fat or thin, your quite wrong. In fact this is just a comparison of male body types in ballet and how they have changed through out the decades… kind of.

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Nijinsky. 5’5″

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Jacques d’Amboise, 5’9″

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Baryshnikov, 5’6″

Peter Martins 6’2″

Roberto Bolle 6’1″

What did all of these men have in common? Besides that they are all leading men? Charisma and solid technique. I could have listed any such length of men, but unfortunately time is against me today. I have a date this evening. Now, with this being said, you have to have a leading man for a leading lady. It is a common misconception about the height requirement in ballet because companies varies. ABT is known for the extremely short corps, the average being around 5’4″, while NYCB corps varies because of the repertory being so vast. The same for the women of Paris Opera, and the Bolshoi. (It’s funny because I work in fashion now and the body type requirement is a lot stricter than ballet…) I think the most important thing when it comes to body types this is what is looked at… male or female:

Body Proportion… and no I am not talking about the ridiculous proportions of Bolshoi, or the craziness that is talked about the Balanchine body type… I am just saying, tight waist, long legs, pretty neckline. More important than height and proportion though are hyper extended legs, feet that beautifully arched, hyper mobile backs, turned out hips, and charisma.

I recently saw a video of a male dancer from National Ballet of Cuba, and not only does he have beautiful legs, and is ridiculously flexible, or the fact that he can do amazing tricks…. He was so charismatic… His version of the Don Q variation was so playful, so youthful, and slightly cocky… A very good Basilio…

With that being said, I do think that male body type in ballet has drastically changed. What was once the classic strong V, with thick thighs look has now thinned out and has made way for the thinner men now. Roberto Bolle’s body is like… yummy times ten, but Daniil Simkin, Taras Dimitro, now older Ethan Stiefal, and looking back at Jose Martinez and Mannuel Legris from POB. You might all murder me, and send me more hateful messages, but at this pointe (haha pun intended) I could careless.