Men’s Class… 5 things to overcome…

boys class mens class blaletMen’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…

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

mens ballet guide

Click to buy the guide to male ballet. ($4.99)

 

Advertisements

Manly Ballet … pt 3

manly ballet.jpg

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

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.