Half way through the fourth week of the American Ballet Theatre summer intensive and things are looking up. Julian’s foot isn’t hurting at all, although he plans to see the physical therapist on Thursday. He is drinking lots of things with electrolytes, so he isn’t dehydrated. He is no longer so muscle sore either. I have seen some kids limping out of the building, though, or wearing knee braces and such. He says everyone has some sort of ache or pain, but they are all just toughing it out.
Tap classes right now are the only extra classes we’ve added into the mix. I’m a bit fearful of adding in much more ballet or even jazz; seems to me that it could be too much use of the same muscles. We are looking for Julian to possibly take a hip hop class sometime soon, and he will be taking Sue Samuels’ jazz class in the next few weeks. We made it to Michelle Dorrance’s tap class on Monday night, and Julian had a blast. Man, can that lady tap and teach! It was fast as all get out and Julian had to really work to keep up, but he had so much fun and learned a ton. I think he learned more in that one class than he has learned in any of the tap classes he’s had so far.
He’s really loving his “jazz” choreography piece at ABT, but I really think it’s more of a contemporary number. It’s set to four pieces of Elton John’s music. He doesn’t like his ballet choreography, because the boys really don’t do much and the choreography doesn’t even give them the opportunity to show off their classical ballet ability. He says they don’t get to “dance” much at all. That’s a shame…come all the way to New York to spend six weeks at ABT and then not even get to perform a good ballet piece for the performance. Ah, well…he likes contemporary better anyway.
We saw Hair last night for Julian’s 15th birthday. It was a blast! What great, classic songs, great acting, superb singing, and tons of fun. Of course, there were a fair amount of swear words, references to drugs (and even a scene where they smoke pot), a brief scene in which they actors all strip off their clothes (but the lights are dim) and stand their naked, and more simulated sex acts than I can remember. I thought they looked like dogs in heat. Julian thought it was like a Viagra commercial gone bad — you know, like the caution about getting an erection that lasts more than four hours! Despite that, it was fun…and funny. We managed to get to the Olive Garden, his favorite restaurant, for three bowls of salad before hand, so, all in all, it was a great day.
Plus, he got to take a modern class with the violet level (two above his level) at ABT, and he went out to lunch with some friends. He got a bunch of money for his birthday to spend in NYC, so I think he had a pretty good birthday. I had fun, too!
I noticed a really nice article on the Boys and Ballet website about how to choose ballet classes for boys. It’s worth a read if your son is just starting out or you are looking to enroll your son in a more serious ballet program. It’s called, “How to Choose a Ballet School for Your Son” or “There are Special Considerations When Your Son has Ballet Dreams.” Search for it by one of those titles if you no longer find it on the first page of the site. (It’s written by C.A. Bates.)
The only thing I’d mention is that the author talks about ballet examinations. I’m no expert here, but Julian has never taken an examination. I believe these are required for certain types of ballet programs. He was in a Danish Bourneville program at Ballet San Jose School, and that did not require examinations.
The rest of the information is very good. I’d add, however, that the cost of a good and serious ballet program can get quite high, and not all schools offer boys great scholarships (although I think they should). Also, many of the programs I’ve encountered do not offer anything but ballet (she discusses programs that offer other styles of dance as well); they might have a modern class. We found that pursuing other dance disciplines was actually frowned upon by ballet schools in general. This seems odd when the trend in most classical ballet companies is towards inclusion of contemporary and modern choreography as well. Some are even branching out into more creative ventures, such as Ballet San Jose’s “Blue Suede Shoes,” a ballet written to the music of Elvis Presley.
I’ve been told over and over again in the last year that a male dancer who can do more than just ballet will find himself more of an asset to a ballet company — or any company for that matter — than a strict ballet dancer. While we were told that tap dancing and hip hop, as well as jazz, would not help his ballet training (and might actually hurt it), we are now being told to pursue all of these styles of dance if he wants to be more employable than the next man.
Now, would someone at ABT tell us that? I’m not so sure, but the male professional dancers I speak with do tell me that. Will you find that sort of well-rounded training in a ballet program? Not likely. If you find a serious ballet program offering all types dance, let me know!