Okay…finally back after a brief hiatus. Sorry about that. I can’t even remember what all has happened since my last post…A Chorus Line is over. We are on to Spring Concert rehearsals. Anyone who follows me on Facebook can see Julian’s solo from A Chorus Line. Someone posted it and I shared it. I’m not sure how to post it here.
Tomorrow I take Julian to get his driver’s permit. Can you believe it? We’ll see if he drives as well as he dances.
We have our apartment rented for the ABT Summer Intensive. I splurged on a great place on a street we know very close to Union Square. We purchased our airline tickets yesterday. Whoo hoo!
Okay, on to today’s subject: how to start boys dancing on the right foot. Someone commented that their son had started in ballet and quickly stopped. A few years later, he and his brother wanted to begin again. She was wondering how to give them a good start so they would continue. She had found a class with one other boy in it, but she was concerned about pink studio decor and such.
In my experience–and that, of course, is just with my son and talking to as many other mother’s of dancin’ boys as I could find–the pink walls and pictures of girls in tutus don’t matter much if the boy is having fun and truly engaged in class. I believe that young boys need more than ballet to keep them interested in dance. So, I’d seek out a traditional ballet, tap, jazz combo class to start them off.
Here’s the thing: Boys like to move. They enjoy jumping, running, tumbling, and such. Ballet requires a lot of very concentrated standing at the barr doing precise movements. This usually doesn’t fall into a young boy’s repertoire.
Julian did a combo class for two years. Then he branched out into a full ballet class, a full jazz class, a full tap class. He also explored hip hop. He always enjoyed ballet enough to stick with it, and his teachers stressed the importance of having ballet as a foundation. After just a few years of dance, he joined a competitive dance team. The studio required the members to take ballet class several times a week. After two years on the team–when his technique began to suffer–he opted to enroll in Ballet San Jose School and focus on ballet. Three years later he decided he wanted more than just ballet again and joined TDC to expand into contemporary ballet and modern. (I tell you this just because it seems to have worked for Julian; I also know other boys who took similar paths or danced in many styles and continued dancing through college.)
I once wrote an article for dance teacher magazine about how to entice boys into the dance studio. The consensus was that boys usually don’t want to just do ballet. That said, a rare boy feel compelled to do only ballet.
If you can find a male teacher, of course, that’s super. They make great role models for the boys. It’s tough to find this though.
If you can find a studio with boys’ classes or more boys, that’s super. I know Ballet San Jose School recruited a lot of boys recently, for instance. There are a lot of boys at The Rock in Pennsylvania.
However, these are serious ballet schools. You have to have a child who is ready to buckle down and get serious about their ballet studies to enroll in these schools. If they aren’t ready, they’ll be turned off as quickly in these top-notch schools as they will in a bad one.
Keep track of your son’s attitude about class. Ask lots of questions. Watch through the window during class. Be his advocate. Change studios as often as you must until you find the right one. Assure him that you are doing what is necessary to make sure he finds the best place to learn how to dance and to dance well. It’s your job as a parent to foster his interest in dance. It’s so easy for these special boys to lose interest and to give up on their gift.
Don’t give up hope. Just do what it takes…even if it means driving an hour or more each way to the studio. Rest assured, you wont’ be the only parent to have taxied your son long distances to makes sure he had the right environment in which to learn and the perfect teacher to inspire him to dance.
Hi Nina. I enjoyed the scope of this article; it gives me an even more appreciative idea of a mom with a boy in ballet, which is a position I have never been in. Boys indeed do like to move, a right-on understatement. I think any studio could add to its success in attracting boys if it is able to add classes that potentially have male teachers: gymnastics, jazz, hip hop etc.
Nina Amir says
Yes, Dianne. The other thing I should have mentioned is that ballet classes can include language appropriate for boys and activities appropriate for boys. They can turn some of what they do into things boys like. Boys do some ballet moves that will keep even younger boys interested to some extent, even though they won’t be able to do them correctly yet–moves that entail jumping and turning. And the language used can be “boy” language rather than ballet or “girl” language. Even just giving the boys 10 minutes of tumbling in a class can make a difference.
Thanks for this response – I’m the mom with the two little boys. They’ve been taking ballet for four months now, and the only time I’ve heard them complain was when the studio took a two week spring break so they had no class.
Their teacher is good with them. She speaks to them like boys, not ballerinas. (“Do that again just like that, because that was AWESOME!”) She also plays to their athleticism, putting more jumping into the class. The boys like the other boy in their class, and they have gotten over their inhibitions about taking ballet.
Interestingly, in just this short time, the school seems to have changed a little as well. Suddenly there are a few boy things in the shop – jazz pants, a “ballet for boys” dvd, a book about a male dancer. It still looks like the boudoir of a fairy princess, but at least there’s a nod to the boys. The parents all seem pleased that this is a co-ed class. A lot of people like to watch the class – it’s just more interesting with the boys there.
I’ll only keep them in ballet as long as they want to do it, but I think regardless of how long that is, this is a good experience for them in many ways.
And boy do they look cute in their tights.
My son started with an all-boys tap class called the Tap Dogs. He liked it so much that he added a jazz/ballet combo class two years later. Now he studies ballet, lyrical, jazz and tap. He is going to go to two summer intensives this summer (Houston and ABT) and is hoping to meet more boys at the intensives.
Nice blog about dancing boys issues, I think your blog very helpful for more people, Thanks for sharing the information.
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