It’s not just girls learning their moves for the ‘Nutcracker’
Nov 29, 2008
The “Nutcracker” ballet may be a holiday tradition, but one thing is different at the Oregon Ballet Academy’s production this year.
“There are 20 boys doing the Russian Trepak this year,” said 12-year-old dancer Simon Longnight. “There’s never been more than three before.”
Classes at Oregon Ballet Academy are coed, but tend to be dominated by female dancers.
“We always have just a handful of boys,” said John Grensback, the program’s director. To draw more young male dancers, Grensback sought funding from the Oregon Ballet Foundation and the Lane Arts Council and set up a tuition-free Wednesday class for male dancers only.
The class attracted two dozen dancers ages 9 to 22 with all levels of experience.
“It was a mixed bag of shells,” Grensback said.
As boys improve, they can start taking more advanced ballet classes, but many opt to stay in the all-boys’ lessons as well.
Thirteen-year-old Mayim Stiller has been taking ballet for three years, and he said the all-boys’ class is different from his other lessons. “It’s like working out at the gym,” he said. “We get to do a lot of big jumps.”
The boys also practice lifting, catching and carrying a partner — important for dances such as the expressive “Nutcracker” pas de deux.
“In ballet, we say the men are there to make the women look pretty,” said Ellis Hoffmeister, 18.
To pull off that goal, the boys’ practice includes push-ups and pulls-ups. “We have to be strong to lift the girls,” Stiller said.
Longnight said he does extra push-ups during TV commercials at home.
“Ballet is harder than any other sport,” he said. “You have to withstand pain in your feet without showing it on your face.”
Grensback also spoke to the dedication required to be a successful dancer. “It’s a real strength,” he said. “It opens doors.”
Stiller said he sometimes gets teased for taking ballet, but he had some advice for other boys interested in dance. “You should try it, and not get discouraged by people who say it’s stupid and dumb,” he said. “It’s really fun.”
For more information, go to http://www.oregonballetacademy.com
Copyright © 2008 — The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, USA