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By Colleen Dardagan
The Mercury
Photographs by Doctor Ngcobo
February 1, 2012

Three Durban boys, toes pointed, tummies pulled in and arms lifted in a graceful arc, skip and gallop to the tinkling piano music. Ballet, not rugby, has caught the imagination of these five-year-olds.

Damien Fryer, Luca Robinson and Bernard Huisinge have been dedicated and committed since the age of two and this took them to the top of the class last year when they walked away with the Cecchetti Test Trophy for their group work during end of year exams.

But, they are now reaching the age where they are beginning to feel the stigma attached to what is considered “airy fairy” by peers. However, their parents are determined to keep encouraging them to dance as they say it teaches discipline, improves concentration and helps build physical strength.

Maria Vidal, says her son Luca, of Durban Preparatory High School, chose the discipline for himself. “He was two when he told me he wanted to start. If the boys tease him he doesn’t seem to care,” she said.

Michelle Fryer said Damien was still at Treetops Pre-Primary School where dance was encouraged, but when he goes to primary school next year she is afraid he might be pressured to drop it.  “He is becoming aware that taking ballet, according to his friends, is not okay. But we are pushing through it,” she said.

Similarly, Thomas Larchè, 8, loves to dance, but doesn’t share that with all his friends. “He doesn’t deny it if asked, but he also doesn’t advertise it,” said his mom, Ninon.

Vidal said she had a few friends who wanted to send their sons to ballet classes but it was prohibited by their husbands. “It’s a South African thing. There just isn’t that kind of stigma in Europe or the States,” she said.

Yvonne Barker, senior examiner and representative for the Cecchetti Society SA, said while the country was short of male dancers it was difficult for them to overcome the obstacles.

“Firstly their friends tease them and secondly we don’t have enough ballet companies in this country to employ them.”

However, the boys’ teacher, Patricia McIntosh, said the benefits of dance far outweighed the difficulties they might face. “Ballet is a discipline, they learn to focus and it improves their co-ordination. It is excellent for fine and gross motor control and building physical strength,” she said.

© 2012 The Mercury

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One Comment

    • Suzanne
    • Posted February 9, 2012 at 7:51 am
    • Permalink

    I disagree in Ms. Vidal’s comment about there not being a stigma attached to boys dancing in Europe or the U.S. As an American, we see the same obstacles here. While my husband did not forbid my son from taking dance classes, he wasn’t very supportive. All that changed when my son performed in the The Nutcracker with the Moscow Ballet. He saw the athleticism and skill of those Russian male dancers and he realized there is nothing un-manly about it.


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