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By Andrew Taylor
Sydney Morning Herald
April 27, 2013

The Australian Ballet School 2012”We call it the Billy Elliot factor,” says David McAllister. ”I think it made a huge difference in perceptions.”

McAllister, the artistic director of the Australian Ballet and former principal dancer with the company, has witnessed a significant increase in the number of men taking up ballet.

The number of male dancers aged five to 14 has risen by more than 50 per cent since 2006, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Forty per cent of students enrolled at the Australian Ballet School are boys, and the number of men performing with the company is the highest since 2007.

The bureau found dance was ahead of singing and drama as the second most popular cultural activity for boys, behind playing a musical instrument. Last year more boys participated in dancing than athletics, with the number of male dancers not far behind rugby union, according to the bureau.

Dancer Christopher Rodgers-Wilson, 25, said people were very interested when he told them he was a ballet dancer. ”Usually they have a lot of questions but more often than not they’re very positive,” he said. ”Some people ask if it’s a legitimate job, which is always funny.”

His fellow performer Cameron Hunter took more convincing. Hunter said it was considered unusual when he took up ballroom dancing at the age of eight. He was reluctant to take up ballet five years later, particularly because he did not want to wear tights and a jockstrap.

”I had to be heavily coaxed into doing it,” said the 21-year-old from Perth, who will perform in the Australian Ballet’s Vanguard show of three ground-breaking works at the Sydney Opera House from Tuesday.

McAllister, who was a seven-year-old boy in 1960s Perth when he took up ballet, faced a harder road. It took him a year to convince his parents and then find a teacher willing to take him on. For the next nine years, McAllister was the only male dancer in his school.

He did not have an easy time, especially at the single-sex school he attended. McAllister said he did not mind being different and putting up with ”carry on”. But many teenagers would cringe at the thought of standing out from the crowd and especially being labelled as gay. ”I think there’s always that stereotype,” he said. ”No matter what your sexuality is, there’s an element of believing we must all be raving queens.”

McAllister said half the company’s dancers were heterosexual although he admitted the company ”went through a period of setting up fireworks” to show off a heterosexual male dancer.

”I think we’ve actually realised what people do in their private life is their own business,” he said. ”Talent is the commodity we’re really looking for.”

Copyright © 2013 Fairfax Media

Related Article: 40 per cent of the students at the Australian Ballet School are boys

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One Comment

  1. This is amazing. Australia is one place where I could see that there is a great opening for male dancers. I myself as a male dancer looking forward to study in Australia


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