By Gina Kraman
March 6, 2015
[Westmont, Illinois, USA] – Ballet classes are more than sparkly pink tutus and wispy hand movements. They’re physically rigorous, mentally demanding, and appeal to boys, too, including professional football players. NFL Hall of Famer Lynn Swann has been taking ballet classes since college to improve his strength, rhythm, endurance, and mental focus on the playing field.
The school of Salt Creek Ballet attracts boys to ballet, including Misha Barkidjija, 12, who has been dancing for more than seven years. He plans to pursue a career in dance, which is no surprise to his father: “Misha has always been active. Ballet is very athletic, with precise and controlled body movements,” says Chris Barkidjija, who drives Misha to his daily practices, about 45 minutes away from home. “When your child loves doing something positive, and is committed to it, it’s hard saying no.”
He adds, “Ballet may be less traditional for boys, but it’s even more demanding in some ways than sports. Misha played soccer for many years, but time commitments forced him to choose either ballet or soccer. While both use similar muscles, ballet trains dancers to open up their bodies, while sports teaches to protect the body. Misha really thrives at Salt Creek Ballet, as the teachers push the students to achieve their goals.”
Misha adds, “Ballet lets you express yourself through movement. With stronger legs, boys can do higher jumps than girls, but girls can be more flexible. It’s a great sport for everyone.”
Why don’t more boys choose ballet? “The American culture is very sports-focused. In Russia and Cuba, men pursuing ballet is more common,” explains Keith Gerling, who’s 16-year-old son Jack has been dancing for 11 years.
He reflects how Jack, as child, would “dance around the house when classical music was playing. I asked if he wanted to try ballet, and he said yes. Ballet has strengthened his discipline, teamwork skills, and stamina. Ballet is a big time commitment, but it’s been very positive, and Salt Creek is the best.”
For more information, call Westmont-based Salt Creek Ballet at (630) 769-1199, or visit www.saltcreekballet.org.
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