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Darcey Bussell, the ballerina, says an ‘amazing’ rise in the number of boys doing ballet has meant ‘we’re not producing enough women’

 

By Hannah Furness
The Telegraph
December 9, 2015

 

Female ballet dancers could be at risk of being left behind thanks to the “Billy Elliot effect”, Darcey Bussell has suggested, as she claimed dance schools are now inundated with more boys than girls.

Bussell, the former ballet principal and Strictly Come Dancing judge, said she had been told the rise of ballet for boys had resulted in the “problem” of “not producing enough women”.

Saying the art form has undergone a “180 degree turn” since she was a pupil herself, she attributed its popularity to the success of Billy Elliot and the rising fame of star dancers such as Carlos Acosta and Matthew Bourne’s all-male Swan Lake.

“I was told by the director of the Royal Ballet School that they are getting more applications for boys than they are for girls – it’s amazing!” Bussell told the Christmas edition of the Radio Times.

“Apparently the problem now is that we’re not producing enough women! How is this possible?!”

The Royal Ballet School said it has taken in slightly more boys than girls in recent years thanks to the strength of their applications. While significantly higher numbers of girls still apply, there have been more boys than girls at the school since 2010. In 2013/14 there were 109 girls and 112 boys.

Bussell is due to explore the rise of male dancers in a new BBC documentary, tracking them from existing merely to show off their female partners a century ago, to taking centre stage.

“Perhaps we just need to pay a little bit more attention now to the girls. “We have been enthusing about the boys so much, because it has been so wonderful to see them taking part, maybe we just need to start enthusing about the girls again instead of taking them for granted.”

– Samira Saidi, director of dance at the English National Ballet School

Speaking of her own training, she said: “Every dance school I went to there was only ever one little boy. “That has now      taken a 180 degree  turn, and suddenly we’re producing more male dancers.”

She added: “Ballerinas have always been centre stage, while the male has gone through many ups and downs. “Leading men weren’t given significant parts, the characters – mostly unnamed princes – were weak. “But suddenly male dancers have become this extraordinary talent and we can’t get enough of them!”

She argued the change came from Billy Elliot, the film, which showed boys from a working-class background could excel at ballet.

It is still essential to produce talented female dancers, she added, explaining performers are “at their best when they find their perfect partner”.

When asked about Sergei Polunin, the dancer who last month claimed ballet companies had banned him from partnering his real-life girlfriend Natalia Osipova, Bussell admitted it was a professional risk when things “get a little comfortable”. “It takes away from the edge,” she said. “It’s like if you over-rehearse. You want it to look like it’s the first time you’ve ever done it, every evening!”

Samira Saidi, director of dance at the English National Ballet School, said their intake was virtually equal between the sexes every year, following a rise in boys applications after Billy Elliot came out in cinemas.

Saying both genders showed equal talent, she joked:” It really depends on who comes through the door [to auditions]. It depends on the year, like a fine wine.”

She said she did not foresee any problem in maintaining the number talented female ballet dancers, adding: “Perhaps we just need to pay a little bit more attention now to the girls. “We have been enthusing about the boys so much, because it has been so wonderful to see them taking part, maybe we just need to start enthusing about the girls again instead of taking them for granted.”

 

© 2015 Telegraph Media Group Limited

 

The ‘Billy Elliot’ effect sees young males become the ‘crème de la crème’ of the dancing world

More boys attended Royal Ballet School than girls last year

Strictly Come Dancing judge and professional ballerina Darcey Bussell said the UK was producing more male dancers than female

Billy Elliot and TV talent shows are credited as the reason

 

Boys pictured at the Royal Ballet School in Richmond Park, Surrey (Lucy Ray Photography,The Daily Mail) 2015

 

By Antonia Hoyle
The Daily Mail
December 11, 2015

 

Toes pointed, arms aloft, the ballet dancers balance perfectly on one leg and lift the other high behind them. The delicate grace of their flowing movements is captivating. With backs ramrod straight, they smile serenely as they glide and twirl across the room. These youngsters are the crème de la crème of the ballet world. Only the best are good enough — and they are intent on perfection.

To help them attain it, instructor Hope Keelan barks instructions as they dance. The smallest indiscretion is noted and brusquely corrected. ‘Fingers and thumbs away,’ she raps. ‘Teeth, teeth! Come on! That was torture.’

It’s astonishing to watch such talent and relentless discipline in ones so young. More astonishing, though, is the fact there’s not a tutu in sight. The leotards of the dancers are blue. And their hair isn’t scraped back into buns, but slicked down in short cuts.

Sacha Barber, 12, Stanley Young, 12, and Isaac Martin, 13 are students at RBS (Lucy Ray Photography,The Daily Mail) 2015

We might be at the mixed-sex Royal Ballet School — Britain’s most prestigious dance training institute — but in this rehearsal studio there are only boys. While little girls still comprise the vast majority of those clamouring to study ballet, boys are increasingly choosing it over ball sports. Last year, there were 112 boys and 109 girls at the Royal Ballet School’s junior and senior branches.

This week ballerina and Strictly Come Dancing judge Darcey Bussell — herself an alumna of the Royal Ballet School — highlighted the remarkable rise of the boy ballet dancer. ‘Every dance school I went to there was only ever one little boy,’ said Darcey, 46. ‘Suddenly, we’re producing more male dancers. Apparently, the problem now is that we’re not producing enough women! How is this possible?’

How indeed?

Some boys have admitted relating to Billy Elliot due to teasing and bullying from other boys (Lucy Ray Photography,The Daily Mail) 2015

Some boys have admitted relating to Billy Elliot due to teasing and bullying from other boys

The ‘Billy Elliot’ effect is a factor. After the film — which charted the plight of the fictional 11-year-old miner’s son who won a place at the Royal Ballet School — was released in 2000, much of the stigma around boys and ballet was removed. That shift has been reinforced in recent years by the captivating performances of male ballet stars such as Cuban Carlos Acosta, 42.

‘Shows like Strictly Come Dancing and X Factor have also made dancing more acceptable for boys,’ says Hope, a youthful-looking 60-year-old who seems to inspire both respect and affection from her male students in equal measure. She is artistic teacher and programme manager at White Lodge, the junior wing of the Royal Ballet School. Based in Richmond, South-West London, White Lodge was created in 1955 to produce professional dancers for the Royal Ballet Company.

It is home to 130 boarders aged 11 to 16, one of whom is 11-year-old Blake Smith from Gloucester. He wanted to be a dancer at five, after watching children’s television show Angelina Ballerina.

And he harbours a true passion. He admits he initially encountered opposition to his dreams. ‘I was the only boy in my ballet class and at first my friends would tell me ballet is for girls. But eventually they got used to the idea.’

Blake’s mum Siobhan, 37, was, nonetheless concerned when her little boy started ballet classes. ‘Within two months he’d completed his first competition. I was amazed and proud, but worried he’d be picked on,’ says Siobhan. ‘But Blake says he doesn’t care what anyone else thinks.’

The Royal Ballet School fees cost £30,000 per year and only the best dancers are accepted (Lucy Ray Photography,The Daily Mail) 2015

The Royal Ballet School fees cost £30,000 per year and only the best dancers are accepted

Two years ago, Blake was spotted at his local dance class and invited to audition for White Lodge. Competition is fierce. More than 1,000 youngsters vie for two dozen places at the boarding school each year. And the fees — £30,000 a year — are as substantial as the talent.

Like 80 per cent of White Lodge’s students, Blake is given a government grant. ‘Without the grant, there’s no way I would have been able to afford it,’ says Siobhan, a cleaner who split up with Blake’s father while she was pregnant.

She admits the prospect of sending her boy across the country for weeks on end filled her with anxiety. ‘I didn’t want him to go. I know it is an amazing opportunity, but I felt physically sick as I left him for the first time. I’m still struggling.’ She and Blake Skype each other each day. ‘As soon as we’ve finished speaking I cry,’ she says. ‘He’s always been focused, but I worry about how he’ll handle the pressure.’

Boys sandwich four hours of ballet practice a day on either side of their academic studies (Lucy Ray Photography,The Daily Mail) 2015

Boys sandwich four hours of ballet practice a day on either side of their academic studies

Indeed, the pursuit of excellence here is relentless.The boys sandwich four hours of ballet practice a day on either side of their academic studies. Their warm-up alone is characterised by ‘blood, sweat and tears’, says Hope, without hint of apology.

‘Assessments’ are held at the end of the year to boot out underperformers. Less than half of students will progress to the upper school, and fewer still will be accepted into the Royal Ballet.

While the boys insist the girls — who train separately because of their different physical strengths — don’t begrudge their increasing dominance, 11-year-old Caspar Lench lets slip that relationships between the sexes can be strained. ‘At the start of the year the boys and girls didn’t exactly get on,’ admits Caspar, also in his first term. ‘The girls didn’t want to be friends with the boys and the boys were a bit shy around the girls.’ Fortunately, things picked up. ‘After a few weeks we made friends and it’s not awkward any more.’

Caspar started ballet lessons at three after his mum Yasmin spotted his potential while he was playing a sheep in his nursery nativity play. ‘He smiled all the way through, showed no nerves and made everyone laugh,’ says Yasmin, 42.

Like her husband Tristan, 44, Yasmin is a doctor, and their son’s talent came as a surprise. ‘Dancing definitely doesn’t run in the family, but Caspar has always loved performing,’ she says.

Yasmin credits competitors on shows like Britain’s Got Talent with inspiring boys’ ballet dancing ambition, as well as footballers such as England star Rio Ferdinand, who have been open about practising ballet as youngsters.

What about Billy Elliot? ‘I do sort of relate to him, but feel like it was easier for me because I had my parents’ encouragement,’ says Caspar.

Yasmin acknowledges her son was lucky to only receive a couple of barbed comments from peers who described his hobby as ‘girly’. And she adds: ‘I think Tristan being supportive helped. We know of other boys who have dropped out because their dads didn’t approve.

‘I knew it would be sad for us to say goodbye to him but, by the time he was seven, he was showing such promise we had an inkling he would go to ballet school.’

Annually, more than 1,000 youngsters vie for only two dozen places at the Royal Ballet School (Lucy Ray Photography,The Daily Mail) 2015

Annually, more than 1,000 youngsters vie for only two dozen places at the Royal Ballet School

Auditions for Royal Ballet School are held at the beginning of the year, with staff scouring the country for the best of the best. Every aspiring student is invited to take part in a dance class where their talent is assessed. Caspar’s audition was at a church hall near his home city of Bristol with a final audition at White Lodge this January. A week later, he discovered he’d been accepted.

As the term started in September, he managed to maintain a stiff upper lip, despite the fact he faced weeks without his mum, with all visits pre-arranged. ‘He made it very clear he didn’t want me to cry and embarrass him,’ says Yasmin. ‘But the school prepared us for the fact the children can get homesick.’

In fact, says Hope, the boys are more susceptible to homesickness — or more likely to show it. ‘Girls are a bit more able to mask their feelings,’ she says, adding that despite the discipline, she would never tell a lad missing home he wasn’t entitled to feel sad.

‘We talk about their feelings. I think boys show pressure differently if they’re angry or upset. They cry or they’ll fight. I say they need to see a nurse, and we have psychology workshops.’

Caspar admits he’s found his first term heavy going. ‘When things have happened — I’ve had injuries and arguments and stuff — I’ve wished Mum could be here to sort it out and I call her and cry.’

They speak for half an hour every evening. ‘If I’m feeling sad, she will say she is hugging me down the phone.’

Yasmin doesn’t find his homesickness quite as easy to brush off. ‘I know Caspar bounces back quickly, but I still feel anxious,’ she says. ‘I worry about the pressure and how he would cope if he lost his place. I like to think he is strong, but it would be a blow for him.’

Sacha Barber, 12, Stanley Young, 12, and Isaac Martin, 13, training at school's Pavlova Studio (Lucy Ray Photography,The Daily Mail) 2015

While all the boys have a certain air of vulnerability, it’s also striking how composed they are. ‘There is an emphasis on professional behaviour here,’ explains Isaac Martin, 13, from London, who is in his second year.

Isaac, whose dad Leo, 49, is a company manager and mum Catherine, 45, a museum curator, was a gymnast before discovering ballet a couple of years ago. He admits that at the end of a hard day’s practice, everything aches, but he wouldn’t dream of complaining: ‘We’re taught to respect our elders, that we’re here to learn and not to make a fuss. It’s a good motto to live by.’

Stanley Young, 12, Sacha Barber, 12, and Issac Martin, 13, the Royal Ballet School (Lucy Ray Photography,The Daily Mail) 2015-03

And it is quite extraordinary that despite being in stiff competition with each other, the boys show no signs of jousting or one-upmanship. Are there really no squabbles? ‘Only in our dorms,’ chips in 12-year-old Stanley Young, who has also just entered year two. ‘And mostly over things like the shower rota. But it’s always sorted out.’

It sounds like Stanley, from Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, whose parents are Sarah, 49, and Steve, 45, an engineer, has found an acceptance through ballet school he previously lacked. ‘Because I didn’t like football I felt isolated and different from the other boys,’ he says. These days, Stanley shares his section of the boys’ dormitory with Sacha Barber, 12, from Eastbourne.

You always have to be better than you were the day before' is the mantra boys are taught at the RBS (Lucy Ray Photography,The Daily Mail) 2015

You always have to be better than you were the day before’ is the mantra boys are taught at the RBS

Sacha admits he is finding his second year more stressful than his first and that his dad Daniel, 48, a carpenter, is ‘still surprised’ by his love of dance. ‘You don’t get pushed as much until second year,’ says Sacha — the only boy permitted to sport a longer hairdo, because he is playing Fritz, the lead role in the Nutcracker at the school’s annual performance now taking place at the Royal Opera House. Apparently, he needs longer locks to look suitably Victorian.

But he refuses to buckle under the increased pressure of the second year: ‘I just try harder.’ And it is this which is the unspoken mantra of all the boys at The Royal Ballet School. Without exception, they handle mounting pressure with remarkable grace.

‘It is stressful,’ says Caspar as rehearsals end. ‘You always have to be better than you were the day before and I don’t always achieve that. But you have to work hard and hope for the best.’

 

Copyright 2015 Associated Newspapers, Ltd.

By Steve Trounday
Reno Gazette-Journal
December 4, 2015

 

[Reno, Nevada, USA] – One of the stereotypes of ballet is that it’s a girl’s activity. Often when one thinks of a ballet dancer, a woman wearing a tutu and pirouetting with her pointe shoes is the first thing that pops into your head. The concept of a male ballet dancer is not top of mind — especially in the United States. Yet some of the most famous ballet dancers of all time are men. With their powerful leaps, dancers Mikhail Baryshnikov and Rudolf Nureyev are arguably the two most well-known dancers in modern ballet.

There has been a stigma in the U.S. that has kept American boys away from ballet. It’s kind of ironic because when you watch a professional ballet dancer, both male and female, the athleticism is as rigorous as in any sport. And I mean any sport. The leg strength needed to make those commanding leaps and the upper body strength required for partnering and lifting a ballerina into the air is substantial. What they make look so easy is tremendously difficult to do.

The lack of male dancers from the U.S. means a majority of male dancers in American ballet companies come from other countries. There have been periods of time where all of the male dancers in the San Francisco Ballet have been from countries outside of the United States.

Perhaps this is beginning to change. The success of the stage play and the movie “Billy Elliot,” the popularity of the television show “So You Think You Can Dance,” and the growing approval of ballet in general are adding an element of cool to the art form.

Proof of this can be found with the Tilton brothers, originally from San Marco, California. All four brothers (Roy, Rex, Raymond and Ronald) have danced with professional ballet companies at some point in their lives. Rex is a principal dancer with Utah’s Ballet West. His brother Ronald is a corps artist with the same company. Both men have performed in A.V.A. Ballet Theatre productions here in Reno. Rex starred as the prince in “Swan Lake” and as a featured dancer in the rock ballet “Vortex.” Ronald was a featured dancer in “Vortex” for two consecutive years. Both Rex and Ronald were stars in the CW television reality series “Breaking Pointe.”

Raymond Tilton has danced with the San Francisco Ballet and is currently with the Diablo Ballet. Raymond will be making his debut with A.V.A. Ballet Theatre next week in “The Nutcracker” at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts. He will star as the Sugar Plum Cavalier.

I asked Raymond how the four brothers became involved with ballet. “Our sisters were taking ballet lessons,” he said of his older sister Alexis and twin younger sisters Angelica and Abigale. “My brothers and I were outside of their ballet studio just goofing around. The director of the studio — needing male dancers for his performances — came out and offered us free dance lessons.” At the time, none of the brothers expected that ballet would become such a large part of their lives. Their passion had been soccer. They each began attending more advanced ballet schools and honing their skills.

While the oldest brother Roy has moved on to other pursuits, Rex, Ronald and Raymond continue to excel in the profession. Their dark hair and handsome brooding features combined with their dancing ability make them popular performers.

Alexander Van Alstyne, the artistic director of A.V.A. Ballet Theatre, appreciates their dance ability. Van Alstyne was a professional dancer with Ballet West, the Boston Ballet, and the San Francisco Ballet. “It’s exciting for the art of ballet to see so many male dancers,” he said. It’s even more amazing to see so much talent in one family.”

Raymond is looking forward to his Sugar Plum Cavalier role next week in “The Nutcracker.” He said, “My brothers have always told me how much fun they have when they come to Reno to dance for Alex. I’m really looking forward to the experience.”

Joining Raymond in the production will be local male dancer David Huffmire. David has danced with A.V.A. Ballet Theatre since he was a child and is currently a trainee with Ballet West. David was so eager to begin professional dancing in Utah that he graduated early from Galena High School to make this happen. Like the Tilton brothers, David knows it’s cool to be a ballet dancer.

 

Steve Trounday is a board member at A.V.A. Ballet Theatre, the resident ballet company of the Pioneer Center.

© 2016 http://www.rgj.com.

 

Related Article: A Few Good Men

 

Boys at Gwinnett Ballet Theatre will flex their dancing muscles in GBT's Nutcracker (GBT) 2015

 

By Holley Calmes
The Gwinnett Daily Post
December 03, 2015

 

[Lawrenceville, Georgia, USA] – The growing popularity of dance is evident throughout our culture, and ballet is not just for little girls in tutus anymore. The increasing number of young men participating in the wide world of dance is seen everywhere in all forms of media.

This growing male presence is evident in Gwinnett Ballet Theatre’s upcoming production of “The Nutcracker.” When the curtain rises on the Infinite Energy Theater stage for GBT’s annual holiday offering, 13 young men, all GBT students, will be performing.

The nonprofit dance organization has been presenting “The Nutcracker” for 34 years. In the past, male participants have been very scarce or have consisted of hired soloists to play Cavalier to the Sugar Plum Fairy. This year, a strong male presence will run throughout the show, from Party Scene lads to Soldiers to Polichinelles and leaping Russian dancers.

Artistic Director Wade Walthall is a major reason the school has begun enlisting more guys. His commitment to the school acquiring its own stable of male dancers has been a major goal from the beginning. “It is wonderful to see that parents of young men are seeing the value of dance training and encouraging their boys to attend Gwinnett Ballet Theatre,” says Mr. Walthall. “The program and enthusiasm is growing almost daily, it seems.”

Another reason is the growing realization in the public perception that dance is highly athletic and a great physical outlet for all that male energy. From only a couple of young men in GBT’s classes, suddenly there were boys wherever one looked.

Young men who participate in dance at GBT enjoy a well-rounded curriculum of classical ballet, and as they grow older, jazz, hip hop and modern instruction. Students progress in physical skills common to all athletic endeavors: strength, endurance, agility, flexibility and coordination.

Dance also develops a sense of teamwork, commitment, respect, time management and more. And although occasional injury happens in dance as anywhere else, major injuries such as concussions and broken bones are, unlike some other sports, very infrequent.

Whether a young man is interested in a dance career or wishes to enhance his participation in another sport through honing certain physical skills, dance training is a valuable and very fun activity. The “fun factor” is one of the best aspects.

© Copyright 2015 Gwinnett Daily Post,

The London Boys Ballet School has just signed up its 100th student and has plans to open branches in Manchester, Edinburgh and Swansea

Young dancers at London Boys Ballet School, including Ross Black, at front (Teri Pengilley) 2015

 

By Karen Attwood
The Independent
September 12, 2015

 

James Anthony, who founded and teaches at London Boys Ballet School (Teri Pengilley) 2015[London, England] -James Anthony was desperate to take ballet classes at his mother’s dance school in Wales, but put his dream on hold because he was frightened of being bullied at school. He finally took up ballet at the age of 28, incredibly qualifying as a Royal Academy of Dance teacher within a few years, and has now set up the UK’s first ballet school for boys.

The London Boys Ballet School, in Islington, north London, has just signed up its 100th student and has plans to open branches in Manchester, Edinburgh and Swansea.“It’s clear to see that lots of boys do want to dance,” says Mr Anthony, 34. “A lot of boys start dance classes when they are younger but get discouraged when they get older. This [the school] is not just about being with other boys and the camaraderie that brings. Our image is very masculine. A lot of the other schools will have everything in pink. Our school has changed the image of ballet completely.”

Alfie Theobald, 16, travels two hours from Newbury, in Berkshire, every Saturday to spend all day at the school. He has been taking classes there since it opened a year ago, and wishes to pursue a career in dance after finishing his GCSEs. “My sister used to do ballet and I wanted to start at a younger age but my four older brothers persuaded me to wait until I was really sure I wanted to dance,” he says. After being persuaded to take GCSE dance by a teacher who saw him perform, Alfie developed a passion knew this was what he wanted to do with his life.

Alfie Theobald travels two hours from Newbury every Saturday to spend all day at the school (Teri Pengilley) 2015

However, he was reluctant to join a class with girls his own age who were more advanced because they had been taking classes since they were young. “In the boys’ ballet school, the others have also just started so we really encourage each other,” he says. My parents are astonished by my capabilities and have been really supportive. My aim is to audition for dance schools, and keep auditioning until I get in.”

Ross Black became the school’s 100th pupil last week. The 12-year-old from Dorking, Surrey, comes by train with his mother for four hours of dance and, like Alfie, hopes to make a career out of performing.

Ross started performing in musical theatre at the age of seven and began ballet three years ago but in a class of mostly girls. “I didn’t mind being with the girls as I am with lots of boys at school,” says Ross. “But I think it will be much better to be with the boys because I hope to be able to do lots more spins and jumps.”

His mother Ceri said other ballet schools tend to focus more on the girls’ syllabus. “Ross is very keen so it can be frustrating,” she says. “It’s good that he will be able to dance with other boys that he’s got a lot in common with. Ross goes to lots of auditions, and there are always lots of boys there dancing so it is clear there is a need. I’m surprised this didn’t happen before. Billy Elliot was years ago – this has been a long time in coming.”

Mr Anthony said it was “against all the odds” that he got his vocational qualifications given that he started so late. He practised for three hours a day to pass his examinations.

He knew that it was too late at 28 to launch a career as a professional dancer but thought that there must be other boys out there who wanted to dance, just as he did.

He started teaching at the family school in Wales which his mother founded and where his sister still teaches before setting up London Boys Ballet School last year. He now divides his time between London and Swansea.

“I do think there has been a change in attitude to boys dancing,” he says. “You have television shows like X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing that have had an impact. It can still be difficult outside of London, but the school started with just a few students through word of mouth and is now building momentum, so hopefully the same will happen around the country.”

Copyright 2015 The Independent

 

Read more about LBBS:

All-boys ballet school to be first in UK

London Boys Ballet School attracts budding Billy Elliots

A Man walks into a barre…he eats his words

 

Northern Ballet Academy class (Simon Hulme) 2015

 

By Sarah Freeman
The Yorkshire Post
September 6, 2015

 

[Leeds, West Yorkshire, England] – Northern Ballet Academy is looking for new recruits. And it’s not the boys who are in short supply.

It’s 4pm on a Thursday evening and with school over, it’s a fair bet that most teenage boys have already swapped the classroom for the computer. Not Ben Davis. As he is most days, the 15 year old is warming up in one of the studios in Northern Ballet’s Quarry Hill headquarters. He won’t get home for at least another few hours when he will then have to catch up with homework and sleep.

It’s an exhausting routine, but as one of the Academy’s rising stars, Ben, who lives in Bingley, wouldn’t have it any other way. “I started dancing when I was three years old and loved it immediately,” he says. “When I was younger some people at school did tease me for wanting to be a dancer, but it’s different now. I’m not sure what’s changed, but there has been a shift in attitudes. Ballet is just as physical, if not more so, than football and rugby.”

Call it the Billy Elliot effect or the impact of choreographers like Matthew Bourne, who famously staged the first all-male Swan Lake, but in recent years Northern Ballet has had little difficulty finding talented male dancers, who now make up close to 50 per cent of those who graduate from its Academy.

Like many, Ben was spotted by Yoko Ichino, associate director of the Academy and wife of the company’s artistic director David Nixon. Together they make a pretty formidable partnership and have helped put the company on the national and international dance map.

It was David who spearheaded Northern Ballet’s move from its old, rather dilapidated base on the outskirts of the city and into the largest purpose-built dance studios and theatre outside London.

Now rubbing shoulders with West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds College of Music and Yorkshire Dance, it gave the company the surroundings to match its ambitions and brought it into the heart of the city.

It’s those same connections that the Academy wants to foster which is why it’s holding an open day next weekend [ September 12-13th 2015] in the hope of sparking the interest of others like Ben.

Spotting and nurturing the talent of the future has always been one of Northern Ballet’s priority, but in the last few years it has been able to increase its national and international reputation for training.

“When I was growing up in Canada, if you wanted to be a dancer then you had no option but to leave home at an incredibly young age,” says David, on a break from rehearsing a new production of Romeo and Juliet. “I was 12 when I went to board at ballet school and that’s so young. It was the same in this country, if you wanted to dance, you had to go to London. Partly that was about snobbery – if you wanted the best, the feeling was you could only get it in the capital, but those facilities simply didn’t exist elsewhere. That’s not true any more and it’s because of places like the Academy. I think we offer something unique and our students graduate and go on to all the major ballet schools.”

Nixon says that while some centres are desperate for their dancers to hit certain milestones by certain ages, Yoko insists that everyone who comes through the Academy system is trained as an individual. While many of the Academy recruits come from local dance schools, Northern Ballet also tries to find untapped talent from within Leeds and the surrounding the area.

“There are many children who don’t have the opportunity to have dance lessons and so we now run a programme where we go into schools and try to reach those who have never event attempted an arabesque,” adds David. “That’s great for us as we get to see them before they have had a chance to learn any bad habits. Those that we feel have potential are then invited to workshops. That’s as much for them to see what we do and how we work and the scheme has proved incredibly successful.

“The world of ballet is often accused of being elitist, but we have always tried to appeal to as wider section of the community as possible. Dance as a whole has also become much more flexible. There is and always will be an ideal shape for a male and female dancer, but that’s not to say that anyone who doesn’t fit those statistics is automatically ruled out.

“The truth is, that the very best dancers have that certain something which makes it impossible not to watch them on stage and that kind of presence more than compensates for being shorter or taller than average.”

That said, not every dancer who is accepted into the Academy will end up realising their ambitions. “Some decide it’s not for them or that they would rather dance as a hobby rather than a career,” says David, who has been with Northern Ballet since 2001. “However, the hard part comes when you have a dancer who is desperate to go onto one of the top schools, but who you know isn’t going to make it. That’s an awful thing to have to tell someone, but it’s worse to string them along. We have a duty of care to everyone who comes into the Academy and that sometimes includes telling them what they don’t want to hear.”

 

© 2015 Johnston Publishing Ltd

Australian ballerina Lucinda Dunn pictured in her studios in St Leonards with her male pupils (The Daily Telegraph) 2015

 

By Lisa Mayoh
The Daily Telegraph
June 08, 2015

 

[Sydney, Australia]- Gone are the days of 20 girls and one lonesome boy in a Sydney ballet class — burly boys are kicking up their heels with the best ballerinas.

Tanya Pearson Classical Coaching Academy artistic director Lucinda Dunn said it was becoming much more acceptable for young boys to enter the competitive industry, with the St Leonards-based academy having its own male class for full-time students, taught by a man.

“At this time in our lives I don’t think ballet and the arts is going to become equal in the prestige that sports hold for boys but ballet is more acceptable,” Ms Dunn said. “We all need male dancers to survive and, while there is a way to go yet, I am so thrilled to boast so many full-time boys at this academy.”

She said there were eight full-time male students aged 15 to 19 among 300 females, as well as 10 boys from the ages of five to 15 who danced part-time. “It’s certainly an improvement on past years and we are one of the academies that have a healthy number of males attending daily, which is wonderful,” Ms Dunn said. “We also have boys only classes where male teachers teach the males — it’s no longer one boy in a class of 20 girls.”

She said ballet was beneficial for strength, flexibility, confidence and creative expression. “Billy Elliot was a big inspiration at the time and gave us a boost and so were all the dance shows on television,” she said.

An Australian Ballet spokeswoman said boys dancing was a national trend. “As part of the Australian Ballet’s audience engagement programs, we’ve been running dedicated Boys’ Days for a number [of] years and these generally sell out,” the spokeswoman said.

“Boys’ Day takes the format of a class led by a current male dancer with The Australian Ballet, with the chance to ask him questions afterwards and also watch the full company taking their daily class.

“Last year we held six Boys’ Days across four cities and 123 boys participated in the program which has a maximum capacity of 24 boys per day.”

 

Copyright 2015 News Corp

 

By Tanya Rivero
The Wall Street Journal
December 12, 2014

 

[New York City, New York, USA] – “George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker” has been one of New York’s beloved annual Christmas traditions since 1954 when the New York City Ballet first produced the work.

There are 32 roles for boys in two casts of the ballet company’s production. Yet ever since that inaugural production of the classic, girls have had to fill many of those roles, their hair fastened tightly beneath their caps.

In more recent years, the dearth of boys for male roles has eased.

This season, all the roles intended for boys are being danced by boys, and auditions have gotten more competitive as interest has grown. And the ballet company’s affiliated school, the School of American Ballet, which offers free tuition to boys, has seen a jump in enrollment in recent years.

A wonderful problem,” says Dena Abergel, City Ballet’s children’s ballet master, who casts and rehearses the Nutcracker children. “It’s definitely more competitive, which can be especially good for boys.”

Here’s a look at the changing face of the iconic production.

Copyright ©2014 Dow Jones & Co Inc

 

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