Skip navigation

Tag Archives: Boy Dancers are Gaining Credibility

By Adam Sherwin
The Independent
July 19, 2013



It’s time for Billy Elliot to leave the stage. A dearth of female ballerinas is causing a crisis in the dance world, Carlos Acosta, acclaimed as the greatest performer of his generation, has warned.

Although young girls still line up to test their satin pointe shoes at ballet classes, too few are making the leap to a career as top-level professional dancers. Acosta, 40, the Cuban dancer acclaimed for the physicality and artistic prowess of his performances, said the lack of female dancers of a sufficient stature for him to perform opposite has become a crisis.

“We need more girls,” Acosta told The Independent. “Girls are non-existent. Maybe it’s because their parents don’t know how to educate them in this world?”

Many young girls dream of dancing Cinderella or Swan Lake but find that the reality is different, with female dancers under constant pressure to stay thin, yet meet the physical challenges required. Acosta said: “Physically, it’s tough for girls. And it’s tough because the competition is always greater. They have issues with their metabolism and their hormones. Maybe their physique goes off in a different direction.”

The success of Billy Elliot, the story of a miner’s 11 year-old son who becomes a ballet dancer, has contributed to the imbalance. The Royal Ballet school in London, which spawned Dame Margot Fonteyn and Darcey Bussell, confirmed Acosta’s observation. A spokeswoman said: “Our directors have found it more of a challenge to find really talented girls in the past few years. The wave of talented boys has continued as the myth that ballet is for girls is even more widely dispelled.”

While girls are the overwhelming majority of applicants to the Royal Ballet School’s junior years, there are currently more boys than girls among the intake by the age of 16.

The School added that the recent gender imbalance was “not a comment on the quality of our current students as they are all at the very top of their game and would not have been admitted to the school at all if they were not achieving at the highest possible standard.”

Acosta, an Olivier Award winner for Outstanding Achievement in Dance, suffered a blow when the great dancer Alina Cojocaru quit the Royal Ballet last week to join its rival, the English National Ballet (ENB). Acosta will star in and choreograph Don Quixote at the Royal Opera House this Autumn and Cojocaru was one of the very few ballerinas capable of delivering the female lead role.

Tamara Rojo, the Spanish dancer and ENB artistic director, who will perform Romeo And Juliet with Acosta at the Royal Albert Hall this year, said ballet needed to fight the perception that is “a girl’s thing, a fluffy thing, a child’s thing.”

Acosta, who this month marks his 40th birthday by performing a Classical Selection featuring highlights of his career for the English National Opera at the London Coliseum, admits that pain and aching joints are the by-product of a career devoted to dance. “It is a challenge of physicality to perform the same moves that I did before I had to take pain-killers and put ice on my joints,” he said. “I want to give first-time audiences the best of each ballet within a three-hour show.”

Acosta, who was first sent to a dance class aged nine by his Cuban father to stop him becoming a delinquent, believes the Government should play an active role in encouraging more female dancers. “For parents who need to pay for ballet shoes and dance classes it’s a big squeeze. Government should subsidise the arts instead of constantly cutting.”

“If you find talented young dancers, then give them a scholarship – not just one or two people but all the talented dancers. That way we have more chance to deliver to the world the next Darcey Bussell or Tamara Rojo.”

If the UK can’t produce female stars, we will have to import them. “If you don’t have talent in your own backyard, you must go and find it. Whether it comes from Italy, Nigeria or South America it doesn’t matter. We should do more to look elsewhere and give people a chance to flourish.”

This week Rojo caused a stir when she called for more female choreographers, comparing the attitude of male choreographers with that of makers of pornography. But Acosta does not believe that this male directorial dominance is deterring ballerinas. “You can’t have female choreographers just for the sake of it. Ultimately, it’s not about gender or nationality- it has to be about talent.”

However the lack of homegrown black ballet stars is also a cause for concern. “I refuse to believe that there aren’t talented black dancers out there,” Acosta said.

Acosta, currently principal guest artist with the Royal Ballet, is making plans for his retirement. His debut novel, Pig’s Foot, is published in October. Set in Cuba and charting the island’s history from the 19th century to the present, it has already made Waterstones’ list of most promising debuts.

“It’s very cinematic,” the author said. “It’s an epic telling Cuba’s story from the Spanish-American War in 1898 to the arrival of the gangsters like Meyer Lansky who wanted to turn Havana into the Monte Carlo of America. We have been approached about the film rights and it would be wonderful if Martin Scorsese directed the movie.”


Copyright 2013 The Independent



TV shows inspiring boys to take up dance classes

Richmond News
June 21, 2013

Tanner March gets some posture pointers from Urban Dance’s artistic director Wendy Lee Riley (Photograph by John Correa) 2013

[Richmond, British Columbia, Canada] – They may have been split a decade apart, but their first ever dance instructor can immediately draw comparisons between Graham Kaplan and Tanner March.

Wendy Lee Riley recognizes the common bond between Kaplan and March – they had a fire in their eyes and a spring in their step in the early days of gracing the floor of one of her ballet classes.

Riley recalls with ease her first encounters with Kaplan as, 10 years ago, having more than one or two boys in her many dance classes was an exception to the rule. “We had a couple of boys, but not many in ballet,” said the Urban Dance Company’s artistic director.

“But since all those TV shows about dancing, boys are more open-minded about it. (Graham) was always very eager and definitely had a lot of talent, starting off in hip-hop; but it didn’t take much to push him into tap and then jazz and then ballet, when he realized how important it was.

“And I see the same thing happening with Tanner. I sat down with his parents and said to them, ‘if this is your son’s path, then ballet has all the technical foundation he will need.'”

Read more:

© Copyright (c) Richmond News

Related Article: Tanner,10, lightly treads beaten path into ballet

Cuba’s amazing dancing identical triplets, aged 13

BBC News Magazine
June 27, 2013

Identical triplets Marcos, Cesar and Angel Ramirez Castellanos stand at the barre at the start of ballet class at the National School of Ballet in Havana, Cuba 2013

Angel, Cesar and Marcos Ramirez Castellano have already defied the odds by their very existence, as they are a rare set of identical triplets.

But the three 13-year-olds are extraordinary in another way – they are all top young ballet dancers who made it into the elite feeder school for Cuba’s prestigious National Ballet.

Their teachers say that all three of them have the talent to forge successful careers in ballet, following in the footsteps of Cuban dance stars like Carlos Acosta.

Sarah Rainsford went to meet the triplets during one of their hectic days at school.


Related Articles:

Triplets a sensation at Cuba’s National School of Ballet

To Dance Like A Man: Triplets In Havana

By Gail T. Boatman
Burlington County Times
May 22, 3013

Michael Matthews, 17, at home (photo by Dennis McDonald) 2013[Moorestown, New Jersey, USA] — Now 17, Michael Matthews likes to say he grew up in a ballet studio.

“My older sister took ballet lessons and when I was very young I was often brought along to watch,” he said. “I absorbed it.’’

Not too many years later, he donned ballet slippers himself. At first, it was just another activity for the young child, a hobby. Soon, however, its beauty and power were revealed during classes at the South Jersey Ballet School in Camden County and in Pennsylvania Ballet performances he attended in Philadelphia.

“By the time I was 13, my eyes had opened to the possibility of dancing seriously,’’ he said. “It was an evolution.’’

The hobby was becoming a passion.

Then there was the dream….

Read the entire story:

© 2013

By Phoebe Wearne
Photograph by Michael O’Brien
The West Australian
May 8, 2013

Jacob Noble, left, Kristopher Bradford , Noah Beck , Aiden Foster and at front Harvey and Toby Mulcahy (Picture by Michael O'Brien) 2013

[North Perth, Australia] – Kristopher Bradford is just as comfortable performing in tights under the dazzling lights of centre stage as he is on the rugby field. When the 18-year-old dancer from Mandurah started ballet 13 years ago, there were just three boys at his ballet school. Now he is the oldest of five males over the age of 14 studying at the Charlesworth Ballet Institute in North Perth, all of whom hope to carve out a career as ballet dancers.

In August, he will move to Germany to take up a position at a ballet school in Mannheim after he was offered a place during a tour of Europe.

He said he had never let the stereotypes associated with ballet bother him. “I listen to heavy metal,” he said. “I played rugby in school. I rode motorbikes for years. I did have occasional trouble with my friends at school but a game of football or rugby sorted them out.”

Institute director Sonya Shepherd said the number of boys at the school had at least doubled in the past decade. Ms Shepherd said while the film Billy Elliot came out in 2000, it and other dance movies were still having a positive impact on perceptions.

She said a recognition of ballet as a foundation for any dance style had also contributed to a steady growth in the number of boys involved. “The word is out if you do classical ballet, you can do anything,” she said.

WA Academy of Performing Arts classical ballet co-ordinator Kim McCarthy, who studied dance in Perth in the 1980s, said males now accounted for about a third of students and came from all walks of life. “In the 80s bullying was rife for male dancers,” he said. “But with dance courses becoming a part of most high schools, it is becoming more acceptable for boys to dance.”

Copyright 2013West Australian Newspapers Limited

Related Articles:

Out of the shadows … more men in tights

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

Tag: Ballet is Attracting More Boys

By Danyael Halprin
Calgary Herald
November 20, 2012

Content Warning:   Sexual orientation is dicussed

Boys at School of Alberta Ballet 2012Alberta, Canada – For the past four years Kale Lazarick, 12, has been the only boy in a group of girls in his jazz and musical theatre classes at a Calgary dance studio. So when his father heard on the radio that the School of Alberta Ballet was offering free ballet classes for boys, Lazarick jeté-d at the opportunity.

By offering free classes the Alberta Ballet was removing one hurdle for boys who were interested in trying an art marked by stigma. Lazarick was one of 40 boys, aged 8 to 11, who attended the six Saturday lessons in the spring. Half a dozen returned to register for the school’s fall program.

Lazarick was hoping to find a class in which he could share his passion for dance with other boys and with whom he could talk about common interests, like video games and dirt biking, says the Grade 7 student at Nose Creek School. Immediately recognizing his talent and dedication, the instructors invited him to join the School of Alberta Ballet’s professional division where he takes ballet three afternoons a week.

It’s been difficult over the years for schools in Canada to get boys involved in dance. “It’s still seen in Canada as something males don’t do. We’re trying to wake people up to the fact that it is an absolutely legitimate opportunity for men as much as it is for women,” says Murray Kilgour, the school’s artistic director.

Kilgour is an internationally respected dance educator, having taught at the Royal Ballet School in London, China’s National School, the National Ballet of Canada, and the Central School of Ballet in London, where he was head of male dance. One of his students was the talented and enthusiastic Yorkshire boy who inspired the film Billy Elliot.

Recognizing from an early age that dance was something that Lazarick loved, his parents have fostered his interest every step of the way. However, not all families are as open-minded and supportive; particularly fathers who fear that ballet will turn their sons gay. While in the past, some gay boys came to ballet because it was one of the few places where they could be openly gay, nowadays, because of the growing acceptance of homosexuality that has occurred over the past 10 to 15 years, they are coming out in other fields.

Ballet schools want parents to recognize that sexual orientation has nothing to do with it. “The boys who dance, they dance because they love it, despite the ridicule, despite the assumptions,” says Sean Richardson, a Vancouver-based expert specializing in the psychology of excellence, who was a consultant to the Australian Ballet Company in Melbourne for five years. “It’s a physically demanding discipline in a high pressure environment of perfection and you’d be out of there pretty quickly if you didn’t love it.”

Boys training at Alberta BalletHaving attending the Edmonton School of Ballet for six years, 17-year-old Nathan Lacombe recently joined the School of Alberta Ballet’s professional division as a student boarder. Though he played soccer and hockey growing up it was ballet that really spoke to him. “I feel you can say things more with dance than you can with words,” says Lacombe, a strong, confident dancer who stands six foot five inches with a muscular physique. “You can show emotion through dance, physicality, and you can show different shades of yourself.”

Today, in what seems like the height of bullying and cyberbullying it can be difficult for a boy to don black tights and white leather ballet shoes while his buddies are dressing in body armour for their hockey games. Lacombe says overall kids have been supportive but there were times when he was teased and called the “most interesting” nicknames.

Murray had a much worse time and his experience perhaps contradicts the impression that bullying belongs to our times alone. He recounts an incident at his Vancouver junior high school in the late 1950s when a gang came backstage after a ballet performance and beat up Murray and the other male dancers.

Alberta Ballet Boys ProgramIn casting their open net the School of Alberta Ballet was also hoping to draw in boys involved in sports. Its poster campaign featured photos of boys performing ballet interspersed with photos of boys playing hockey and soccer and explained how a child gains strength, co-ordination and agility through ballet, which are advantageous to sports performance. A soccer player and a hockey player turned up for the free classes.

Indeed, a number of athletes have taken ballet classes at some point in their careers to ameliorate their performance, such as NFL players Lynn Swann, Willie Gault, Welsh national rugby player Shane Williams and the South African national soccer team. In fact, the 11-year-old boy who came on scholarship to the Central School of Ballet in the 1990s, and was a student of Kilgour’s, ended up becoming Manchester United star Rio Ferdinand.

In fact, it is the precise point at which ballet and sports collide where there’s a greater acceptance of boys in ballet. Richardson says it was when the ballet dancers were working out in the gym alongside elite athletes that both sides started to recognize that there’s a lot of crossover in what they do. “With the understanding that ballet is a physically demanding discipline came an increased amount of respect and acceptance.”

Says Richardson: “Boys who play hockey think it’s tough and they’re bashing each other up or they’re doing pushups and sit-ups, well, dancers are probably working physically as hard or harder.”

For Lazarick and Lacombe, this is a case en pointe.

© Copyright (c) The Calgary Herald

March  5, 2012

The mother of eight children, she calls herself Octamom. All eight are homeschooled and each child is a piece of eight.

All of our sons have taken dance. I’m a big believer that nothing can match it for brain development and movement organization. And for 5 of 8, it’s his thing. Loves it. Works hard at it. Is thrilled by it

It doesn’t happen too often, but 5 of 8 occasionally has to defend his interest in dance. Sometimes when he’s playing football with the neighborhood kids. Sometimes with friends at birthday parties. Sometimes

It’s a little odd to me that as a culture we went from our superstars being men like Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire to questioning the masculinity of men in dance.

Read the entire post:

MUSIC videos and TV talent searches have been given some credit for the growing number of Tasmanian boys taking up dancing.

By Blair Richards
The Mercury
Photograph by Raoul Kockanowski
February 19, 2012

Hobart [Tasmania] dance academies are reporting a surge in the number of boys taking lessons.

Hutchins [School] head of visual and performing arts Michelle Weeding said there had been a change of culture at the highly traditional boys school over the past 10 years, and dance was becoming as much a part of school life as sport.

About 200 boys take part in the dancing program and dance is part of the curriculum for Year 9. “Ten years ago this wouldn’t have been possible,” Mrs Weeding said. “We have really worked hard at changing the culture in our school.”

“The culture in the community has changed, because of the popular dancing shows [on television]. Boys think it’s cool and want to have a go.”

Mrs Weeding said it had been a challenge to shift long-held perceptions that dance was a girls’ activity and that the cool boys played sport. “Those stereotypes about boys who dance aren’t there any more,” she said.

Hutchins dance captain Callum Gugger said being a dancer had made him the target of teasing in the past. However, he said attitudes towards male dancers had improved a lot in recent years.

Hobart Dance Academy principal Ken McSwain, who enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a professional ballet dancer, said the tide had definitely turned.

Mr McSwain said when he began his career dancing was not considered a masculine pursuit. “It came with the tag of being very feminine, but those barriers seem to have broken down,” he said. “When I started, men supposedly didn’t dance.”

“With all the video clips you see these days, it’s becoming much more acceptable.”

Jenina Evans, who has produced a number of top dancers at her Hobart dance school, said in recent years there had been a steep rise in the number of boys enrolling. “Years ago you would have 15 dance groups, with only five boys spread amongst them. Now we’ve got a boy in every group, and in a couple of my older groups we have at least six boys,” she said.

Mrs Evans also attributed the popularity of dance among boys to programs like So You Think You Can Dance.

“And lets face it when they get older, girls love a guy who can dance,” Mrs Evans said.

© 2011 Davies Brothers Pty Ltd.

Ballet for Boys Only classes at Sudbrook Centre for the Arts challenge stereotypes

By Janene Holzberg
Photograph by Jen Rynda
The Baltimore Sun
December 07, 2011

Photo Gallery

Dressed in footless black tights and ballet shoes, the students could be dancing in any studio. But this one’s different than most: The pupils are all boys enrolled in Ballet for Boys Only, a new offering this year for Baltimore County students at Sudbrook Magnet Middle School, located off Bedford Road in Pikesville.

The twice-weekly class was made possible, in part, by a $10,000 matching grant from the National Endowment of the Arts to the Baltimore County Youth Ballet, said Laura Dolid, a Reisterstown resident and the ballet company’s co-founder and artistic director.

Nine county public schools students were awarded full-tuition scholarships to the ballet program, which is coordinated by the Greater Pikesville Recreation Council and runs from September to May.

“This course will ultimately focus on the physical strength, power, and brilliance of male dancing,” said Dolid, who held auditions for the scholarships and chose recipients based on desire, musicality and parental enthusiasm.

At the same time, it will increase the agility, coordination and strength required in sports, said the director, who is on the faculty at Sudbrook Arts Centre, Goucher College and Peabody Preparatory. Fox, who lives in Columbia, teaches two sessions back-to-back, one for students ages 11 to 14 and the other for ages 8 to 10.

“Boys’ practice includes push-ups and pulls-ups to become strong enough to lift the girls,” she said. “Men’s upper body strength and flexibility are two important skills needed to pull off complex choreography.”

At no time was the absence of girls more obvious during a recent class than when Fox sent the three boys, ages 13 and 14, scurrying to the floor to attempt a split, a maneuver which is usually easier for female dancers.

“Guys, we gotta try,” Fox implored. And they did, pouring themselves into it with varying degrees of success. Now doesn’t that feel great?” he joked, drawing a nod from one of the boys. “What — you like it? You must be kidding me!”


Heavy lifting

Fox is intimately familiar with what he’s demanding from the older boys. He performed with the New York City Ballet and elsewhere for many years before becoming an instructor. Aside from Sudbrook, he also is currently teaching at the Washington School of Ballet and the Maryland Youth Ballet and is an adjunct professor at Goucher College.

“We choose boys with the physical ability and the attitude to deserve a place in the room,” Fox said. “I don’t care if they become professional ballet dancers; I do care that they learn respect for ballet.”

Trés McMichael, a ninth-grader at George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology, said the class is “very hard” and students have to “stretch, practice and eat right” in order to be prepared for the workout they receive in class.

But, that’s seems like a very small price to pay to Trés — who also acts, sings and plays tenor sax, and envisions himself on Broadway someday.

“Mrs. Dolid runs a tight ship, which a successful program like this needs, and Mr. Tim puts the boys through a good combination of dance and physical training,” said Trés’ father, Calvin McMichael. “I knew that dance was very demanding, but I never realized how much technique and strength it takes to lift even the smallest dancers in the air.

“The scholarship allows Trés to explore another avenue of performing arts that he may not have had the opportunity to experience.”

As the boys practice, Fox is right there to correct flaws in technique or form. But he also assumes a coach’s role during class, encouraging the older boys to complete sets of rigorous push-ups and chin-ups that bring to a close a demanding hour-long session.

“Don’t give up,” Fox cheered as the boys’ arms shook while they took turns grasping the bar and raising themselves up time and again during class. “Control it on the way down — that’s when you’ll feel the burn.”


Stigmas gone

Scott Osbourne, an eighth-grader at Sudbrook and an Owings Mills resident, has been studying ballet for three years and hopes to someday join the New York City Ballet. But he also runs track, epitomizing the athletic crossover between dance and sports that Fox often sees.

“I started dance lessons as a kid to help with baseball,” recalled Fox, who grew up in the small town of Jenks, Okla., “where, believe me, kids weren’t taking ballet. Dance taught me so much, like how to be disciplined and how to be in a room and not be talking,” he said, recalling his own rambunctious class-clown approach to school. “Discipline helps kids learn to learn.”

Monica Osbourne said her son has thrived under the program.

“When people think of ballet they automatically think of girls, but there are young boys who love ballet and who are just as good as the girls,” she said. “I am thankful for this program for giving my son the opportunity to do what he loves.”

Tamisha Bell, whose son is Sudbrook eighth-grader Damontae Hack, agrees. “Since starting dance, Damontae has become more efficient with his movements and his confidence has grown,” she said, adding that he will be auditioning for the dance magnet at Carver Center for Arts and Technology in January. A cello player who also enjoys acting, he’s set a goal of joining the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in New York.

While stereotypes about boys as dancers have been changing for a long time, Fox said, television programs like “Dancing with the Stars” continue to reinforce newer, open-minded attitudes.

“Ballet, in particular, can be misunderstood,” he said. “But people who are very good at what they do — whether they’re in sports, entertainment or whatever — are very coordinated.”

Brian Friedlander, president of the Greater Pikesville Recreation Council, said the old stigmas are gone. “When I came up in the 1970s, boys may have concealed an interest in dancing,” he said. “Now, the walls have been knocked down. When you see a phenomenal running back like Emmitt Smith of the Dallas Cowboys dancing on TV, you know people wear this (talent) as a badge of honor.”

While Friedlander said he’s proud that the recreation council offers such diverse and affordable programs as boys’ ballet, he gives all the credit to Dolid, whom he says is “highly regarded in dance circles.”

“It’s an honor to be in this program and I work to get that across,” Fox said, adding he expects next year’s auditions to be even tougher. “Ballet is incredibly hard; good dancers just make it look really, really easy.”

The Baltimore County Youth Ballet will present its 20th annual production of “The Nutcracker Suite” on Sat., Dec. 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Sun., Dec. 18 at 3 p.m. at the Peggy and Yale Gordon Center for the Performing Arts, 3506 Gwynnbrook Ave. in Owings Mills.

Students from the Ballet for Boys Only classes will participate in the show, which has a cast of young professionals and is geared toward children. Laura Dolid is staging and directing the production, which will also offer special matinees and pricing for school groups on Friday, Dec. 16. All tickets are reserved seating and cost $15. For more information, go to

Copyright © 2011, The Baltimore Sun

%d bloggers like this: