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Tag Archives: Boys-Only Ballet Class

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.

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

 

balletinthecity

DSC_0001-001 (2) Ballet West principal dancer Christopher Ruud instructs young Lex at a Ballet in Cleveland all guys master class.

By Jacquelyn Bernard

Edited by Catharine Lewis

In an art form that has been traditionally defined as feminine and only appropriate for women, male dancers are continuing to reveal their aptitude and talent in the world of classical ballet. The following post is taken from an excerpt of Jacquelyn Bernard’s research paper and elaborates upon how males are viewed in dance. Bernard, a dance major and college student in Tulsa, Oklahoma, discovered Ballet in Cleveland through social media and has since connected with Guys Dance Too.

Ballet in Cleveland founder, Jessica Wallis (center) with Guys Dance Too teachers, students, and supporters Ballet in Cleveland founder, Jessica Wallis (center) with Guys Dance Too teachers, students, and supporters

Male dancers are strong, graceful, and beautiful to watch onstage, but the words that come to describe them are not of a masculine root. Maybe “strong” can be related to…

View original post 968 more words

balletinthecity

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I could feel the awe, admiration and excitement in the airwaves. From my front row seat in the corner of the Cleveland Ballet Conservatory studio, I watched young dancers get the opportunity of a lifetime: intimate instruction from ballet great Carlos Lopez of American Ballet Theatre. Carlos visited the North Royalton ballet school April 27 to teach master classes in boys’ technique and partnering, the classes presented by Ballet in Cleveland, were open to all dancers.

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 In the first class, a Guys Dance Too class (these classes are just for guys and are always led by male dancers), boys received instruction and learned skills perfecting their classical ballet technique. They stood strong and tall at the barre and on the floor as they eagerly looked to Carlos for instruction and intently watched their own reflections in the floor-to-ceiling studio mirrors.

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“At first, I was nervous, but as class went on…

View original post 289 more words

 

Guys Dance Too educates, supports, and empowers males
in the art of dance.

It frees the minds and potential of male dancers
and all who aspire to be one.

It breaks down gender barriers and stereotypes and
creates opportunities for self-expression for all through dance.

 

Guys Dance Too, Ballet in Cleveland

 

Maryland Youth Ballet Boys' Class (Maryland Youth Ballet) 2015

 

Maryland Youth Ballet’s Young Men’s’ Division is growing by leaps and bounds. There are 15 (!) more boys not pictured above. (story shared by a MYB parent)

Pacific School of Dance lands grant for free boys dance class, training them in ballet, conditioning, partnering

 

Pacific School of Dance's boys class (Pacific School of Dance)

 

By Chelsea Davis
Coos Bay World
May 20, 2015

 

[Coos Bay, Oregon, USA] – Dance isn’t just for girls — but training boys is an entirely different animal. Ten boys joined a new class this spring at Pacific School of Dance in Coos Bay. The opportunity came from a $5,000 grant Dance Umbrella for South Coast Oregon received from the Charlotte Martin Foundation.

After 16 weeks of class, the public will get a chance to see them on stage at the dance center’s annual recital May 30 at the Hales Center for the Performing Arts on the SWOCC campus.

The boys’ experience ranged from beginner to intermediate, with older boys from the Pacific School of Dance stepping in to serve as role models.

“Drew and Will (Carper), they’re brothers, and they just happened to … come into the area just about the time that this thing came into being, and they heard about it,” said Pacific administrative director Pam Chaney. “They had done a little bit of dancing with another school in Vancouver, Wash. They moved to this area, waited until they got all settled, then they heard about this program and came right over and signed up for it.”

Chaney has dubbed Will “the girl-thrower,” since his strength lends him to partnering.

The grant paid for the boys’ costumes, shoes, membership and tuition, and lasts through the end of the calendar year. “They just had to show up with a willing spirit to dance and put their hearts into it, and they’ve been really good about that,” Chaney said.

In the recital, teacher Maria Rosman adapted the barn dance from “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” which the boys will perform with girls from Pacific’s regular classes. “It should be a fun, lively piece,” Rosman said.

The biggest challenge, for both Rosman and the boys, has been adapting to the etiquette of a dance studio. “You don’t always get it,” Chaney said. “It’s not like playing sports. You don’t get to talk. It’s athletic, but it involves a lot of politeness, manners, keeping their hands to themselves.”

Rosman has also adapted to teaching a group of boys — far different than teaching the typical studio of girls. “Classroom etiquette in a dance room is a lot different,” Rosman said. “That’s probably been the most difficult part. Boys have different energy than girls — they’re a whole different species. They’re fun, but they have so much pep and zing so I need to bring their focus in.

“I find that if I keep the class moving and keep them active, they stay with me. It’s been a wonderful challenge for me to take that energy and direct it through the classroom and make it productive.”

Rosman started at the very beginning, training the boys in basic barre work, including pliés and tendus. They also worked on strength and conditioning to get ready for partnering later on.

“I had them for a very short amount of time, so it’s a challenge to put them on stage,” Rosman said. “I wish we could actually perform maybe in the fall when I could’ve had more time to get something into them. I got them after Christmas, I have them for one hour a week, so we’ve been working on coordination, articulation of the feet.”

But the parents’ feedback has been rewarding, she said. “Some of the parents after class say their sons just love it,” Rosman said. “I feel like I’m making a breakthrough.”

 

© Copyright 2015, Coos Bay World

 

Related Articles:

Dance Umbrella lands grant to support boys dance program

Like ‘Billy Elliott,’ local boy goes against grain, takes dance

 

The School of Pennsylvania Ballet Men's Class (Alexander Iziliaev) 2014

 

A candid interview with the artistic director of one of the premier U.S. ballet companies discussing boys, sports, bullying and the future of ballet.

 

By Tor Constantino
The Huffington Post
April 27, 2015

 

Both of my daughters had ballet lessons for a year or two when they were younger. But as I think back about it, I never saw a young boy in any of the practices or recitals. I never thought much about that until I wrote a couple of articles for The Good Men Project asserting that ballet is more of a sport than other activities such as bowling, billiards, darts, poker…etc.

Those articles got me thinking that within youth ballet, there seemed to be a stark lack of boys –the future of ballet requires boys now. That observation was confirmed during a recent interview with Angel Corella, the artistic director for the Pennsylvania Ballet.

One of the things he shared with me is that ballet requires balance — not just of each individual performer but gender balance because every ballet has specific choreographed roles and responsibilities for men and women.

However, the challenge facing ballet is breaking some of those gender stereotypes to help boys consider ballet to be as fun, exciting, rewarding, challenging and as athletic as more traditional pursuits such as baseball, soccer, football or basketball.

In the excerpted interview below, Corella shares his vision and that of the Pennsylvania Ballet, which has a ballet school for boys and girls that seeks to maintain that all important balance.

 

What led you into ballet?

The way I got into ballet is kind of strange because I came from a country [Spain] where men just didn’t do that type of thing because of its machismo culture.

Regardless, I’ve been dancing since I was three years old. During that time in the late 1970s, the movie Saturday Night Fever was incredibly popular and I would mimic the dancing I saw of John Travolta’s character every chance I could get. It was a way for me to express my need to dance without formal training.

Then my sisters began going to ballet class and I would go with them because I was taking karate class nearby. But I would often watch their ballet lessons and really began to appreciate the beauty and athleticism of ballet. I continued to go to karate classes until a friend of mine suffered a broken bone — so I stopped attending and sat in on my sisters’ classes.

I did that for several days — paying close attention — while my mother would run errands, until I actually began to follow and mimic the movements, joining the class.

 

How was that for you as a boy in a very masculine culture of Spain?

I had some trouble. When the kids at school found out that I was taking ballet — a few of them followed me home and bullied me saying I wore a tutu and wore tiaras. But I loved ballet so much and it came so naturally to me, I didn’t even care about the ridicule.

Shortly thereafter I moved to a larger ballet school outside of Madrid, where I studied for several years before moving to the U.S. where I became a professional dancer.

 

Given your fondness for movies about dancing, what was your opinion of the movie Billy Elliot that came out in 2000? Seems like it was something you could relate to.

The School of Pennsylvania Ballet Boys' Class (Alexander Iziliaev) 2014Yes, I could relate — in fact there were eerie similarities. Like in the movie, my father was also a boxer and there was a great deal of tension and difficulty when I told him I wanted to be a dancer. But when you love something so much — you’re willing to fight for it. I was willing to fight for my love of dancing and that was something my father came to understand.

 

Can you describe the support network you had that kept you going?

It was my family — especially my three sisters. One of my sisters was a dancer with me and she was right beside me to face every challenge together. But I have to say the opposition and bullying made me really strong as a person. I had to grow up quickly. So much so that I began dancing professionally at age 15 — but the ballet provided me a discipline and a great outlet to stay out of trouble. Again, my family has played a critical role and we’re still very close.

 

I can imagine family support was important because ballet lessons are not cheap, correct?

Correct, they can be a lot of money and they were for my family. My father worked two jobs to support our family and our passion for ballet and my mother was a school teacher. It was incredibly hard, but I’m very appreciative of that. I can tell you that both my parents were incredibly proud and repeatedly told me so after the first time they saw me perform — in fact my father cried the first time he saw me dance, so all that effort really paid off.

 

Can you talk about the athleticism that’s required of ballet dancers?

Absolutely, it’s one of the few professions that require complete engagement of every aspect of your being — mentally, emotionally and physically. Ballet demands complete control of your body from your toenails to the top of your hair during a performance. It requires complete concentration to make sure you don’t hurt yourself or other performers.

Bottom line, you have to be an athlete — you have to be athletic and extremely well trained. There are extremely high leaps. It’s a physical challenge lifting female dancers above your head several times during a performance.

Such athletic actions require balance, strength and poise because the ultimate goal is to make it look effortless and graceful — like it’s nothing. You can’t show with your face that it’s really, really difficult to create every human emotion with your body.

Pennsylvania Ballet's Soloist Alexander Peters in George Balanchine's Prodigal Son (Alexander Iziliaev)

 

Ballet has been rewarding for you, even as a young boy. How do you introduce ballet to the next generation of boys?

You first have to make it as easy as possible for them to experience it first, and then continue to make it easy and enjoyable for them to want to continue to do it every day thereafter. It’s critically important to create a very positive atmosphere, and to help families support a boy’s passion for ballet — if he has it.

Usually, when kids — both boys and girls — decide for themselves that they want to dance, there’s no way to stop them. It’s the role of ballet companies — such as the Pennsylvania Ballet where I work as the artistic director –to create the vision and capture the dream for children of what’s possible and what they can become. It’s very exciting to be part of that.

 

Tell me about the ballet school for kids that’s sponsored by the Pennsylvania Ballet?

A full school year runs for 35 weeks, starting in September and ending in June. There are seven levels of training in the student division in addition to pre-ballet classes we offer for students ages 5 to 7. There is no audition requirement for pre-ballet but all new students between the ages of 8-to-19 do attend a placement class so artistic staff may determine the level of study appropriate for each child.

General auditions take place throughout the year, and each year about 100 students are selected exclusively from the school to appear with the Pennsylvania Ballet in its annual holiday production of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker — it’s really amazing for the students and their families to experience. The most important thing is to start them young — the younger the better. Ballet won’t hurt their developing bodies but will make them stronger, more graceful and flexible.

What makes our program unique, is that the boys train with the boys which helps normalize the experience and bonding. Growing up, I only danced with girls and would have benefited from having more peers who were male.

 

Can you tell me about the need for male dancers in ballet and the important role they play?

Every performance must have balance — just as in life. And that’s one of the reasons why the ballet needs male performers, to provide that balance. Ever since the beginning of balance centuries ago it has been about both male and female performers. Both are equally important for the future of this art form.

The School of Pennsylvania Ballet

Copyright ©2015 The Huffington Post

 

Boys-Free-Program-Flyer[Buffalo, New York, USA] – Neglia Conservatory of Ballet is excited to announce its first ALL MALE summer ballet workshop, for FREE. This new free program, specifically for males age 8-12 will help break the gender imbalance by giving boys an opportunity to experience the artistry and strength of ballet. In a female dominated art we are confident this new gender specific program will give interested boys the confidence to try ballet without fear of criticism.

A majority of boys play contact sports because social norms say boys play sports and girls dance… social norms are changing. With shows like “So You Think You Can Dance” and “Dancing with the Stars,” boys are becoming more interested in dance. Male dancers, as all dancers, must work hard to become strong, agile and disciplined. Neglia Conservatory has transformed young boys into exceptional young men strong enough to lift women over their heads, talented enough to perform in professional productions and confidant enough to pursue a future in the performing arts.

Highlighted teachers include Fidel Orrillo, visiting ballet master from the official school of the Rochester City Ballet, and Neglia Ballet Artists, Sergio Neglia. At the end of the two weeks, scholarships to attend Neglia Conservatory full-time will be awarded to those who show a high degree of both interest and passion for dance. Classes will take place from 4:30 pm to 5:45pm, Monday through Friday starting on June 29th, ending July 10th.

Space is LIMITED.

Serious inquires should contact our office at info@negliaballet.org or by phone 716-447-0401.

Please REGISTER ONLINE by June 1st.

For over 20 years Neglia Conservatory of Ballet has trained male dancers who have continued on to successful dance careers, or alternative disciplined professions. While partnering and basics are advantageous to all dancers, Neglia’s boys program was created to give male dancers the extra instruction and advice they need to truly become strong male dancers with separate men’s classes in addition to mixed. Now is the time to add to our male student base allowing them the experience to build a solid foundation to become strong, agile, and talented male dancers with an internationally sought after male teacher, the conservatory’s own Sergio Neglia.

Twenty years ago, Neglia Conservatory of Ballet opened, providing a distinctively high level of classical ballet training to dance students in Western New York. Since its inception, the Conservatory has achieved great success in identifying and developing young talent as well as creating an international reputation for superior training.

After leaving the Cincinnati Ballet, Buffalo native Heidi Halt, a former professional dancer, and Argentinian-born ballet artist, Sergio Neglia, rooted their family and founded Neglia Ballet in Buffalo, NY. Neglia describes the conservatory’s expressive ballet training style as one that imparts energy and feeling with regard to the body’s movements rather than overstressing machine-like technique.

Over the years, Halt and Neglia have expanded conservatory programming to include ages 3 to adult (both beginners and experienced), a strong boys/ men’s training program and created Neglia Ballet Artists, giving Buffalo a professional ballet company.  The dedication Neglia Ballet gives its students have lead them onto careers with dance companies such as the American Repertory Ballet, Colorado Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, North Carolina Dance Theater, Richmond Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet.

Today, Neglia Ballet offers students the opportunity to audition and perform with professional dancers and the BPO onstage at Shea’s. This September students and local dancers can audition for Baba Yaga, and The Nutcracker. More information about the free summer boys program, annual classes, performances and auditions can be found at http://www.negliaballet.org.

Islington Gazette reporter Rory Brigstock-Barron visits London Boys Ballet School

 

By Rory Brigstock-Barron
The Islington Gazette
January 2, 2015

A Man walks into a barre...he eats his words 2014-01

A Man walks into a barre...he eats his words 2014-02

 

 

JoJean Retrum teaching the Boys' class at Monona Academy of Dance (JoJean Retrum) 2014

 

By Andrea Marks
Dance Teacher Magazine
December 25, 2014

 

[Monona, Wisconsin, USA] – Within the Wisconsin dance community, JoJean Retrum is known for her boys’ program. As director of the Monona Academy of Dance, she is particularly proud to have trained former American Ballet Theatre principal Ethan Stiefel when he was a child. And plenty of her other male students have gone on to professional careers, performing with companies from The Washington Ballet to the cross-dressing Trockaderos. “I’ve always had a lot of guys in my studio,” she says. “I don’t know what I do, but I have this knack for attracting boys.”

They could be drawn to the way she makes boys’ classes a challenge. Before barre, they hit the floor to burn their way through muscle-building push-ups and crunches. During regular barre exercises, Retrum drives home the difficulty of getting ballet right. She makes constant hands-on corrections, so no one gets away with slacking. “I get down on the floor and guide their tendus and dégagés and make them feel it,” she says.

Or, it could be the way she lets them soar during center combinations. One day, boys may try the Russian dance from The Nutcracker and the next, a routine from Newsies. “There isn’t a ballet company that does just ballet anymore,” she says, so incorporating jazz and musical theater skills into technique classes isn’t just a good time—it’s essential.

And she eases new dancers’ nerves. Whether a male begins as a toddler or a teen, she gives him the option to take beginner ballet in a boys-only class before introducing him to coed technique classes. Partnering starts as young as 11, but begins very simply: The boy puts his hands on the girl’s waist and practices tilting her side to side on two feet.

Retrum credits her late mother, who founded the studio in 1948, with teaching her to find every dancer’s potential. “She would help each individual child, and that’s something I try to do,” she says. “You don’t just let someone who’s struggling keep struggling. You give them extra help so they feel like they’re a part of it. Anyone can learn how to dance. You just have to work a lot harder with some of the kids.” DT

 

Pre-class routine: Retrum keeps it simple, warming herself up with pliés and relevés.

Footwear: Capezio Pedini

Weight training: “Sometimes I make students hold weights (or soup cans) so they realize they need to have strength in their backs to hold their arms up.”

To motivate young males: Retrum suggests Center Stage, starring her former student Ethan Stiefel.

Favorite inspirational read: Mao’s Last Dancer, by Li Cunxin. “What inspired me were the trials and tribulations he went through to achieve his dreams. I had him guest for my Nutcracker twice.”

Outside the studio: Retrum likes to unwind with a round of golf.

 

Copyright © 2014 DanceMedia, LLC

 

Boys at the London Boys Ballet School (London Boys Ballet School) 2014

 

By Andy Dangerfield
BBC News,London
July 12, 2014

 

[London, England] – Youngsters gather in a room in north London for a ballet lesson. But here there are no tutus, pirouettes – or even any traces of pink.

Jean-Claude Van Damme, Rio Ferdinand and Christian Bale may not sound like your typical pink tutu-wearing ballerinas. But all three have taken ballet classes in the past and are role models for pupils at the London Boys Ballet School, the first of its kind in the UK dedicated entirely to boys, according to its founder James Anthony.

The 33-year-old says he hopes to remove the stigma surrounding boys doing ballet. “Many boys are taking up ballet for the first time and loving it,” he says. “I’ve been inundated with inquiries from boys and young men who want to dance.”

The popularity of the school may be part of a trend that is seeing more boys take up ballet and other forms of dance.
Boys at the barre (London Boys Ballet School) 2014

 

Role models

Royal Ballet School figures show the number of boys who applied for full-time training with it increased by 30% in the past two years. “There are many more male dancers as role models on stage and on our TV screens which helps to counter some of the perceived negativity around boys taking up ballet,” says Annalise Cunild from the Royal Ballet School.

Elsewhere, probably Britain’s best-known choreographer Matthew Bourne recently recruited more than 300 novice dancers for his Lord of the Flies tour, in an attempt to get more young men dancing.

Mr Anthony says he started the London Boys’ Ballet School, which offers weekend and evening classes, partly because he was too embarrassed to take up ballet when he was growing up in Swansea. “I really wanted to take up ballet when I was at school but I thought I would get bullied,” says the former teacher and sports coach.

He said he hoped to stop other boys being put off by creating an environment where they do not feel like the odd ones out. “Boys don’t want to go in a class with girls where they end up being the only boy in the ballet class,” he says. “It’s all about changing the image,” he adds. “There’s nothing girly about it.”

He says boys who are good at ballet need “huge amounts of strength, confidence, flexibility and athletic ability”.

‘Focus on strength’

Ellis Jones, nine, says he might like to pursue a career in dance one day (Claire Jones) 2014One of the school’s star pupils, nine-year-old Ellis Jones, says he was inspired to try out ballet after seeing a dance show and “wanting to do what the dancers could do”.

He says he prefers the boys’ school to mixed classes he attends elsewhere because “you get to focus on strength. It’s very friendly and I feel like I’ve made lots of progress,” Ellis adds. “In one day you will learn the equivalent of what you learn in two weeks elsewhere.”

Ellis’ mother Claire Jones accompanies him from Rustington, in West Sussex, to attend the school in Islington, every Saturday. “There are only one or two boys in the local mixed dance class, but here, they are able to focus more on boys’ dance,” she says. “It’s not too strict or regimented and the progress he has made has been amazing.”

Ellis, who was en route to an audition for the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory musical in the West End that afternoon, says he hopes he might pursue a career in dance one day. “I’d like to go into acting and dancing and to perform on a stage,” he says. “But if you’re going to be a good actor you have to dance.”

Meanwhile, the school has started running extra classes, including jazz dance, tap dance and musical theatre. “But it’s not just about the classes,” Mr Anthony says. “We do regular theatre trips and recently saw Billy Elliot backstage.”

And the school has appeared to be receiving recognition from far afield, ever since it opened in March. “We get emails from all over the world praising us for what we do,” he adds. “I had one from a woman out in the sticks in Australia saying her son likes to dance but gets bullied and she wishes there was a ballet school out there.”

So could international interest from budding Billy Elliots mean the London Boys Ballet School might put its best foot forward elsewhere? “It’s early days, but you never know,” Mr Anthony says.

© Copyright BBC 2014

Related Article: All-boys ballet school to be first in UK

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