Male ballet dancers take small steps to shake off uptight prejudices
Tuesday 10 May 1994
'I was learning with pensioners and 10-year-old girls. It didn't bother me, because finally I was learning to dance ballet.'
His mother's reaction is typical, even today. Ballet has an image problem. Despite the adulation heaped on great male dancers such as Rudolph Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov, it is still seen as a female art form. Young male dancers have to fight prejudice and sniggering asides about 'men in tights'. Even the audiences are predominantly female, and many boys rule it out as a career.
Now the English National Ballet is spending pounds 25,000 to attract young men who might not otherwise consider dance.
For the past year, members of the touring company, which has its headquarters in London, have been staging workshops at schools, colleges, football clubs, and youth groups.
'To many people ballet is an alien, elitist world, something airy and floaty. It is hard to escape this men in tights thing,' admits Ginny Brown, senior dance officer for the education unit.
'Some of the boys had to be literally forced by their teachers to attend. But we gave them some easy exercises and they became quite enthusiastic.'
More than 600 boys have been involved in the project, sponsored by J Sainsbury, and three performance groups have been set up in London, Southampton and Manchester.
The London section includes teenagers and men in their early twenties - among them Jay, now 21 and a first-year student at Urdang Academy of Ballet and Performing Arts, Covent Garden.
All the group proclaim the advantages of all-male dance. 'I tried ballet classes when I was 13 and hated it. I was the only boy. The girls laughed at me, it was really intimidating and I gave it up,' says fellow dancer Simon Flowerdew, 24.
'Learning here with other men, there is the camaraderie and a different kind of energy.' On 26 May, the three dance groups will perform together in London at the ENB.
Life & Style blogs
This restaurant has misunderstood the concept of 'cheese and biscuits'
My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin: How I outwitted the Gestapo
Tinder Plus: premium service launches, charging much more for those over 28
Running test reveals whether you will die in the next decade
Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
- 1 Raif Badawi, the Saudi Arabian blogger sentenced to 1,000 lashes, may now face death penalty
- 2 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 3 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 Spiritual leader allegedly manipulated 400 men into removing testicles to be 'closer to God'
£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is require...
£24000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest supplier to the UK'...
£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Graduate/Junior Software Deve...
£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An experienced Sales Executive ...