Author: Elizaveta Mironova
Male ballet dancers often get a bad rap. They’re labeled “frail,” “feminine,” “snobby,” and everything in between. To withstand all this judgment, men in ballet certainly have some balls, to say the least.
As a professional ballerina and teacher, I often meet worried parents. “Isn’t ballet only for girls?” They ask me. “I’m not sure my son would ever get into ballet — the pink tutus, the tights. He likes boy stuff, like hockey.”
Whenever I face concerns like these I can’t help but giggle. I have to explain far too often why these misconceptions aren’t true.
Male Ballet Dancers Are More Than Just Athletes
I worked with many male dancers as a professional ballerina in Moscow. They were not only only athletic and physically strong, but had iron disciplines and extreme work-ethics. In ballet there is a solid line between men and woman in their respective roles and dance styles. Men don’t wear pointe shoes or tutus. (Trockadero, an all-male comedic ballet company specifically for men who want to dance on-pointe, is one exception).
Instead, male ballet dancers must show strength and virtuosity. High, powerful jumps, quick turns, dynamism, and character mark out a great male performer. A muscular yet elegant physique is also crucial.
However, ballet dancers are more than just athletes. A male dancer must embody a masculine character beside his ballerina to show a stark and believable contrast. He leads her and is her support. On stage, the reality of men who dance ballet couldn’t be further from people’s preconceived ideas.
I’ve worked in performing arts for about a decade and understand there are many types of men working in ballet. Their talents and skills rely very little on their sexual preference. A good ballet dancer has a powerful stage presence in any role.
“Real Men Don’t Lift Weights, They Lift Women” – Every Male Ballet Dancer
Although men and women get the same training foundations, their ballet classes diverge to focus on different techniques. They are structured to benefit both genders for their unique roles.
Women practice flexibility, soft upper body movements, and pointe techniques. Men focus on muscle strength, soaring jumps, and different turn varieties. If you look at the world’s top male dancers you’ll notice their outstanding physiques. That comes from years of lifting and assisting ballerinas, one of their main purposes on stage. They lift around 50kgs repeatedly in entrées, adagios, and codas. It’s a huge workout. Considering the many rehearsal and practice hours leading up to a single performance, it’s no wonder men in ballet are in tip-top shape.
It’s no secret that some of the world’s most famous athletes incorporated ballet as part of their training. They aimed to develop flexibility, strength, coordination, mental focus, and endurance. Examples include Jean-Claude Van Damme, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ray Emery, and Rio Ferdinand.
Men play a huge role in ballet — without them it just wouldn’t be possible. As a ballerina, I am proud of the men who love and respect the art form enough to ignore the misconceptions. They simply work hard and achieve greatness.