Men In Ballet: The Real Story

One of the first questions people ask in a discussion about ballet is: what’s up with the men? After all, male dancers spend fair amount of time in the shadows making their female partners look good. There are those who assume that if a man puts on tights he must be gay. If that were true, why are droves of football players signing up for ballet? Headliner Steve McLendon of the Pittsburgh Steelers says, “ballet is harder than anything else I do”. Regardless of the choices they make for their private lives, ballet men are some of the strongest, most athletic and graceful beings on the planet. To quote a recent tweet (a Jane Austen spoof) from the Ballet Boyz: It’s a truth universally acknowledged that real men wear tights.’

 

There are certainly enough off-stage ballet romances out there to prove this point. The real-life romance between New York City Ballet principal dancers Robert Fairchild and Tiler Peck rivals most popular big-screen love stories. San Francisco Ballet Principal Dancers Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan made ballet history when he proposed onstage after the couple finished performing Romeo and Juliet. Other prominent ballet couples include Boston Ballet principals Carlos Molina and Erica Cornejo and Nelson Madrigal and Lorna Feijoo, Ballet West soloists Easton Smith and Haley Henderson.

As an aside, male ballet dancers are extremely pleasing to look at. Here for your viewing pleasure is some serious eye candy: 37 Dreamy Ballet Boys You’ll Want To Dance With.

However, looks are beside the point. It’s all about artistry (right?). The role of men in ballet is changing dramatically, and today’s male dancers are artists in their own right, enjoying equal footing and equal time center stage with their female counterparts. Who doesn’t love watching those gravity-defying leaps and insanely difficult turns? Male soloists such as David Hallberg, Carlos Acosta and Benjamin Millepied are now household names and companies like Ballet Boyz, the company formed by former Royal Ballet lead dancers, are shaping the re-branding of ballet from a male perspective.


Call them what you will. Artists. Dancers. Athletes. Underneath it all, they are guys. Still not convinced? Rent “The Turning Point” (a classic ballet film) and watch Baryshnikov make his moves.

How Amy Elkins’ “Danseur” series portraits of male dancers challenges ideas of masculinity. 

Dancers and choreographers talk about how gender influences their lives and their work.


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