January 22nd was the birthday of famed choreographer and founder of New York City Ballet – George Balanchine. So, in honor of this amazing man I decided to get a little confrontational on a statement he once said. “The ballet is a purely female thing; it is a woman, a garden of beautiful flowers, and man is the gardener.” Balanchine, you are one of my idols in the dance world, but I believe this statement is a bunch of crap. What about Mikhail Baryshnikov, Ethan Stiefel, Angel Corella, Robert Fairchild, and Justin Peck. Are they not flowers with their smooth transitions, their immaculate turning capabilities, and the power houses each one of them becomes in any allegro? Male ballet dancers get a bad rap for either being the “prop” or the “support system” for the female lead. What really steams me the most is when a male chauvinist feels the need to tell their child that ballet is for girls.
I recently got in an argument with an eight year old (I know real mature) about ballet. He said, “my dad told me that ballet is for girls.” Of course being a ballet teacher I told him that his father was wrong and that ballet is for boys and girls. Needless to say this argument went back and forth for awhile and I pretty much felt like I was arguing with a drunk person. So, instead of continuing the insanity of fighting, I told him that I would show him some male ballet dancers next week. I brought in my laptop and pulled up videos of Ethan Stiefel and Angel Corella and this kid was totally blown away. When his dad came to pick him up from Jazz/ Tap class that day he was telling him all about Ethan Stiefel and that both boys and girls do ballet.
Ballet is not only an art form, but it gives anyone the ability to strengthen every muscle in their body including some that you didn’t even know existed. The strength a male dancer has to have to carry a 100 pound ballerina twisted up, over their head, across the stage and make it look like it was nothing is not an easy task. The strength needed to jump feet off the ground without having a trampoline. The power and control needed to turn multiple times and then stop on a dime with nothing but gravity fighting your every turn. Dear human population, the next time you feel the need to tell your son that ballet is for girls maybe you should go talk to a football player or better yet watch a video of a male ballet dancer and try to replicate the grace and precision he has in one tiny finger.
Emma Watson is currently fighting for women equality in the world, but I’m fighting for male equality in ballet. I want to live in a world where a boy is not bulled for his love of dance. I want to live in a world where a father doesn’t feel that sports are more masculine then ballet. And I want to live in a world where a boy is educated by his parents to know that ballet welcomes any gender. Mr. Balanchine you have brought so much to America in the ballet world, but to say that ballet is a female thing and that the male is gardener of the flowers means that the males never get to be the flowers and they are just as much the flowers as the female soloist.