The Art of Ballet: Why Adult Men Should Take the Leap

The Art of Ballet: Why Adult Men Should Take the Leap

If you are an adult dancer you are probably in a class which is mostly, if not all, women. Some of us are returning to ballet after a break, which may be decades long, others are complete beginners; we all have our different reasons for coming (back) to ballet. No matter what your age or stage of ballet, one thing is very noticeable – where are all the men? Our blogs have previously explored the many physical and emotional benefits of a regular ballet practise and these apply equally to every body, regardless of gender.

The Royal Academy of Dance Siver Swans classes are targeted at over 55’s, although everyone is welcome, and there are other many other adult ballet classes which are focused at older adults. However, these classes do attract almost exclusively women. Delving a bit deeper into the demographics may explain why. Those who are 55 now were born in 1968, and teenagers in the early 80’s. Ballet was most definitely not a thing that most boys would have considered back then. Male sporting culture was largely centred around the likes of rugby and cricket, and the average kiwi bloke would be more probably be found around the barbie than at the barre. The Speights Southern Man was a typical male stereotype well in to the 90’s.

Here in 2023, things are very different, so maybe it’s time for more men to join us in the ballet studio? The kind of sports that men in their 50’s take part in now are likely to be cycling, golf, running (if they’ve still got the knees!) and not getting to the gym as often as they mean to. Now, WE know that ballet would improve their flexibility, coordination, posture, as well as allowing (say it quietly) an emotional and creative outlet.

So how do we encourage more men to join us? Like anything new, coming to ballet as a complete adult beginner is a challenge. Coming to it as a man, and probably the only one in a room of ladies, is extra challenging! Perhaps we should take inspiration from New Plymouth dancer Mike Winsborough.

At Butterfly we would love to see more men dancing, so maybe you can join us in coaxing more men into the studio! Why not try these ideas out on the men in your life!

 Why Ballet?

  • Breaking Gender Stereotypes:  It's not easy to be a trailblazer, and for most men, telling their mates they have taken up ballet would be pretty tough! However, embracing ballet can challenge these stereotypes and redefine masculinity by celebrating strength, grace, and artistry.

  • Physical and Mental Fitness: Ballet is a comprehensive workout that engages both body and mind. It is much more than a gym style work out and most men taking up ballet discover that ballet definitely reaches the parts that other excise cannot reach. The focus on body alignment, balance, co-ordination, flexibility, the use of feet and ankles are all very different to the more traditional male sports. It also fosters discipline, focus, and resilience. As we know, you can't just decide it be 'good at ballet', it takes regular practise and a mindset open to learning.

  • Artistic Expression: Ballet is a medium for artistic expression, allowing dancers to convey their emotions and stories through movement. This creative outlet can provide a powerful means of self-expression and personal growth that may not have been explored since childhood when little kids danced together, before dancing became a 'girly' thing.

  • Cultural Appreciation: Engaging in ballet exposes dancers to the world of classical music, historical narratives, and artistic expression. It broadens cultural horizons and fosters a deeper appreciation for the arts.

The Unique Challenges Faced by Men in Ballet

While ballet offers numerous rewards, it presents distinctive challenges for adult men:

  1. Gender Stereotyping: Men who embark on a ballet journey may encounter scepticism and prejudice due to traditional gender roles. They might need to overcome social stereotypes and criticism. 

  2. Physical Demands: Ballet necessitates a unique blend of strength and flexibility. Men, who often start with different physical conditioning, may face challenges in building the necessary muscle groups and achieving the required level of flexibility.

  3. Finding Appropriate Attire: While there is an abundance of ballet wear for women, it can be more challenging for men to find suitable dancewear and shoes. This can add to the initial difficulty for male beginners who may feel that they are expected to go full out in tights! Not so! As for women, gym gear is perfectly acceptable in adult classes.

    The Specific Benefits of Ballet for Men

    1. Physical Strength and Flexibility: Ballet training helps men develop a unique combination of strength and flexibility, resulting in a well-toned and agile physique. This physical condition can benefit other athletic pursuits and daily life. As for all dancers, regardless of gender, ballet is a wonderful way to keep aging bodies in shape.

    2. Mental Discipline: Ballet class fosters mental discipline, concentration, and determination. Men can carry these skills into their professional and personal lives, enhancing their problem-solving abilities and focus.

    3. Enhanced Posture and Balance: Ballet emphasizes good posture and balance, reducing the risk of back pain and injuries. Improved balance can have a significant impact on everyday activities and sports performance.

    4. Artistic Expression: Ballet offers a means of artistic expression that transcends words. Men can use their body to communicate and convey powerful emotions, making it a unique outlet for creativity.

    5. Camaraderie and Support: Male dancers can enjoy a unique sense of camaraderie and support in ballet classes, often meeting people who are outside their usual social group. 

    Embracing the world of ballet as an adult man is an enriching and rewarding endeavour that challenges traditional gender stereotypes. While it presents unique challenges, the benefits of physical and mental development, artistic expression, and cultural appreciation make it a truly worthwhile pursuit. Ballet is an art form where men can discover their potential, break boundaries, and contribute their unique talents, enriching the world of dance with strength, grace, and artistry.

    Happy Dancing xoxo

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