Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Real Men Dance: Removing the Stigma of Male Ballet Dancers
As a culture we base our definition of masculinity on what is presented through films, television, celebrities, rock, rap, and sports stars, and other media sources. Culture has been telling us for centuries that a ‘Man’ is a doer, a leader,a football hero, a basketball star. He can get the job done. Give him a task, and he will do it. He’ll score touchdowns and go to work and pay the bills. And he can do it all by himself, because he is a "Man."
Yet, there is something missing from this portrayal - emotion. Studies have proven that real men have emotions. They just have had a hard time showing fear, love, sadness. The only outlet allowed is aggression, which can lead to unhealthy behavior or possible abuse of others.
You can see how male dancing and men in ballet do not fit into this definition of a ‘Man.’But in reality, that definition of men is far from the truth. Men are human and many find that they want to express those emotions through the freedom that dance and art offer. Just because a man has the capacity to express himself, that does not make him a failure. As Billy Elliot says in the song "Electricity," - "Something bursting me wide open, impossible to hide, And suddenly I'm flying, flying like a bird, Like Electricity, sparks inside of me, and I'm free...I'm free."
It is easy to recognize this when it is broken down, but still the stereotypes or assumptions continue to either push males away from dance, or to just not offer the same opportunities for men to dance as women. From Balanchine, generations have been told that, in ballet, the female reigns supreme. She is the only one truly capable of creating a thing of beauty. But, although Balanchine was certainly correct by highlighting the elegance and femininity inherent in ballet’s nature, he also did an effective job of choreographing steps that showcased the athleticism of male dancers In Russia, where Balanchine and many male dance legends were born, ballet was revered, with both females and males taking part without any stigma attached. In the US, making ballet as an art and form of expression available to heterosexual dancers should not be done at the expense of homosexual male dancers.
We have let go of some confines and boxes. And we sometimes adopt new ones. It doesn't happen as often, but a young boy still has to defend his interest in dance. Sometimes when he's playing football with the neighborhood kids. Sometimes with friends at birthday parties. Sometimes at school. It's a little odd to me that as a culture we went from our superstars being men like Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire to questioning the masculinity of men in dance.
I'm glad to see that trend changing with movies like Billy Eliot and shows like So You Think You Can Dance giving a bird's eye view not just of the emotions that are expressed, but also of the discipline and athleticism required for this sport. Because make no mistake - It is a sport as well as art. A difficult, beautiful sport. More boys are craving being on that stage. They encourage and support each other. They know what it's like to defend a sport you love, one that is often dominated by the opposite gender. We continue to see more and more males at conventions and competitions, tearing up the stage. And these are the new breed of "Men," participating in the opinion change, helping re-teach what Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Nureyev, Baryshnikov, and many others have taught - Real men dance.
Elton John And Billy - Electricity
ELTON JOHN & BILLY - Electricity (Music Video) by rappermax