Dude wants to know if he’s welcome in ballet class. Let’s hear it for the boys.

Received the email below from a male reader, with a question about the ladies.
Ladies, maybe you can offer some insights.
Dudes, maybe you can offer some insights.

To The Adult Beginner,
I’m wondering if you might offer some perspective for me, and other dancing dudes, who dare to crash the girls club and hit the barre.
As 40-something husband and father who has danced off and on since middle school, I’ve spent more than a few years pushing through b-s peer pressure and social baggage to allow myself to enjoy ballet. But even after all these years, there’s plenty of anxiety can still kick in before class. Yes, I worry about how I look in tights. Yes, I worry that my flesh-colored slippers are more pink than flesh. Yes, I worry that I’ll never do a decent pique turn combination. Ugh. Self-doubt sucks.
Fear and loathing aside, I was prompted to write you following a recent encounter. Here’s how it went down…
It was a very warm afternoon and I arrived several minutes early to get in some stretching before class. I enter the studio and greet the teacher, whom I’ve taken classes with for some time. While we talked, a woman seated on the floor putting on her slippers looked up at me in complete and utter shock. Horror, even, with eyebrows arched and mouth askew. Uh oh. What did I do? Quick!…damage control!
I offered a friendly smile and introduced myself. She reciprocated in kind, but her body language changed very little. I was resigned to the fact that I had just ruined this lady’s afternoon, but then she made the following statement: “Wow! This is sooo cool…having class with a guy in it!”
Say wha?
Never before in my dancing life have I heard anything like this. Ever.
For non-professionals, the ballet studio is a world where I’m guessing most guys never truly feel comfortable. But why? Are these uneasy feelings just in our heads? Do ladies prefer their ballet class to be a testosterone-free zone? Can’t we all just get in there and do our thing? The trappings of society can have your head spinning faster than a sequence of chaines turns.
What say you, Adult Beginner?

Ok Rico. What I say is:
I hear you on those chainés turns.
My guess is that this lady looked up, saw you, and thought, “Fuck, I knew I should’ve worn a bra today!” Or something similarly self conscious.
I mean, if I were going to pull a face of horror at some dude, it would be entirely about myself and the crimes against fashion and possibly decency he was about to witness.
I’m all for men in ballet class. Teachers tend to bring out the power-moves, and, honestly, it’s a great confirmation of how hard I’m working when I see a man sweaty, shaky, legs about to give out, doing the exact same things that I’m doing. Especially awesome if I’m doing those same things while looking calm and cool and maybe even smiling a little.
It’s the best.
Thing is though, the smaller your class, the less and less likely there will be any male students at all. This is just a reality of adult ballet, as you well know.
My regular class is small, men are so rare that I actually did a post about it once when one showed up.
Therefor, I think her comment about it being soooooo cool to have a guy in class can be taken at face value. It is cool, and she probably just had really never experienced it before, and then suddenly realized what her face was doing and said that thing to reassure you that she was cool even though she was surprised.
That’s just my guess.
Gentle Reader, what say you?

About adultbeginner

Had my first ballet class Ever at the advanced age of thirty-two. Yikes.
This entry was posted in You Asked for it and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Dude wants to know if he’s welcome in ballet class. Let’s hear it for the boys.

  1. I don’t mind guys in class at all! It’s rare for us, so we try to actively encourage them when they show up. I got in to this to DANCE not to have super-estrogen-only-girl-times. Honestly, I spend most of my working life with a room full of women and I can tell ya this: it gets old fast.

  2. koolchicken says:

    I don’t have an issue with men in class. I take three different ones (at the same studio) and there are three or four different guys that attend. So we always have at least one guy in every class. In fact there’s one guy who usually wears a leotard, pink tights, and pink slippers. And I think it’s awesome we have such a open and welcoming environment that everyone can truly let go of any of their inhibitions and just be who they are and enjoy themselves. So if you were in my class, I wouldn’t have given you a strange look. I’d have been happy to see you. :)

    • angie1272 says:

      I’m so glad you got the reaction you did. What a relief that must have been given your concerns.

      We always have 2-4 in my class of usually 18-20. Some are clearly exceptional. Others are newbies. This is true for the ladies as well. Range of skill is broad.

      Doesn’t phase me in the slightest to see a guy or any variation of adult (eg young, old, big, small, skilled or rank beginner, etc.

      I’m learning that I’m very lucky in this regard. That is to have a studio with a comfy range of diversity.

      Welcome back to la barre !

  3. JustScott says:

    I can relate. I danced as a teenager and in college, and returned as an adult at 39. I experienced a little anxiety when I entered class for the first time and found (as I expected) that I was the only guy. I hoped my presence didn’t make my classmates feel uncomfortable in what could be best described as a soccer mom ballet class.
    An amazing thing happened when class ended. I was asked about three or four times if I intended to stick with it. I really appreciated the encouragement. I ended up being the only guy in that class for about three years. They were a wonderful group of ladies and I loved dancing with them.

  4. Steph says:

    I love having guys in the class! There’s always at least one guy in the classes I take and I’ve never had any qualms about their presence. In fact, one class had such a high attendance of guys for a while my teacher taught us easy pas de deux stuff for a couple months and everyone really enjoyed it. I got to try a fish dive! Surprisingly easier than it looks but I didn’t jump into it.

  5. Rico says:

    I’m so glad to hear this kind of feedback. Now I just need to brush the chip of my shoulder and focus on dancing.

  6. Jessica says:

    Late to the party but just want to say that I think it’s all good. No guys in the small-town classes I take—except for that one time. And we were the only two adults in the class of teens and tweens. I confess I stared and wanted to text my pal immediately (“There’s A MAN here!!!”). But I was thrilled and also self-conscious and hoping I wouldn’t be embarrassed by my lower skill level if dude was a pro or something. We introduced ourselves; he was nice; class was fine. I was sad to never see him again, mainly bc he was another grown-up and there are hardly any adults taking class here.

  7. There’s been at least one guy at every class I’ve had. I like having guys in class because I love watching male dancers jump. They are so strong and it seems they can jump up impossibly high. I’ve also felt that satisfaction of knowing that I’m strong while seeing a newish guy struggling to hold himself up during a combination.
    Thing is, I never did ballet as a kid, so I honestly had no idea that there would be boys in class and had assumed for some reason that there wouldn’t be. The first time I shared a barre with this (cute! young!) guy, I remember during streches at the barre we accidentally made contact several times and it was AWKWARD in a way that it wouldn’t have been with another woman! But that was probably just the novelty of it, me being new to ballet and all, and the unfamiliarity of wearing a leotard.

  8. Jane Lambert says:

    I always welcome blokes to my class and I greet them exactly the same way as I do ladies. I introduce myself to the new student, offer to shake his or her hand and begin small talk such as the weather or the state of the traffic both of which are usually terrible in this country to put the new classmate at his or her ease. If members of the class meet for a cup of tea afterwards as happens with my over 55 class in Leeds I always invite the newcomer to come and join us. I have to say that not many gentlemen of my age seem to cope with the exertions of the over 55 class as we rarely see them more than once but several of the younger chaps do very well in the all age and all ability classes that I attend in Sheffield. A first class can be a nerve wracking experience for any student of any age or ability and of either gender and unfriendly faces or even indifference would be unkind and uncivil.

    • Tea after ballet with the over-fifty-five set?! That might be the cutest thing I’ve heard all day.

      • Jane Lambert says:

        It’s not always tea. The cafe where we meet is just opposite the bus station and round the corner from Northern Ballet, Yorkshire Dance, Leeds College of Music and the West Yorkshire Playhouse. Their coffee is as delicious as their tea and their ciabatta, focaccia and brownies are as good as any in this country. Indeed, they are as those in California, The cafe is another reminder of Los Angeles whenever I miss Southern California. We old ladies have a rare old laugh and natter. Probably just as well that not too many old gentlemen take us up on our offer for we would have to moderate our conversation.

  9. kaija24 says:

    I’m all for more guys in class! I’m all for more adult dancers/adult beginners/adult returners…basically, the more the merrier. There are usually one to a couple guys in most of my classes. I love watching their jumps and an envious of their strength. If a new guy shows up, I usually make a point of smiling, saying hello, and chatting to make him feel welcome. Having been the only female in many situations during my education and activities, I know how it feels! Hooray for dancing men :)

  10. Mel W says:

    Always nice to have gents in class, particularly if they are game for a jump-off :)

  11. asher says:

    I’m late to this party, and to some extent I’m the stereotypical Gay Ballet Dude that non-ballet people envision (only maybe less bitchy and chubbier) which might make things easier for me in a way.

    That said, as a dude in the ballet world, I generally feel ridiculously welcomed. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if I stopped coming to class, a delegation would be sent to physically drag me from my house. They know where I sleep o.O

    Once, after a difficult class, the teacher grabbed me on the way out and said with a kind of evangelistic zeal, “Keep coming back!” Obviously, I obeyed her (I’m a good ballet student, after all! I do what my teacher tells me to do!).

    I think Jane Lambert hit on the most important thing in her comment, though — I can say that one of the things that makes me love my school so much is the way I’ve simply been absorbed into the broader community of students. There’s been a bit of “Hooray! A boy!” but mostly it’s been, “Hi, how are you?” I don’t feel like a sore thumb; I just feel like part of the crowd. That’s actually huge deal for me, as I am the opposite of most people — I have no stage fright or fear of public speaking, but I am horribly shy in unstructured social settings.

    For what it’s worth, I remain somewhat mystified about why our culture fails to grasp that ballet is actually an awesome thing to do if you’re a straight guy.

    Where else can you hone your body to athletic perfection, develop useful strength (and flexibility, but most American guys don’t seem to care much about that), show off your mastery of difficult physical feats, *and* get to dance with all the girls?

    It is a mystery.

    • JustScott says:

      Yeah, go figure. As a straight guy, I played football and took ballet as a teenager. Play football with 85 guys and open showers and no one questions your sexual orientation. Be the only boy in a class with 15 girls wearing leotards, and you must be gay … lol

      I caught a lot of grief dancing as a teenager and in college, but loved it anyway. But it played a role in me giving it up.

      But attitudes do seem to be a little different since I returned to dancing as an adult. I still get the “Woa, wait a minute, you take ballet?” moments from non-dancing friends, but for most it’s not a big deal.

      Still, a guy taking ballet as a recreational dancer is still pretty much a novelty, but like you, I don’t stick out like a sore thumb. I was welcomed as one of the group from the first class on. Once the music starts there’s no … “oh my God, there’s a man in class.” Instead, it’s “why can’t I do a double pirouette consistently? Or you mean we have to do pique turns in a circle.”

      Ballet does have awesome health benefits. And it’s a great stress reliever. But unless there is a seismic shift in culture in the U.S.A., I’m not really bothered by being a novelty in a dance class.

      • asher says:

        The best comment my better half got about ballet came from his ex-Army dude brother, who said, “I would never take ballet. It’s way too hard.” :D

  12. Cbells says:

    I suggest you get thee to a more “professional” studio. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with your local average Joe’s dance class. It doesn’t even have to be a harder class. But I’ve danced all kinds of places, and men are familiar faces at studios that either have their own company, or that hold classes for professional dancers.

    Even if the class is super basic beginner ballet, the presence of men is ubiquitous in those studios. I lived in a little beach town, and I only saw men (but many of them) at the local ballet company’s studio classes. Now I live in NYC, so most studios I dance at have pro classes/companies, and every class — from beginner to intermediate — is up to 50% men. I don’t even notice anymore.

    Honestly, even if a dude showed up to one of the three-person classes I used to take back in Little Beach Town, I wouldn’t flinch. I’ve always felt the ballet studio is a special place that all my real world worries can’t penetrate.

    But that’s just me!

  13. chrisgo says:

    There is always a guy in my ballet class, he looks just like me but everything is backwards. Oh wait, that is me in the mirror.
    I’ve never felt any resistance to me being a guy in ballet class. I have always felt completely accepted in class. Many have gone out of their way to tell me that it is awesome that a guy has enough guts to man up, wear tights and take ballet.
    I remember being super nervous before my first few classes thinking I was entering a world where I didn’t belong, however, that feeling went bye bye quickly. I was actually more worried what my friends might think about the whole situation, but again, nobody thought it was a big deal at all.
    Honestly, it was the dance shop where it was the most nerve-racking, it was a world that
    I wasn’t quite prepared for, lots of pink and frills. Not that there is anything wrong with that. Most of the teen-aged sales clerks assumed I was there to pick up stuff for the daughter I do not have. Then it’s like, “Oh, it’s for you? Ok. Um, the guys stuff in that broken down cardboard box on the floor over by the counter.”
    So yeah, go do it, and don’t worry about what people think. Have fun!

Leave a Reply to adultbeginner Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s