Boy's Don't Do Ballet, Do They? PT 2 - Interviews with Two Male Dancers

 In the second instalment of our 'Boys Don't Do Ballet, Do They?' series (spoiler, they do!), we have interviewed two male dancers, whose dedication to their art is so inspirational! We asked them about their experience as males in the dance world and how they cope with the incorrect idea that ballet is only for girls.  

 Meet Xander, a Canterbury High School graduate and an advanced student in the pre-professional program at Les Petits Ballets.

Why did you start ballet?

When I started ballet, it was because I wanted to further my dance training. Ballet acted as a catalyst towards my love of dance, the beginning of my ballet training immersed myself into the art of dance more than any other class had done before. With my first classes at a young age being Ukrainian dance, hip hop and jazz, ballet provided more of a structure and taught me valuable lessons at a young age all while enjoying myself in the class itself.

What is your favourite part about being a student at Les Petits Ballets?

Definitely the dedication of all the dancers and teachers. Dancing around other dancers who appreciate ballet motivates and pushes me to grow and excel and along with the engaged faculty it all creates a positive and hardworking environment for everyone to reach their full potential.

Have you ever had to deal with negative stereotypes against male dancers? If so, how did you cope?

Starting ballet in grade 5 with other kids my age playing soccer and hockey, I definitely felt myself being an outcast. The stereotypes of a ballet dancer regarding sexuality caused me to get really depressed as a kid. The way I went about facing the obstacles created by other people was by embracing dance and staying true to myself. What I did was show my skill in dancing, performing for school events constantly in elementary school and I loved doing, it really did show to the other kids that I didn't care and as I went to middle school with the same kids I had a certain respect that I didn't earn but I deserved.

What keeps you motivated to stay in dance, despite the stereotypes?

It starts first with my love of dance, going through adversity and at a young age with dance it's become a part of me that I can't live without. Also, when I am in rough times it definitely fuels me to remember all the naysayers and doubters who gave me a hard time with dance, it gives me some extra motivation but it all begins with my passion for dance, without it I don't know where I would be.

Why should other boys get into ballet?

I truly wish and believe more boys should get into ballet. There are so many valuable skills that you gain as a male ballet dancer revolving around strength and discipline. As a male dancer within the dance environment, you are appreciated and cherished. It is important to understand that especially at a young age where bullying is sadly frequent. As a boy doing ballet, you end up feeling like you are part of something, a community that does not put you down but uplifts you. There are so many advantages and lessons picked up as a boy ballet dancer and I hope that boys take that leap and can truly find all the amazing things that ballet has to offer

 Meet Bradley, who trained at Canterbury High School and Ottawa Dance Centre before continuing to Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet School. He then danced with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Banff Centre's summer festival dance company, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montreal, and the Iceland Dance Company. Bradley has guested with Les Petits Ballet's performing company in performances such as 'Annie, the Ballet' in 2005 and most recently, 'The Nutcracker' in 2019. 

 Why did you start ballet?

I started in a roundabout way, when I was 15, after trying to pursue theatre studies in high school. I don't think it had ever occurred to me to try dance, at that age, and I doubt it would have happened had I not been exposed to dance through theatre. Dance seemed untouchable before, like I would have had so much catching up to do. And as we know, boys aren't often encouraged to explore things like dance, and ballet in particular. But once into it, I really connected with the ability to bring together theatre, visual art, music, fashion, stories, abstraction, humour, etc. It's a really special art form about creating and exploring patterns and rhythms of human experience. I'm hooked.

What is your favourite thing about dance?

I think I answered some of that above, haha. But I can go further to say that it makes me feel alive. It challenges me. It inspires me. It literally moves me, physically and emotionally. It makes me think about what I do and how I do things in the world and relate to others. And when you have those sublime moments of feeling 200% in your body, with or without music, alone or with others, to say that it's fun is an understatement. And I cherish every moment I've ever had where I witness or share in other people experiencing similar things through their own dancing. It's everything everybody wants... to feel free, smart, aware, connected and powerful.

Have you ever had to deal with negative stereotypes against male dancers? If so, how did you cope?

Yes, but I've told myself from a young age that I have to love and believe in myself, even if others don't. I have been lucky though to also have received beautiful gifts of encouragement and support. I still get "teased" little bits about my dance background, from very well intentioned people, which sometimes I find frustrating. And I love getting teased about all kinds of things when it's funny and with love and respect! But I try to represent and talk about things through dance and about my experiences as a dancer and a dance teacher that can show people other sides of our art form that maybe they're not aware of. And also, I have to say, there are so many people out there who are often enchanted and fascinated when I tell them I'm a dancer. I think of them whenever I encounter less-than-desirable situations.

How should boys respond to the prejudice that they may face from peers, family etc.?

I think I answered a bit of that above again, haha. I can only imagine what some boys go through if they're in a situation where they face incessant and cruel teasing or even violence. I don't always understand the world. But I think that the more people there are who dance, the better the world will be. It's not always an easy struggle, but it's worth the fight. Boys (and all children!) need to know that they will come out of adversity so much stronger, and what better metaphor than to come out of adversity DANCING. Also, if you believe in yourself and show courage, other people will start to see it and join you. Always.

Why should aspiring male dancers get into ballet/dance?

Because dancing makes the world better. And if it doesn't fix the whole world (let's face it, that would be a pretty tall order to live up to!), it will at least make YOUR world better, creating so much joy and experiences. You can also then hopefully encourage other boys, girls, and people to join you.

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