Men, young and old (and their female advocates): BALLET NEEDS YOU!
Wait, do not go away! Think of movies and great roles like Spartacus and Dracula. Ballet likewise requires the gladiator and vampire, of a Kirk Douglas and Gary Oldman ilk, to inspire and scare our audiences. Or maybe you prefer playing romantic characters? We also need princes and Romeos. Ballet also requires athletes who can jump, turn and partner, swordfighters and the occasional magician. As a professional dancer, you will be trained to elite fitness levels. You get paid well (fairly well), and could appear in magazines, newspapers and TV as a minor celebrity. Sold?
Ok, enter celebrity number one: Batman did ballet. Yes, Batman – aka Christian Bale – took ballet lessons as a young man. Action hero two, Arnold Schwarzenegger trained his muscles using ballet. Now introducing the knock-out punch and celebrity number three, with thoughts from movie star and Paris Opera ballet school student, “The Muscles from Brussels”, Jean Claude Van Dame:
"People think ballet is, like, usual, but it’s not. It’s very hard to do…You see those legs of all those guys like Nureyev and Baryshnikov. They command a lot of power." (Chicago Tribune)
Selling Point 1: Muscles and Grace!
Throw away that gym membership, ballet will train your body better. Conditioning for the elite danseur requires strength with grace and flexibility, perfectly suited for action heroes and future kings (Prince William’s son, Prince George, is learning ballet). Therefore, your training will involve a targeted strengthening regime for lifting partners above your head and performing strenuous jump and turning sequences. Gruelling daily classes, performance rehearsals, Pilates and specific gym exercises will hone your muscle machine. It is guaranteed your calf muscles will be the envy of your friends!
Selling Point 2: Sword Fighting
Your adolescent sword fighting ambitions will be realised in ballets such as Romeo and Juliet (R&J), The Nutcracker and Spartacus. For these ballets, you will be taught how to thrust and parry safely and, learn complicated fight sequences such as the Kenneth MacMillan "Twyla" from his R&J; up, up, down, up, down, down, up, down. Classical fencing and ballet were frequently practised by the upper social classes from as early as the 16th century, and the aesthetic parallels – of utilising turnout and arm positioning – are still evident in both practices today. Only actors from Game of Thrones and Pirates of the Caribbean will be as prepared for a pseudo battle! (WARNING, real cuts and abrasions may occur).
Selling Point 3: Playing the Baddie
Behind every great narrative is a nasty villain, and ballet has some real diabolical characters for men to play. Swan Lake’s Rothbart, is a particularly mean sorcerer with a penchant for entrapping swans and shapeshifting into a bat-like creature. Dracula is another fun bat to play, with a taste for necks and human blood. Or perhaps you prefer the more human scoundrels? Manon has some fun rogues, like Lescaut, the charming swindler with a fondness for drink, and the heartless Monsieur GM, the seedy jailer. Lest we forget Shakespeare’s Tybalt, the original disaffected youth before Harry Potter’s Draco Malfoy. He has two great fight scenes combating Mercutio and Romeo; before getting pinned like a kebab.
Selling Point 4: Tricks and Illusions
Technical tricks and theatrical illusions are omnipresent in ballet. You will be taught the dark secrets of male pyrotechnics. Of gravity defying leaps, like legendary Russian dancer Vaslav Nijinsky, who wowed audiences when suspending his jumps mid-air. Such was his elevation, sceptics suspected Nijinsky of trickery – of wearing sprung shoes or hidden wires – yet it was all muscle and technique. You would also learn to perform dizzying multiple turns without getting dizzy. Not to mention balancing a dancer in one hand above your head!
If you are more of a thrill seeker, theatrical illusions such as Peter Pan’s flying system – run via a computer-controlled steel cable – may tick your extreme box. Of course, once you have reached a distinguished age, more sedate roles like Drosselmeyer, Nutcracker’s magician, may appeal more. Imagine performing real magic tricks (which occasionally work) on stage. Another boyhood dream realised!Selling Point 5: Pas de deux
Pas de deux is not only rewarding artistically, but also good for your health. Eminent psychologist, Andrew Reiner, espouses to The New York Times (2017) the benefits of platonic touch in reducing stress, heart conditions and depression, whilst increasing feelings of connectiveness and community. Reiner notes that often in Western society “physical contact is restricted to violence or sex.” Therefore, pas de deux is a refreshing space for men; a platonic physical act which encourages respect, cooperation and joint problem solving.
Sold? No? Hmmm. Perhaps adverts like 7-Eleven's coffee man turning into a tutu wearing ballerina puts you off? Or maybe, seeing how Prince George has been ridiculed by the press for taking ballet lessons, has made you afraid? Forget these ignorant bullies and listen again to action hero Jean Claude Van Dame: "People think ballet is for sissies. But they are wrong." Men, of all ages, give ballet a try, you will not regret it; or your money back!
- MATTHEW LAWRENCE