Five-Year-Old Son Wants to Take Ballet Classes; would be the only boy - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 24 Old 05-20-2012, 09:55 AM - Thread Starter
 
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So my daughter has been taking ballet/tap for three years at the local studio.  There used to be one boy who took lessons at the studio, but he has since left.  My younger son has been expressing interest in lessons for the past year, though he is very clear that he would prefer a class with other boys.

 

He has a dancer's build and is very coordinated.  I really want to encourage him, but because of really backward gender norms in our area, I'm afraid he will be the target of rude questions and even some teasing if he's the only boy in the beginning class.

 

We live in a small town surrounded by other small towns; the nearest city is nearly an hour away. There is a ballet studio there where there would likely (but not guaranteed) be another boy or two, but he really wants to take classes at the same local studio with his sister.

 

To complicate things, we will likely be relocating in the next year and half to an area that is more progressive, where he would likely be able to start dancing with a mixed class.  As he's only five, I'm wondering if it might be a better experience for him just to wait.

 

I'm trying to involve him in the decision-making process, but he mostly seems overwhelmed because he can't do it on his terms (local studio where sister goes, with other boys).

 

Anyone have experience with this, or suggestions?  Thanks!

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#2 of 24 Old 05-20-2012, 10:18 AM
 
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I'd let him do it, personally. It's nice that that PBS show, Angelina Ballerina, always has boys in the real kid dance segment at the end. I'd arm him with info like how many football players take ballet to improve their game just so he has some come backs if anyone says anything rude. With family support, I'd think he would think anyone who said it was for girls was just a bit ignorant and not take it to heart. The nice thing about having a boy dancer (from what I've heard from a friend with one) is that they can sometimes do classes for free because they are so needed and rare.


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#3 of 24 Old 05-20-2012, 10:28 AM
 
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My son has taken dance since he was 3; he's now 7. We lived in a pretty conservative area. Mostly we got eyerolling and some "I want my son to be macho" bs, but no one ever said anything to DS. We're in a progressive area now, and every studio has boys' only classes as well as many co-ed classes. Our experience really has been mostly positive, so I'd say go for it!


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#4 of 24 Old 05-20-2012, 01:29 PM
 
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I would let him do it. Who knows, he may follow this into adulthood and have a great career at it.

 

You are already prepared for the drama. Face it head on, remind people that male ballet dancers and circus performers had to start somewhere, and move on. :)


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#5 of 24 Old 05-20-2012, 02:39 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the encouragement.  Would you steer him toward the local class, where he is almost sure to be the only boy, or toward the city class that will have us driving an hour each way but where he will likely have another boy or two for support?

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#6 of 24 Old 05-20-2012, 04:39 PM
 
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I'd encourage him for sure, and make sure he knew that I was enthusiastically in his corner.  I'd also have a fairly frank talk about how some people think it's not OK for boys to dance, and that they are being ridiculous - boys can do whatever they want!  We've experienced a similar thing with my youngest dd, who intends to marry a girl.  While this isn't as obvious as being the only boy in a ballet class, she's pretty vocal about it and has certainly had a number of people say stuff to her.  Where I am, it is perfectly legal for her to marry a girl once she's old enough, so I gave her the verbal ammo she needs to defend her position.  If anything, it's been a good launching point for some talk about how people think of gender, how we think of gender in our family, and what to say or do when someone is trying to make you feel less than for being who you are, doing what you love or believing in what you think is right.

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#7 of 24 Old 05-20-2012, 04:55 PM
 
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Thanks for the encouragement.  Would you steer him toward the local class, where he is almost sure to be the only boy, or toward the city class that will have us driving an hour each way but where he will likely have another boy or two for support?

 

Which one is easier on you? You can combat the negativity and help him learn to stand up for himself - in either class. But you are going to have to transport him every time, so go with which ever place is easiest on your schedule. If he does well in the local class (maybe 6mo to a year), then you can talk about going to the city class. No need to spend a whole lot in gas to only have it not work out, ya know?


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#8 of 24 Old 05-20-2012, 05:17 PM
 
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Lots of male athletes take ballet.  Specifically football players.  It does so much for their coordination and ability to be nimble and move quickly without injuring themselves. 

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#9 of 24 Old 05-20-2012, 05:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Lots of male athletes take ballet.  Specifically football players.  It does so much for their coordination and ability to be nimble and move quickly without injuring themselves. 

 

I agree, and even if male athletes didn't take ballet, I think it's great for boys to be interested in dance!  My concern is only trying to make it the best experience possible, given the fact that he's already VERY aware (and hesistating) because he'll be the only boy.  I'd rather wait a year or two (or drive him an hour to the city) if I think that might prevent a bad situation that would turn him off from something he's drawn to, you know? 

 

So my question is not really, is it okay for him to do ballet?  but, how do I handle the yucky reality of ballet where we live?

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#10 of 24 Old 05-20-2012, 05:53 PM
 
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That's tough.  There are two little boys in my DD's class right now (5-6yo boys).  One of them has decided this year that he doesn't want to do it anymore.  Not because he didn't like it anymore, but from what his dad says, because his cousin and then other kids at school have been making fun of him.  The other little boy will probably keep going.  Well, the discouraged boy might keep going, but it has been a lot of trouble this year for him (whining/crying/trying ot get out of it before class - he loves it when he is there, but the mockery has gotten to him).  His dad is hoping he'll change his mind and decide to keep going, but it has been quite rough.

 

I think the issue isn't going to be who is in the class at the studio, it is what the other kids at school are going to do to him about it.  The little boy at our studio apparently didn't tell other kids he danced, but when word got out through his cousin, the mockery started.  At least from my very small sample size, that is the issue.

 

HTH

 

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#11 of 24 Old 05-20-2012, 06:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Tjej, in a strange way, that story is encouraging, given our situation.  We're unschoolers, so my son wouldn't have school children to contend with.  The other people we associate with are likely to be fairly encouraging--or at least to keep their mouths shut about it.  I was thinking of it more from the standpoint of the other girls arriving at and leaving the studio ("What's that boy doing here?" etc.).

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#12 of 24 Old 05-20-2012, 09:57 PM
 
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A good dance studio, no matter how rural, should embrace the boys. I think it says a lot about how a studio is if they tolerate boys being made fun of. We are not there yet, and my boy is younger, but will be there soon. I have two girls in dance, one does it competitively. On her team which is large, there is only one boy. He is not made fun of, while not always the center of everything, we all look at him very fondly, and a lot of the older girls are quite protective of him. We are in a very rural area as well. There is one younger boy, maybe 7 at the studio. And a handful of other boys that only only do hip hop but not at the team level. We used to be at other studio several years back in very conservative town and they had several boys which always suprised me for the type of town it was. My oldest boy is only 3 but loves dance already. He is speech delayed but the one thing he asks for is a dance class. And by golly, I am getting that boy into a tap/jazz class which is the only option at his age.

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#13 of 24 Old 05-21-2012, 09:04 AM
 
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Oh, I don't think you'd have any problem then. 

 

I know that my DD was curious about the boys the first week or two.  I explained that boys and girls both like ballet and yes, more girls than boys, but little boys can enjoy it too just like she enjoys doing some things that her brother does.  Hasn't been an issue, and I can't imagine a teacher putting up with any nonsense about it in the class itself. 

 

The way our studio is laid out, you could be there to hear any offensive remarks not in class, and either correct them gently or know what to talk about with your DS afterwards.  But I don't think we have had any issues. 

 

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#14 of 24 Old 05-21-2012, 09:39 AM
 
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Does your dance studio allow boys? Because some don't allow mixed classes and it worth making sure you understand their policies in advance.

 

Other than that, I wouldn't let him do it and I would also stress that next year their will likely be more boys in the class.

 

In our (big city) they offer dance classes for boys but they get herded into non-ballet type classes. I don't know if that is studio or parent driven. The only place that is truly integrated for boys is hardcore Russian-run and caters mostly to Russian immigrants. It has a reputation for lots of tears.

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#15 of 24 Old 05-21-2012, 08:18 PM
 
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If he wants to do ballet I say go for it. if decides not to continue then you stop... if he decides he loves it then keep on trucking on!


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#16 of 24 Old 05-24-2012, 11:11 AM
 
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My DS is in a ballet class that he started last year at age 3. There is another boy in his class but he hasn't been there the last few weeks. Anyway there are only maybe 3 or 4 boys in the whole school and the girls in the classes don't say anything negative to the boys. When we first started the class the teacher came to me and said "I'm sorry i don't have any "boy" books (little journals that they get stickers in) she said he can have this book with Tinker Bell on it (DS has no idea who this is :) ) or I can get him a "boy" book next week" I asked DS and he said he wanted the book with the fairy. The other boy has a book with Diego on it but none of the kids have even mentioned that or really noticed. 

 

DS and I have heard another adult say to a little boy who was interested in looking into the class "No, that's just for girls" she said this 2 weeks in a row while we were waiting to go into class. DS looked at me and i said "Is she right that ballet is only for girls?" and he smiled and said "No, she's wrong" One of the reasons DS wanted to take dance was that we went to see a really good dance show at my niece's highschool (she goes to an art's school) and there were lots of boys doing all kinds of dance including ballet and DS really like the leaps and look of the ballet dancers.

 

Personally I would take him to the studio his sister is at and not really make a big deal about him being the "only" boy.


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#17 of 24 Old 05-24-2012, 02:38 PM
 
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Well, the only boy in the class, usually gets the best spot in the recitals.  Everybody wants to see the boys dance.  

 

One year, I was so enamored by one little boy, that I barely noticed my own daughter.

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#18 of 24 Old 05-24-2012, 03:10 PM
 
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I have dancing kids (one who will be on stage come fall!) Last year and this year, my boy was the only boy in his ballet class, but next year he'll move up from the "pure fun" classes to more the ballet-specific school. He sees many male dancers of all ages at the ballet studio. It has never bothered him that he was the only boy in his classes, but then again, he has very little concept of gender at present. He thought it was cool that he got to do a special role in the performances, while all the girls have to follow one another. If you don't live in an area nor have family members or close friends who will be rude about it and dampen his enthusiasm, I would go for it this year.


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#19 of 24 Old 05-27-2012, 05:18 AM
 
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Generally real ballet isn't taught to five year olds.

 

If you want him to get good training, don't even start him in a Dolly Dinkle.  Wait until you move to a bigger area and enroll him in a ballet school.  

 

Do you have a gymnastics training center near you?  Some men's teams do start decent training with five year olds in pre-team since they can compete USAG men's gymnastics at age 6.  He can go ahead and get the conditioning, stretching, discipline.

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#20 of 24 Old 05-27-2012, 10:28 AM
 
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Generally real ballet isn't taught to five year olds.

 

If you want him to get good training, don't even start him in a Dolly Dinkle.  Wait until you move to a bigger area and enroll him in a ballet school.  

 

Do you have a gymnastics training center near you?  Some men's teams do start decent training with five year olds in pre-team since they can compete USAG men's gymnastics at age 6.  He can go ahead and get the conditioning, stretching, discipline.

There are "creative movement" and "pre-ballet" classes that are not "Dolly Dinkles." We do a serious New York ballet school, and they were pleased with the skills DD had from YMCA "pre-ballet" classes. If the sister is already in the school, I imagine the parent isn't worried about the quality of the classes overall.


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#21 of 24 Old 05-28-2012, 05:14 AM
 
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There are "creative movement" and "pre-ballet" classes that are not "Dolly Dinkles." We do a serious New York ballet school, and they were pleased with the skills DD had from YMCA "pre-ballet" classes. If the sister is already in the school, I imagine the parent isn't worried about the quality of the classes overall.

I think a serious ballet school would also be pleased with a kid who could do his splits and or had started piano and had thus started to develop better musical sense.  

 

The OP's daughter is in a studio in a small town in a rural area.  I'm just making a guess based on odds.

 

With girls there are a lot of reasons for them to dance recreationally in their communities.  While those apply to boys (and sometimes do not because of the prejudice against male dancing), the other issue is that opportunities for boys to do really interesting things are much more open if they have a passion for ballet and proper training.  The same cannot be said for girls unfortunately; there are so many going into the stream. 

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#22 of 24 Old 05-28-2012, 02:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Interesting replies.  At the local studio, actual Ballet classes don't start until age 8 or the recommendation of the instructor, and I know this is typical.  That is why I was considering just waiting until we (if we can swing it) relocate, when ds would be closer to the proper age.  I do think he probably has some serious natural ability, but I'm not interesting in pushing him AT ALL--any interest/drive would have to come from him. 

 

I think the local studio is somewhat "Dolly Dinkle"; it has a proper floor and everything, and the instructor has a degree in dance performance.  Still, it is much more "routine -" than technique-focused.  For example, although my daughter is in a Combo (pre-ballet/tap) class, I would still like her to be learning more technique than she is.  Honestly, probably half the dancers are under the age of eight, so catering to moms who like to see their daughters in fancy costumes seems to be how the bills get paid.  Every year at the spring recital, there seems to be maybe one older teen who is clearly talented, but I doubt the rest could continue on with dancing after high school.  I don't mean to say recreational dancing isn't okay--I would say that's about the level of my daughter's interest at this point.

 

After watching the recital a few days ago, my son decided that he wants to wait a year or two, and then dance at a studio where there are boys.  I think all the "frilliness" of the recital turned him off a bit (whereas he left a major-city production of the Nutcracker very admiring of the dancers' strength and athletic abilities). 

 

I think he still has plenty of time, and that if the interest is significant it will still be there in a year or two.  We do plan a trip to another major city to see a ballet performance in the fall.  And, hopefully, a relocation is in our future.

 

Thanks, everyone, for taking the time to respond.

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#23 of 24 Old 05-29-2012, 05:25 PM
 
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My nephew, now 12, has been taking dance lessons since he was 4 and has always been the only boy in the classes. He loves it, especially as he is getting older and realizes it may be a good thing (giggle giggle) to be the only boy in a room full of girls.

 

He's in Texas, and rural. My sister has never had any problems with comments (other than from her husband, the boy's father) and the teachers love being able to choreograph something with a boy in it. He is not in ballet any longer, though, I think he takes tap and jazz.

 

I'd let him do it. At 5, it's more about dancing for fun and exercise than strict ballet. Is there a male friend who might sign up for the same class with him?

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#24 of 24 Old 06-05-2012, 08:52 AM
 
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At our dance studio kids are welcome to try out a class before any money changes hands. That's what I would do if it's available in your area. I think starting now would be preferable to waiting until he was 8. He may feel behind if he waits until he's 8 and you move. My girls have been taking dance since they were 2 and 3. We go to a totally loose and groovy studio that does not require special outfits, etc, until the technique level classes (which start at 8) and then only in ballet. My dd1 is doing Contemporary 1 at the technique level right now and was an apprentice in the production company last fall. She's considering auditioning for it again this year. Dd2 did pre-jazz this year and hasn't decided what class to do next year just yet, but she will be in a technique class next year also. 

 

We have been thru years when we had several little boys and some years when we didn't have any. We've had a few big boys as well. Ours is a pretty laid back studio (there are 3 in our small college town), but several kids who have gone thru the studio have gone on to dance professionally. We have a girl this year that is going on to the state School of the Arts where she plans to dance. 


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