Finding the Best Ballet Training for Men

I was recently pleased to find out that one of the readers here is the dad of a young male dancer. Balletboydad commented yesterday on the 2011 Summer Intensives post: I wish to have more insight on strongest schools for male instruction going into next summer. My son is 13 and has received scholarships to the schools he has auditioned for. He has gone to Boston Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet and is currently at Jose Manuel Carreno’s 4 week program.

First off, Balletboydad, welcome here! I am sure you noticed I’ve catered this site to females dancers in training – my strongest area of knowledge. Though I hope to study in-depth in the future about the specific needs of male dancers, right now there are many others more qualified than me to handle that topic. That said, you are always welcome here! And I will do my best to answer your question and direct you to other resources that I think will be most helpful.

You’ve probably already discovered that the best schools for males are generally those with a Men’s Program. These programs are tailored in that instead of simply sticking guys in classes with the women all day, the women and men are divided for most of the day, perhaps after one technique class together in the morning. Men study men’s technique, strength and conditioning, batterie, men’s variations, men’s character dance, etc. In the most traditional programs, the only time that men and women are together is for partnering or newer techniques like jazz. (I recall that when I attended BBS many years ago, this was how they ran.) Other programs have men’s classes that simply meet 2 or 3 days a week.

As for specific schools, those that have developed reputations for having some of the strongest men’s programs include Houston Ballet Academy, School of American Ballet, San Francisco Ballet School, Pacific Northwest Ballet School and Miami City Ballet School. Boston Ballet School has an excellent reputation as well, and I hope it lived up to that for you. Also check out Ellison Ballet, Nutmeg Conservatory, and Patel Conservatory/Next Generation Ballet. Carreno’s school is a bit young to have developed a reputation yet. I don’t know much about Pittsburgh’s men except that I’ve heard their numbers seems to be increasing in recent years.

I’m sure there are many young men who would be very appreciative of hearing your son’s review of the SIs he has attended, which can submitted at Ballet Talk for Dancers, http://dancers.invisionzone.com/. There is a ton of information there on U.S. intensives, though unfortunately fewer from a male perspective. Your son’s feedback could help other young men like him to make the better choices for their training. You will also find a very useful male dancer’s forum at Ballet Talk as well.

I recommend for 2012 that your son audition for as many schools as you can reasonably arrange, and see where he gets in and gets scholarships. Then take a day and, with your son, have a call with each school about what they can offer him. Get to the specifics of their men’s training and any other features you are looking for, e.g. nutritional oversight. Most programs will be happy to take a half hour to chat with a dedicated young man and his dad about what they can offer. Keep good notes, and then sit down together and compare programs with an eye to not only finding the highest quality programs but also which ones appeal to your son’s gut instinct. I think you will find you’ll narrow the list quickly!

There are some fantastic resources out there for men that may be able to offer more experienced insight than I can. I hope you’ll check out these sites and pose your question to their authors as well:

http://boysballet.wordpress.com/

http://www.balletformen.com/

http://www.tightsandtiaras.com/

http://mysoncandance.net/

Finally, let me to commend you on supporting your son’s pursuit of dance! Not all fathers are willing to do so for their sons. You are a wonderful example for other dance dads!

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Ballet in Film: Male Voices

A new documentary is in the works from Rhee Gold of The Gold School. This six-part series, titled Male Voices will feature the stories of nine teenaged male dancers. The makers of Male Voices followed the young dancers for three months of their training and heard candid narratives about their daily life as well as issues facing male dancers today.

The Male Voices series will premier on March 18 on DanceLifeTV.com with additional episodes each Friday. Don’t miss this important new dance film!