My 10-year-old son has been learning ballet for six months. After we all became a little too engrossed in the television mama-drama, Dance Moms, I caught him a few times with pointed toes, mid-pirouette. “Do you want to learn ballet?” I asked, somewhat cautiously. (What if he said “yes”? What would cricket-loving Dad say?) “No, Mum, I don’t!” he insisted, more than once. Repeat this scene five more times and eventually he admitted he would like to “try ballet and see if I like it.” So he enrolled in the local ballet school. And now he’s flying. I wish I’d known sooner about the great gifts the wonderful world of ballet would bring to my boy.
1. Finding his team
My son tried soccer, tennis and cricket. While he liked them all, he was never overly excited to train; on reflection, he was probably going through the motions of showing up and having a go. In ballet, he has found his team. Because ballet is very much about teamwork. He moves in synchronicity with his fellow dancers; his kicks and turns gather momentum when done in unison with others; he plays his part in weaving a story on stage. The detail, discipline and precision that he thrives on are made dazzling by moving as part of a team.
2. Being a trailblazer
While some of the most famous ballet dancers of our time have been male (think Baryshnikov, Nureyev, Nijinsky), enter the local dance studio and it is very much a female domain. Boys are still carving out their place in ballet schools: reminding teachers that uniform and hair requirements need to include boys; bringing girls the opportunity to dance and collaborate with boys; and convincing their peers at school that ballet is cool. There are not too many domains left where boys need to assert their place, but ballet is one of them.
3. Immersion in the arts
Join the dance world and expect an immersion in music, drama, design and performance. Dance is a wonderful entry point to the arts. Creative Australia, Australia’s National Cultural Policy, has a focus on engaging children with the arts as a means of enriching Australia’s cultural capital and the future of the arts industry. Engagement in the arts as a child has found to be a precursor to a lifelong enjoyment of arts experiences. And let’s not forget the social, spiritual, cultural, cognitive and emotional value of the arts scene.
4. Being coached by a kick-ass woman
All my son’s teachers are fun, fierce and female. I am so grateful that six hours of his week are spent in the company of highly talented, determined, artistic women who bring grace and generosity to their teaching. His respect for them is deep.
5. Performing on stage
For a lot of boys, the sports field is their only stage to showcase skill and ability. But for the dancer, performance on a stage is not limited to seasons. There are many opportunities throughout the year for the young ballet dancer to practice, perfect and perform their art. Stage performance elevates a dancer’s expectations of themselves and propels them into a spotlight they may otherwise shy away from. It’s a great opportunity to learn about presence and taking your moment.
6. Enriching the family
Because of my son’s interest in ballet, our family attended our first ballet performance at the Sydney Opera House last year. It was beautiful. Made even more special because it was cricket-loving Dad’s suggestion that we should all go. Now we regularly comb the Australian Ballet’s calendar and look forward to the next performance that will take our breath away.
One day, who knows, he might grow up to make hearts flutter like this: