Ballet Boys

Superstar Rasta Thomas, founder of Bad Boys of Ballet. 

Superstar Rasta Thomas, founder of Bad Boys of Ballet. 

When we were children, my younger brother wanted to do everything I did, including ballet. At age five, I was subjecting one-year-old Russ to a demanding series of demi-plié, shouting "bend! bend!" all the while waving a large makeup brush at him. Pacifier-in-mouth, he obeyed and even delighted in the exercises.

Through years of my ballet training, Russ watched intently at the studio door, spontaneously leaping and turning in the waiting room. He was a natural dancer. But by the time Russ was old enough to register for classes, he had decided that "ballet is for girls." 

Much later, Russ was exposed again to ballet, this time through the thrilling teachings of former New York City Ballet dancer and Balanchine ballerina Heather Watts, who led a college course in Modernism through the lens of George Balanchine's work. He fell in love all over again, more so now that he had a deeper understanding of the art form's history and evolution. One of the high points of my life was standing at the barre side by side with my brother, now well over six feet tall, in an open ballet class at Alvin Ailey in New York City.

What a shame that society's perception of ballet made my brother feel excluded from its power and beauty for so many years! He might have become quite accomplished and enjoyed the tremendous benefits of a childhood in dance, as I had. 

We mustn't allow the stereotypical idea that "ballet is for girls" to endure. Too many men and boys are missing out on what could be a lifelong passion, if not a true calling. Let's expose our boys to the power and masculinity of ballet and encourage them to appreciate, if not engage in, the art form. 

Marin Rose, Artistic Chair, Board of Trustees