Ballet for Boys: A class that breaks down the stereotypes

We talk to London Children's Ballet about its new programme to encourage boys into ballet and get an expert view on breaking outdated views

Ballet for Boys: Breaking the stereotypes

In a time when we are encouraging a ‘girls can be or do anything’ attitude, we need to be mindful of saying ‘boys can do and be anything’ too. As we raise our children to dismiss outdated gender stereotyped fashions, careers and lifestyle choices – we also need to nurture the idea that ‘kids can do anything’ they put their minds to, by instilling confidence, belief and a sense of self worth.

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Take dance for example, TV shows like ‘Strictly Come Dancing’ and ‘Dancing on Ice’ have proved that dancing is not just for girls and, one area where performance arts really needs boys is ballet. (source: London’s Children’s Ballet). Or, more specifically narrative ballet need boys.

Ballet for Boys: Breaking the stereotypes
Ballet for Boys: Breaking the stereotypes

The London Children’s Ballet say that all too often boys drop out simply because they find themselves alone in a room full of girls and think ‘maybe not’.  LCB explain that they struggle to attract or retain boys so have developed a ‘Ballet for Boys’ programme to complement each boy’s regular ballet classes and to inspire them to continue with ballet. As participants continue with their regular ballet classes, the Ballet for Boys programme aims to enrich and enhance their weekly training.

It's rare to have more than one boy in a ballet class of 30. Forming this large male-only group showed them that they're not alone
Neil Westmoreland, former Ballet for Boys teacher

Ballet for Boys is a specialist programme for boys aged 9-16, which enables boys to train in an all-male environment, giving them the opportunity to study with other boys who share their love of dance, led by an inspiring professional male dancer. In 2020 the classes will be led by James Lovell. James graduated a year early from Elmhurst Ballet School to make his debut with New Adventures in Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake 2018/19 tour as The Prince. James is also an LCB Alumni dancing in Nanny McPhee 2014, Snow White 2015 and Little Lord Fauntleroy 2016. James has amazing energy and is an inspiring teacher.

Ballet for Boys: Breaking the stereotypes

>>  Ballet for Boys classes take place on Sundays from March to May 2020 (applications are open now) and is an 8-week programme for boy dancers of all levels. They also accept referrals from all ballet schools as well as self-referrals. Ballet for Boys is located at Westminster Kingsway College, King’s Cross Centre, 211 Gray’s Inn Road, London WC1X 8RA. For more information please visit: London Children’s Ballet

Ballet for Boys: Breaking the stereotypes

The Expert View on Ballet for Boys

We spoke to ANDREW McNICOL, Choreographer for Anne of Green Gables.  A Royal Ballet School trained, freelance choreographer, he has been noted as ‘a rising star’ BBC News ‘musical and fully engaged’ Jann Parry ‘really someone to watch’ Sir Peter Wright. 

Top Tips for boys who wish to dance initially…

Go for it… I dare you… you never know, you might just enjoy it…

… then how to best progress their careers as their talent takes off.

Surround yourself with teachers, mentors, peers who truly want to best for you. Question, explore, stay open and verify – do not blindly follow. I found it extremely valuable to have a range of teachers/ideas/philosophies that I could draw on and use as a reference point to build my own ideas, values and vision.  Ask for what you want – its a short career but, if your clear ask for the support, help and guidance you need to make your dream come true -you might just get it!

How are boys in 2020 smashing the typical ballet stereotype?  

Dance and Ballet in particular is more popular now than ever before. More widely society is beginning to appreciate  the olympic strength, intelligence, resilience and sheer devotion it takes to be a dancer, boys who dance already know this but this support, acknowledgement and understanding at a young age might just plant a seed for a lifetime.

How can boys maintain their initial inspiration to explore ballet?

Go to the theatre – beg, borrow, steal a ticket to watch it live! Once you have the ballet bug, it’s there, surround yourself by fantastic teachers, mentors and other people who love what you do and who lift you up.

Tell us about your experience with ballet

My parents gave me tremendous support to follow my curiosity, love, and obsession with dance even though its not a world they knew. I believed early on that it was important to have a range of influences. Throughout my training I was able to experience many different styles and teaching philosophies. I am a product of that mix. Dance/ ballet/the arts are really a whole world to me. I’ve met incredible people, traveled the world, learn some tough life lessons but I can honestly say it has transformed and enriched my life beyond anything I could have imagined for myself an,  I know for sure it has the power to do that for other too!


We also spoke to RUTH BRILL, Artistic Director of London Children’s Ballet (she retired Summer 2019), Ballerina of Birmingham Royal Ballet

How can boys get into dance initially?

You don’t need much to get started! Just space, music and an open mind to give it a go. Go along with some friends so you feel confident in trying something new together. Classes will be available locally. Some dance schools have a set uniform, but all you really need is comfortable clothes that you can move in and a pair of ballet shoes so you can turn and jump.

How to best progress their careers as their talent takes off?

  1. Make sure you find a good dance teacher that will nurture and encourage you. It’s also important that you can trust them.
  2. Audition for associate programme classes (such as LCB Ballet For Boys) in big cities like London. As there is often a higher standard and you’ll meet new people.
  3. The LCB Ballet for Boys course enables boys to train in an all-male environment and focus on the technique unique to male dancers. It gives boys, whatever their level, the chance to be taught together and build their confidence. It is a chance for boys to study with other boys who share their love of dance.
  4. Get as much performance experience as possible, there are youth companies (such as LCB) that give you opportunities to become part of a company and perform to live music on famous stages.

How are boys in 2020 smashing the typical ballet stereotype?

Boys in ballet are now recognised as both athletes and artists. Male dancers in particular need incredible strength to jump, turn and lift. At the moment dancers are more powerful than ever! Defying gravity in their jumps and breaking hearts in their storytelling.  Dancers have to be both physically and mentally strong. Studying ballet develops mental focus, determination, dedication and discipline. This is why ballet technique is the basis of many other dance styles. There is a lot of overlap between dance genres and collaborations at the moment, pushing ballet forward in new and exciting ways, for new audiences. It’s a world that always respects the heritage and the past, but must also push forwards and be brave to explore new possibilities.

Ballet is an invigorating way to express yourself. It’s a great opportunity to move to music you like and inspire your imagination. It gives you a sense of rhythm and builds awareness of your body. Find your own style. Ballet needs boys. There are some amazing role models for male dancers in 2020.

How can boys maintain their initial inspiration to explore ballet?

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Surround themselves with people that support and encourage them and, going to see different performances and learn from dancers that inspire you. The ballet world is full of fun, dynamic, open minded and interesting people from many different backgrounds. I find that really inspiring. They need to remember to keep perspective and not be too hard on themselves, by holding onto their friends and remembering to enjoy it!

>> For more information please visit: London Children’s Ballet