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Move over tutus, it’s time for (gentlemen in) tights

Celebrating the male form in ballet.


Published: 11 Oct 2018

Time taken : >15mins

Celebrating the male form in ballet

Harems, swans, sylphs and spirits. In ballet, these are all traditionally performed by women. When it comes to the classical form, our gaze, especially to the untrained eye, tends to turn towards the ballerinas, their dazzling costumes, or the number of fouettés they can do.

From doyennes like Sylvie Guillem and Tamara Rojo, to the stereotype-defying Misty Copeland, the superstars of this dance world are, let’s face it, the girls. Even George Balanchine famously said, “Ballet is woman,” (although it could also be read as man’s idea of woman). That said, in this female-dominated field, what then is it like to be a male ballet dancer?

There is a scene from Billy Elliot (2000) where the titular character’s father tells him, “No, not for lads, Billy. Lads do football... or boxing... or wrestling. Not friggin' ballet.” According to a recent survey conducted in the US, nearly 95% of male ballet dancers said that they have at some point been physically or verbally abused because of dance. For most, their dads were also their biggest obstacle.

In Scott K. Gromley’s 2018 documentary, Danseur, the director examines the challenges and social stigmas of being a male dancer. The film follows 19 male dancers from ballet companies all over the US. American Ballet Theatre’s James Whiteside (who performed at Esplanade in March 2018) is one of the people featured in it.

Even though Danseur has been on a limited run in selected countries, it has generated quite a bit of positive social media buzz. What this indicates is that people are thinking about it and attitudes toward sexism and gender stereotypes in ballet are slowly shifting, whether it is companies working with more female choreographers such as Crystal Pite (whose work The Statement was performed by Nederlands Dans Theater at da:ns festival 2018, and The Seasons' Canon will be performed by Paris Opera Ballet as part of da:ns series 2019), or people’s perceptions of male ballet dancers.

As we think about these issues, we turn our attention to the male form, because it too deserves to be celebrated. Here are some picture-perfect poses of principal dancers from some of the top ballet companies in the world, who performed here in Oct 2018 as part of da:ns festival's ballet gala.

We love how these images capture the quiet tenacity, mettle, and sometimes unspoken pillar of strength these men are to their female counterparts.

Igor Kolb Mariinsky Ballet Theatre

We call him The Sculptor

Look at all that muscle and form. You can’t really go wrong with anything that comes from this Russian ballet company, and Igor is one of its most acclaimed principals whose technical brilliance will take your breath away.

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M.o.l.e.c.u.l.e.s. #igorkolb @openartagency @vadimstein #игорьколб #photographer #photography #balletclass #balletphoto #dance #jump #arabesque #art @mariinsky #dancer #principal #feet #balletfeets #lifestyle #male_dancers #nude #life #lifeisgood #toronto #spring2018 #DDD #bodypositive #body #balletdancer #portrait #itsmylife #itsskin @rufskin

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Taras Domitro Formerly with San Francisco Ballet

We call him The High-flyer

It’s absolutely thrilling to see a man execute a split in mid-air. Celebrated for his pyrotechnical jumps and slow pirouettes, the former principal dancer of San Francisco Ballet left the company in 2017 to strike out on his own together with professional dance partner, Adiarys Almeida. The two have been called “the power (freelance) couple” and will perform two duets at da:ns festival.

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Photo by @zachographie #iamzarely #zarely @zarelywear #maledancer #split #jump #toma #worldwideballet

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Piotr Stanczyk National Ballet of Canada

We call him The Actor

Known for his emotional depth, Piotr is a popular choice for darker roles due to his strong features. The Polish dancer has been praised for his “exceptional comic and dramatic talent” (National Post).

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#TheWintersTaleNBC opening night cast features @piotrnboc as Leontes, @hannahfischer94 as Hermione, @jillianvanstone as Perdita, @naoyaebe as Florizel, @h.j.kiwi as Polixenes and Xiao Nan You as Paulina. See them onstage November 10, 15 at 7:30 pm and 18 at 2 pm. 📷 by @karolinakuras

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Yonah Acosta Bayerisches Staatsballett

We call him The Acrobat

Another dancer known for his dramatic jumps, Yonah also belongs in another power couple pairing with Laurretta Summerscales, whom he recently married and will be performing alongside at da:ns festival. He’s the nephew of iconic Cuban ballet dancer, Carlos Acosta, who has been compared to Mikhail Baryshnikov. Yonah moved from Cuba to the UK in 2011, joining English National Ballet under the direction of Tamara Rojo.

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I can't wait to have my debut with the @stuttgarterballett_fanpage and the wonderful @elisa.badenes see you there tomorrow!!😗👍

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Happen new year everybody. I hope that you guys have a wonderful day today!! Here is a picture of #spartacus #show on the 7th of #jenuary with @laurretta.s really exciting for that!! See you soon.🍻

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Yonah lifting up his wife, fellow principal dancer Laurretta Summerscales, with one hand.

Vito Mazzeo Dutch National Ballet

We call him Vito long legs

Standing at a towering 1.92m, the suave and lanky Vito Mazzeo is above the average height of male ballet dancers. On stage, that translates to more dramatic lines and elegance owing to his long limbs.

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We are ready! 15 minutes to curtain up! @nationaleoperaballet at the @danceopen #hetnationaleballet #saintpetersburg #danceopen #hnbontour #vitomazzeo #saintpetersburg #russia #instaballet Pic by @jack.devant Moving Rooms by @pastorkrzysztof

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More on Vito

Lasha Khozashvili Boston Ballet

We call him The Pirate Pirouetter

Described as “gorgeous with youth, charm and spontaneity” (Los Angeles Times) with an “unpretentious air of the boy next door” (Boston Globe), Lasha has been praised for his boldness and athleticism, especially in the bravura parts.

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Congratulations to our #BBTreasureHunt grand prize winner Timothy D! We were so impressed with everyone's hunting skills that we're giving all participants who submitted 5 photos a free poster. Contact press@bostonballet.org to claim your prizes. Thank you all for participating! #BostonBallet 📷: Sabi Varga and Lasha Khozashvili

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