Breaking the stigma

Young boys fail to take up ballet dancing. Pic: tibbygirl

Young boys fail to take up ballet dancing. Pic: tibbygirl

Ballet dancing has traditionally been portrayed as a feminine activity. But has the stigma changed over the years? One Croydon dance studio head certainly believes it has. .

With a very small percentage of young boys opting for dancing shoes instead of football boots in the past, Jane Byrnes, director of JJ dance studios in Croydon argues that TV programmes and films have had a big influence.

She and her husband John Byrnes, who is a professional dancer on the BBC-1 series Strictly Come Dancing, say that musicals such as Billy Elliot and television programmes like Strictly are changing attitudes.

Jane told  Eastlondonlines:  “It is difficult for a young boy to admit to his friends that he would like to take up ballet. But since Billy Elliot and Strictly, boys are less embarrassed. Latin dancing for example has a lot of boys signing up to dance classes. But there was only one boy in the ballet class last year and none this year.”

The film Billy Elliot came out in 2000, followed by the musical, and since then the number of male classical dancers has vastly increased, but it still remains low, particularly in less affluent communities of South London. Many have tried to challenge this reality, like world-renowned soloist Eric Underwood from The Royal Ballet who came to south London with one mission in mind: persuading young boys to give classical dancing a go.

After admitting he had ‘accidentally ended up in a dance class’ Eric Underwood told the Gazette “I want to make being a ballet dancer as popular as being a soccer player, and that’s all about having role models you can relate to.’”


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