Male dancers have become more and more prominent in society over the past few years. With television shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance?, not to mention blockbuster hits like Step Up, the perception of the male dancer has been reborn. No longer is dance thought of as strictly a feminine art, but as a multi-faceted, strong and athletic art form that requires both a strong mind and body. Because of this, many men who are non-dancers have found that dancing, especially ballet, is a great way to increase strength and flexibility, and help them improve on and off the field.
To prepare for their 2007 season, The Ohio State University football team participated in a yoga class at BalletMet twice a week over the summer. Kirk Barton, an offensive lineman, said that the more flexible he is, the more powerful he can be on the field without risk of injury. “Flexibility is key, you never saw Gumby tear an ACL. Yoga also uses controlled breathing to maintain mental focus, which can be key under pressure,” Kirk said. OSU football coach, Jim Tressel, even took a few fitness classes at BalletMet!
Ohio State isn’t unique in this idea -- the Cleveland Browns players and the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver, Lynn Swann, are known for their cross training in ballet. They found it gave them more flexibility in their hips and even helped prevent injury! Swann took tap, ballet, and jazz classes as a young man and also while in college. He attributes his athletic skill to the strength he built in dance. "Certain dance movements are fundamental to the movements you need to make in sports. A basketball player can't jump without doing a plie. It may not be graceful and deep with your feet turned out, but it's the same thing,” Swann said (Dance Magazine, Jan. 2004)
But what about male ballet dancers? What sparked their interest in dance at a young age? We asked a few male BalletMet dancers why they began dancing. David Tlaiye, a BalletMet dancer of five years, began dancing when he was 11 years old. “I began dancing because my sister danced and I had to wait for her in the waiting room, leaving me with nothing to do. So I started dancing because I was bored,” David said. He improved at a fast pace, which allowed him to move up into more advanced classes. David was convinced to keep dancing once he realized the advantage of being around ladies all the time.
Jimmy Orrante, a BalletMet dancer of fifteen years, began dancing when he was in high school. “I began dancing to meet girls,” Jimmy said. In fact, Jimmy’s ties to dance led him to his future wife! Former BalletMet dancer and wife of Jimmy, Sonia Welker Orrante, met Jimmy at a BalletMet Summer Intensive Program. BalletMet Academy dancer, Chris Evans, began dancing at age 4 and has studied in the pre-professional program at BalletMet for three years. Read more about Chris’ experience in our post about “How To Become A Professional Dancer". In the future, Chris hopes to dance for a ballet company abroad.