I am without a doubt quite biased, but I have such a soft spot in my heart for boy ballet dancers.
Spending time backstage in the 'boys room' as I have and do these days, I look from face to face of those sweet boys and young men and marvel at their stories. In a culture where those boys are very much in the minority amongst the tutus and tiaras, I am fascinated by the ways in which each of them find their way to dance. For some, bored with waiting for their older sisters in classes, they join in...for others, a gentle nudge from parents who spy a certain kind of energy in their little one ...and for many, their journey to the ballet studio was led by something deep within their hearts. Something in the dance that spoke to them strongly enough so that despite many odds against them or obstacles that some of them find along the way, they find their way there to the dance studio.
And there, they dance. In classes where more often than not they are the only boy amongst the girls, and the cultural ribbing they hear (outside of the studio) on the baseball sidelines or school hallways is irritating, if not downright awful and bullying...they dance and pay little attention to all of that fuss around them. In the kitchen, in the studio, in the wings waiting to go on stage. Dance, dance, dance.
These are the things I think about as I'm waiting and knitting in the dressing room, while a gaggle of pre-teen and teenage boys play card games, tell jokes, wrestle and then stop it all to don their black tights and ballet slippers, apply makeup and head out onto the stage. These are the questions I can't stop myself from asking them about as I safety-pin a falling costume piece on, or ask them to close their eyes just so for the eyeshadow they begrudgingly wear.
This Nutcracker year, at their studio, there's been a bit of a generational shift, as several talented young men fill some mighty big ballet slippers. They do it well, and I am deeply moved and inspired to see them dance. But even more inspired, is the room full of younger boys (mine included) watching closely, practicing their pirouettes anywhere and everywhere they can, loving every second of stage time they get, and dreaming with starry eyes of someday being...the prince.
(*with a reminiscent nod to this post. Adelaide - while a very happy student of modern dance these days - never lets an opportunity go by to remind those ballet boys of hers that she was the first one in the Nutcracker. 'Tis true.)