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Wednesday, December 07, 2005


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I needed to register to read that article, and when I tried to register it gave me an error message. So I haven't seen it.

My younger sister took ballet at a really snooty ballet school when she was a kid, with genuine Russian masters doing some of the teaching. Many of them were strict. Also, the ballet students were often horribly cruel to each other, and viciously competitive too. Plus there was a dynamic of whichever kid's parents gave the most money to the ballet company (and some of them could give money with scarily large numbers of digits) would get the best part. My sister kept on studying ballet for years, anyway. Her persistence at such a difficult ballet school meant that she got to dance in some really amazing things because of it. But the abuse from the other kids was horrid, and I think it negatively affected her life for years.

I wonder if everyone else has trouble accessing that article? I'm not asked to register but maybe I registered ages ago and my computer remembers it.
Valerie, the article is about a Russian teaching ballet to poor black children in South Africa. It emphasises the sense of dignity and purpose they've been given but also the physical pain they have to go through.

One of the frustrating things about ballet is that, in order to be really good, you DO have to suffer. I danced for years and so did my younger brother the Boy Wonder (who is most decidedly not gay, incidently, although extremely theatrical and earning good money for being so - a career path that ballet started him on). We have known many, many dancers over the years and the only ones to 'make it' are the ones who've been able to hack the incredibly gruelling, self-sacrifical nature of it.

Mind you, it needn't be gruelling for a long time, and it should never be gruelling for little ones - that's just cruel. (And if ballet becomes too gruelling there are always other dance options which are less so.)

As for the framing of the 'gay fears' - I agree it's pretty naff. However, South Africa is decades behind where we are in terms of understanding homosexuality and this would be a much bigger concern for them than it would be for us. I lived there for a while and was shocked by how homophobic it is, especially, but not exclusively, within the black community. And the whites are often very religious in a puritcanical kind of way which doesn't help. So that might be why they chose to frame the issue in such a way - those older men in the townships WOULD be very anxious about it.

An article on boys doing ballet here would definitely not take that approach because we have moved beyond thinking that way about male dancers.

There are some masterful male dancers in the Australian Ballet who I'm sure Olle will find terrific role models, if he keeps his dancing up. Good luck to him!

(And frankly, that teacher sounds like kind of a pain in the ass. Just because he's old and Russian doesn't mean his way is right!)

Why does every comment I make here turn into a freaking essay? Sigh. Sorry!

Jellyfish -- Me personally, I like your comments. Long ones are fine with me -- they are interesting to read.

Jellyfish, me too - I enjoyed reading every word of it.
At what stage does the gruelling bit begin?

I'm glad you don't mind!

It probably starts around age 11 - 12, that's when you'd be doing classes multiple times (3, 4 or more) a week. Around 14 you need to decide if you're going to get really serious and start sacrificing you time (and your parents' time!) to a greater degree ... or instead just cut back and make it an occasional thing/casual hobby. Hope that makes sense.

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