Milwaukee Ballet pushes back against stereotypes about male dancers

Milwaukee Ballet pushes back against stereotypes about male dancers

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Lara Spencer from “Good Morning America” recently made a comment about Prince George of Cambridge for taking ballet lessons that created an uproar of criticism both from the general public and the dance community.

“Prince Willam says, ‘George absolutely loves ballet,’” said Spencer. “I have news for you Prince William. We will see how long that lasts.”

In response, the Milwaukee Ballet has taken a stance to speak against the negative stereotypes male dancers face in ballet by providing a free dance class for young boys. Parker Brasser-Vos, an artist and instructor at Milwaukee Ballet, says they are combating the negativity with excellence in the art form. 

“I think it’s been a positive reaction, not to the comment but to male ballet dancing in general,” Brasser-Vos said.  “I feel the only way to come against criticism and critic and negativity is with positivity and creative energy.”    

Parker Brasser-Vos instructing a boys class| Courtesy of Jennifer Mazza 

The Milwaukee Ballet offers weekly classes for boy ballet dancers. One on Thursday for students with experience and one on Saturday for beginners. New families are encouraged and welcomed to try one class at either level for free. 

Male dancers who have an interest or participate in ballet often are targeted with bullying. These dance classes aim to dismantle negative notions and ignite a passion for dancing.

“When I teach the boys’ class on Saturday, what I tell them,  I say ‘look at the characters,’” said Brasser-Vos. “Our artistic director, Michael Pink, creates these wonderful ballets. We have ‘Dracula,’ we have ‘Peter Pan.’ ‘Well, you know, one day you guys work hard enough that could be you.’”   

It’s unclear why there’s an influx of negative perceptions that surround male dancers. It could be because of the association of gender norms and seeing it as feminine. Some might not even see athleticism in the craft. There also might be some underlying homophobia and misogyny at play in these positions.

However, those attitudes haven’t stopped young boys from becoming dancers. Brasser-Vos says within the past two years the number of male dancers has doubled within Milwaukee ballet. 

“When we started the class, we had six, about six or seven boys, varying around there,” said Brasser-Vos. “Now, we are in the 13, 14, 15 range and more if you count the boys who are older and going into the higher levels of the school.” 

Young boys and girls should have the power to chose what their hobbies are without the influence of what is and what isn’t. That’s what the free class is about, to spark some interest and let young boys be. Check out Milwaukee Ballet to arrange a free trial.

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