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April 18, 2006 > Men in tights

Men in tights

by Heidi Leung

Being a male ballet dancer is often looked down upon by others because of fears that have to do with feminine associations. However, some of the most respected individuals in history are male dancers. Rudolph Nureyev and Mikhail Baryshnikov added steps to ballet that have now become basics. Their dancing sold out huge opera houses. Mikhail Baryshnikov recently guest starred as Carrie Bradshaw's love interest in the final episodes of the popular HBO series "Sex and the City." George Balanchine is another name synonomous with the dance world. His choreography and womanizing have made him infamous.

As for the assumption that ballet is a woman's activity, most people don't realize that professional athletes considered the epitome of masculinity including football players, are often required to take ballet classes to increase flexibility, gain body control, and prevent injury. Symmetrical muscle strengthening is inherent in the ballet art form, allowing for the body to effectively manipulate any muscle desired. A common injury among football players is hamstring strain. This is caused by the imbalance in strength of the different hip muscles such as the hip flexors and hip extensors. All exercises done in a ballet class are done equally to the front, side, and back directions in order to maintain even muscle power.

Ballet is also a great alternative for those who are not fans of the gym. Because many people don't want to pay for a personal trainer on top of expensive membership fees, ballet classes offer the benefits of a coach along with full body cardio exercise. After just a few months of ballet classes, students will notice considerably more flexibility, providing they are doing the stretches and exercises correctly. Men develop exceptionally strong leg muscles from jumps among other dance moves exclusive to males. In addition to physical benefits, ballet is good for a developing mental prowess since ballet combinations require recall and memorization which is vital in school and academics.

Of course, the thought that still plagues a man's mind after all information is given is the thought of wearing the dreaded tights. Well, there is good news. Not all ballet schools require males to wear tights. Ballet Petit in Hayward is one of these schools. They offer an all male ballet class for concentration on men's technique and moves as well as a co-ed class. For those interested in performing, in addition to just taking classes, they need more men for their spring concert. The studio has been working on a new original piece for two years. Not only will you become a part of Ballet Petit history, you will be helping out an aspiring ballerina.

Ballet would be nearly impossible without male dancers to partner the women. As mentioned earlier, Peggy Peabody, the artistic director of Ballet Petit, promises that you will not need to wear tights in class or during performances! If you are interested, visit Ballet Petit's website at or call (510) 324-4988.

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