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Ballet isn’t just for women

There is one fact of dancing life in the United States that may surprise many people. Although ballet is exciting and romantic for the audience, it is just about the toughest job on earth for the dancers.People don’t have to be heavyweight champions or swim the English Channel to be ballet dancers, but they must train as hard as any athlete in any sport. They also have to be more fit than a lumberjack or a star football player. Yet some people still think that ballet is just pretty entertainment.Some even think it an odd profession for a man. However, most Europeans consider it natural for a man to dance. And they are right.Professional male dancers must train every day of their dancing lives. Their all-important daily classes start in the morning and last about two hours, followed by several hours of rehearsals. The afternoon consists of a couple hours at the gym. Weight training is an absolutely vital part of their training. Evening classes will add pas de deux training (dancing with a partner), which requires extensive lifting. This is generally followed by a couple more hours of rehearsal.The history of dancing for men goes back some 400 years ago, when Italian men gave dance performances to celebrate battles. These were combinations of dance, song and spectacle and were soon being given in many European courts. Courtiers (who were men) would take part in them, looking splendid in their best clothes, as they formed fine patterns on the floor of a spacious room or hall.Men started the first dance schools and dance companies. It was in the court of Louis XIV, king of France in the mid-17th century, that these performances became the first real ballets. The king himself was a fine dancer, although he got too fat to show himself off in public. However, he saw to it that there was real dance training for the paid dancers, who would soon be taking over for the noblemen.Ballet flourished even more so in the 18th century, although there were still no female dancers. The male dancer played all parts. Subsequently a great reformer, Jean Noverre, “the grandfather of ballet,” replaced the collection of dances which then made up a ballet with a combination of dramatics and dance which formed the basis for the modern ballet. In 1820, male dancers began to dance on pointe. They soon allowed women this “pleasure” and the romantic ballet was created.It is a myth that the dance world is only for women. Although it is true that there are more females than males that audition for placement in today’s dance companies, mostly men are the directors, choreographers, designers and stage hands.Because of the lack of male dancers in our area, the Danse Arts Theatre Company has hired a professional male dancer from the Anchorage Classical Ballet Company to perform with our dancers in our Dec. 2 and Dec. 4 performances at Glenwood Springs High School. The company will perform its “Christmas Spectacular” with the Symphony in the Valley. This is a great opportunity for our community to experience the beauty of a live orchestra playing some excerpts from “The Nutcracker” as well as some traditional Christmas music, and at the same time see how music is interpreted by our dancers.DeAnna Anderson is co-owner of Glenwood Dance Academy and artistic director of the Danse Arts Theatre Company.


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