When you ask him about sports, he’ll raise his blue eyes to mine and press his lips together. I’ll nod to assure him it’s safe, he’s okay, this isn’t the school lunch table where the kids can taunt.

“I dance,” he’ll say. “Ballet. This year I’m doing hip hop and tap and jazz, too, but ballet is my favorite.”

Try as you might, progressive thinker that you are, modern and open-minded for all the decades you carry, your eyebrows will move up a quarter of an inch.

Oh!” You’ll tilt your head and hopefully you’ll smile. For a heartbeat you’ll spin through a lexicon of words and phrases, seeking the correct positive acknowledgment.

And I’ll hold my breath as your eyes meet mine over his shaggy blonde head of hair, a wordless prayer as we wait for the moment of reaction. What does one say to a seven year old boy who is built for carrying a football but wears ballet shoes?

Boy Ballet

Will you be the one who nods, intrigued, silently assuming his parents must be dancers, or that we’ve exploited our child in an attempt at our own anti-sexism statement?

Or perhaps you’ll be the one who asks incredulously what his dad thinks of him doing ballet, because what dad would be okay with a son who dances?

Maybe you’re the family friend who repeatedly assures him it’s acceptable to enjoy ballet – after all, NFL players have been known to take a few ballet lessons it will be valuable when he plays real sports in a few years.

What if you’re the man who scoffs in the face of my little boy’s uncle, declaring loudly that you would “beat that boy’s ass” to cure him of whatever it is that makes him want to dance?

You could be the distant relative who eyes him curiously at gatherings, making frequent mention of the need for masculinity and “boyish” pursuits, taking care he doesn’t accidentally grab the pink piece of cake because, “What are you, a girl?!” followed by a quick inhale and, “So Troy, are you still doing that ballet thing? How’s that working for you? You have any girlfriends there yet?

You might even be the one who glances over your shoulder, catching my eye knowingly, suggesting in veiled terms that we be “concerned” about our seven year old’s sexuality.

So I catch your eye when you ask him about baseball and soccer, not because I don’t want you to be interested or I’m expecting your reaction to be as nonchalant as if he had said he’s the star of the peewee basketball team. I bore my eyes into yours, conveying with a look my son’s intuitive nature and telling you with silence that I’m not going to answer those questions.

Instead, I’ll tell you about a baby boy who felt music in his soul before he could crawl, grooving to the beat of push-button toys in the church nursery and spawning jokes about his young parents’ need to curb the tendency if he was to become a “good Baptist baby.”

I’ll tell you about a toddler spinning on his head on the living room carpet, the grocery store linoleum, the church foyer tile, eliciting amused comments from strangers about his wannabe break dancing. I’ll tell you of his unquenchable need to move in the presence of rhythm and an obvious inborn ability to feel music.

I’ll revisit the memory of him bounding in the front door on a December afternoon, tossing his kindergarten backpack and, wild eyed, telling us of the music class in which people leaped and twirled to music, strong men jumped high in the air, danced on their toes and lifted ballerinas across the stage. He wore black sweat pants and a white undershirt every day of Christmas break that year, asked Santa for black ballet shoes, watched dozens of online videos of boys’ ballet techniques and by Christmas day had memorized every note and crescendo of the entire Nutcracker Suite.

I’ll laugh and sigh and tell you of his own carefully choreographed dances to specific pieces by Beethoven, Taylor Swift and Mumford & Sons.

I can show you a clip from his first recital, when he was awarded an unsolicited, unexpected dance scholarship and hadn’t a clue what it meant as he smiled and accepted the sheet of paper. I’ll try to keep from beaming, as parents do, and will refrain from repeating every accolade and declaration of talent his instructors have bestowed upon him.

I’ll tell you of the way he glows after a six hour practice, the finesse with which he glides across the floor, the way his very soul leaps from his eyes when he manages a toe touch or perfects a difficult series of steps. I’ll show you a boy who carries himself with grace in manner and spirit, who is strong in character and skill, who is learning of compassion and team effort and how to appreciate the brilliance of life’s beauty.

When you ask my dancing son about this passion he carries and you catch my eye, slightly uncertain how to proceed, I won’t try to convince you this was all his idea or give ten examples of his father’s unwavering pride or waste breath assuring you that my second grader isn’t gay.

I’ll simply tell you what he said to us after his first Nutcracker performance last winter:

Mama, it feels like my heart is flying when I’m dancing. I think God made ballet because he knew I’d love it.”

Boy Ballet

346 comments

  1. This is sweet. This is a child with depth of character that will hopefully translate into a lifetime of non-conforming to what is “expected” of him by peers, society, culture. May he always dance to the beat of his own drum because and find his own path. Why are we so square? My son likes to do gymnastics and people keep insisting I put him in karate class. But he loves his gymnastics class and I love watching him love it. Good job encouraging him, momma.

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    • MargieR

      If there were no boys in dancing or figure skating, we wouldn’t have breath-taking lifts and spins. We would just have girls skating around the rink, day after day or practicing their bar work knowing that no matter how good they are at it, on one will watch because it is BORING. My daughter was a national competitor in Ice-dancing. The boys at her rink are still her friends 6 years later. Boys in those sports, mostly, learn that girls are also people and they treat them as equals.

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      • angel

        My son is also built for football but has figure skated since he was 3. He loves loves it. He has also taken ballet :]

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      • Yo

        If there were no boys in dancing or figure skating, the girls would manage just fine. Girls can be strong too; ever seen the kinds of things cheerleaders can do?

        I’m not saying boys shouldn’t be welcomed in sports like this, and it’s wonderful that the boys on your daughter’s team learned to be respectful towards girls. But I completely disagree that boys are NEEDED to have a good show.

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        • Amber

          Girls Rule!, If the Japanese can replace all the female roles with crossing dressing men we can replace all the boys roles with cross dressing girls! Just Kidding my son dances, and I think it’s just great. He also does theater, picks flowers for the girls everyday before school, and doesn’t mind babysitting and feeding a doll every once in a while for a friend girl at school. Luckily other countries don’t prioritize the arts to certain genders so places like Russia, and France will be pumping out new Nutcracker Princes and Rat Kings Every year. Thanks for the article Asleigh I think our sons were cut from the same silky cloth.

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        • Elaine

          Tears came to my eyes because my son who is 7 now does ballet since he was 4 and my son too loves ballet more than anything else in the whole world. Anyone seeing him dancing thinks he was born to dance , music is in his bones ,he can’t keep himself to the ground at the sound of a piece of music. Once a girl told my son that ballet is not for boys and he answered that all ballerinas princesses would love to have a prince to dance at their side and I was so glad he answered back in such a sweet but determined way. I’m so happy to know that other mothers do encourage their boys for dancing,thank you .

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        • Gmanthebob

          Boys definitely aren’t NEEDED to have a good show, but typically it’s nice presentation wise to have them in there. Girls CAN be strong, but statistacally speaking, boys are general stronger than girls. In things such as ballet, girls and boys develop different types of strength because they need it for different things. In cheerleading all the guys do the heavy lifting whereas it’s usually more girls to lift the same weight simply because they’re made differently with “different strengths”. (I went to a school with a bunch of male cheerleaders and also tried out for cheerleading).

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    • Karen

      Gaby, my son is a gymnast as well. He has been flipping off of things since he could walk and is one of those kids who just has to be moving all of the time. He has tried other sports but gymnastics is what he loves. I am happy and proud that he’s found the thing that inspires him, the thing that he loves and excels at. While my daughter was cheering for the school football game, one of the football players (who is the same age as my son) saw him do a back flip and said, “you should be one of the cheerleaders”. I smiles and said, “you have no idea how hard it is to do that move. He practices far more than you do in football and is solid muscle.” Which is true. The looked changed pretty quickly to one of appreciation. I agree, keep up the encouragement!!!

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      • Sarah

        And of course there is nothing wrong with cheerleading and many cheerleading teams, especially the ones that compete practice as much or more than many football teams I know of. Cheering can be a great places to use those gymnastic skills and high school and college squads are always in need of male cheerleaders for lifts and such and to have one that could do all the serious tumbling that will score the big points in comps would be awesome!

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  2. Carmen

    I am so honoured to be the first to comment on this post because this is beautiful. If your son was older, I’d ask you to tell him that I am jealous of his passion….I so envy people who have found one of their “things.” And so early!

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  3. Corey

    This is lovely- so many people waste so much time doing what is expected and not what they love. You are an amazing mother, as is evidenced in your boys ability to hear what their heart is telling them.

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  4. ashleigh, this is glorious, and i am a puddle of tears. you’re a good mama, and what a treasure you have in that little man.

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    • Deanna

      I agree! This was simply touching and fantastic! Dance away, sweet boy, dance away!!

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  5. Gosh that is so lovely. So glad he has you for a mama and you have him for a son. Have you ever seen Billy Elliot? One of my all-time favorites, and it always made me secretly wish for a son just like yours. :) It’s so neat to see where kid’s interests will take them if we give them the freedom to be who they are. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. Katie

    Oh my word. This just made me cry… What a dear boy. And how blessed to have something he loves so much, and a mama and daddy who are thrilled to see their child pursue a thing he loves.
    Our little ones are so smart.

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  7. He’s not in ballet so that he will be the most popular at the dance school? ;) we are always lacking in boys…my 6 year old will take a tap class this semester…and then, who knows?

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  8. Mess of tears over here. What a mama. What a boy. Also please don’t stop “repeating every accolade and declaration of talent his instructors have bestowed upon him.” I WANT TO KNOW THESE THINGS because this kid is headed somewhere, I just know it.

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  9. Oh, Ashleigh, that’s amazing! What a gift he has!! I hate that you had to write this post, but I love that you did it. What a gift YOU are to your talented son.

    One of my very favorite shows ever is So You Think You Can Dance, so it doesn’t seem strange to me for a boy to dance. But when I think about the small town I grew up in…or the in-laws I see at holidays…I can only imagine what you’ve already faced on your son’s behalf.

    If only we could all discover what makes our heart fly at such a young age. Thank you for sharing that here.

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  10. Tina Singer

    This is beautiful in meaning and beautifully written. I cried when I read it then cried again when I realized who wrote it. Absolutely beautiful! Anyone who sees Troy dance would see the passion and love in his eyes, heart and soul. I’m blessed to have seen him perform and he is blessed to have you as his mother.

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  11. I love this so very very much.

    Seriously. Crying.

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  12. Heatherly

    <3 <3 <3

    As a former dancer, my heart leaps when I see young men who are allowed by their parents to learn this amazing art. The art world needs men that are strong in spirit and character. <3 <3 <3

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  13. Ed

    I think of all the kids who play sports because they feel like they “have to” and then your son who has already found something that he deeply loves at such a young age, and I’m in awe at the gift that he possesses. Thank you for sharing this.

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  14. Kreine

    I’d love to meet you & your son! I probably wouldn’t even ask specifically about “sports,” just, “What do you do for fun?” or “What kinds of things to you enjoy?” And when I found out he dances, my eyes would light up and I’d say, “That’s fantastic! I grew up in a family where dancing wasn’t allowed, but I always wanted to take ballet. And my son would love to take dance lessons, but we can’t afford them. Maybe you could teach him some choreography?”

    And in my mind’s eye, our boys would spend hours working out steps and leaps, while you tell me how incredibly gifted your little guy is, and we share some camaraderie in being mamas of boys who’d rather move to their own beat than play football.

    It’s truly a thing of beauty when someone has found their passion and has the opportunity to follow it.

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    • Shannon Gombar

      Hi there…I was touched by your answer to this beautiful piece. Please contact your local dance studios. I own a studio and would never, ever turn away a young child (boy or girl) who desperately wanted to dance but whose parents couldn’t afford it. The ones who teach because they love it will welcome you with open arms and you will know you are in the right place for now. Offer to sew costumes, clean floors, make meals etc. for the studio owner. I have so many families on contra so their children can dance. I hope you can fulfill your son’s dreams!

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      • AMC

        And you know – growing up I wanted to dance – but wasn’t allowed to. I now have 3 boys who dance (and 2 girls who dance) – who may never have started dancing without kindhearted owners like yourself who made allowances for my situation. My wife and I love watching our children dance – they just make us smile from ear to ear when we watch them dance. I am smiling now thinking about the enjoyment we’ll get waiting for their upcoming season.

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    • CwK2809

      Yes, what Shannon said! Contact your local studios! My parents couldn’t afford dance classes either but I remember my family and a few others meeting each week to clean the studios in exchange for lessons. I’m now a professional ballet dancer and that wouldn’t have happened if that first studio hadn’t agreed to teach me for free. Please look into it! AND many boys take for free (or highly discounted) simply because there aren’t enough of them who want to dance! I can’t tell you how many male dancers I know who say “I wouldn’t have done it if it wasn’t free!” The best student a teacher can ask for is one who wants to be there! :)

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  15. Dare to be different… Wow. I’m so glad you’re an open-minded mom. And it’s so neat to hear about a boy that is truly masculine. He’s strong enough to be unique. :)

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  16. Tanya

    You guys are amazing parents for letting your son fulfill his dreams. Way to go!!! ~ because you so easily could not have let him do it. Bless you all.

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  17. Krista

    Ashleigh, I’m a mess of tear at my desk. You’ve touched my heart in so many ways. May parents — and anyone who purports to love children – embrace the wisdom you’ve shared here. (and not for nothing, clearly writing is your gift, as dance is your son’s.)

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  18. Marin D

    Too bad people are like that. I’d smile and ask him what his favorite part of dancing is. Dancing and theatre are very old traditions. We had them long before Rambo and football.

    We have two girls. That is all we will have. Due to some health problems, we chose for me to get a tubal ligation during my c-section with daughter two. It irritates me to no end when people look at my husband and ask him when we are going to try for a boy. Why? My girls aren’t good enough? They can’t play sports? Run with the wind? Wrestle with each other? With their dad? Fix cars? Newsflash! I was one of four girls and we did just as many “boy” things as we did “girl” things. My oldest sister was always a major tomboy. She has five kids. We all played soccer. Had burping contests. Went to college. Were taught we could do anything that we wanted to. So it really makes me mad when they think my girls can’t be just as fulfilling for my husband.

    I also believe that every little boy should have some baby dolls. They should have a play kitchen and play food (aren’t most of the big chefs, men? And yet a woman’s place is in the kitchen?). They should learn how to be a good dad and husband. Kudos to you for letting your son do what feels right for him!

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  19. Melinda

    What would I say if I met your boy and heard about his dancing pursuits? I’d say, “AWESOME! I always wanted to do ballet….I wanna see what you can do! Show me?!” And it’d be the truth. I only wish more people could do that for him. Nothin’ effeminate about it. Look at the Hispanics, the Asians, the Russians. It’s only our Americanized idea of masculinity that decries the male dancer.

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  20. Thank you for this. It was a blessing to read. My son is 4 and feels music as well. He dances everywhere he goes and I’ve had a number of raised eyebrows shot at me. I wonder if this is where we will be in a few years? :)

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  21. It is a cruel world that casts judgement on your son while applauding my youngest daughter for leaving gymnastics to join the boys in racing BMX.
    I hope that the Christian community surrounding our children will grow closer to God’s view of His children as they get older.

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  22. Jlunardo

    I love this and am going to share this post on my dance studio Facebook page.

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  23. I have a friend who was the boy who danced ballet. He grew up. To dance professionally in New York City. I hope your son enjoys dancing for a long time and builds a future full of such joy (dancing or otherwise).

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  24. Yeah, I don’t know what it is about ballet. I mean, if a kid says he dances country or hip hop or classical, no one bats an eye about it. Some even realize that, for better or worse, he’ll be really attractive to girls when he grows up. Some will probably be jealous.

    I really don’t get what it is about ballet. It’s not the coordination or focus on skill. Maybe the tight pants? But still, that’s just weird for that to cause such an issue.

    I don’t know…it doesn’t make any sense to me, even though I know I’m guilty of the raised eyebrows too…definitely a lot to think about and search my heart on.

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  25. Ashleigh, love this so much.

    And whenever we watch SYTYCD, I constantly ask my boys, “You sure you don’t want to take dance? You SURE?”

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  26. I love you, and this. And that’s how I feel about dancing, too.

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  27. Karen Gory

    I would say AWESOME! ‘So you think you can dance’ is my favourite show… top-level dancing is incredibly difficult and athletic. I hope your son keeps his passion as he grows older (but even if he didn’t, that’s okay too…) (I’ve always had a passion for music myself, but two left feet! People who can dance are amazing.)

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  28. I’m the mama of artists. The first two are boys. There is nothing on earth like watching your son (or daughter) step into the space where they were created to inhabit. To watch the moment when you know they feel God’s sheer pleasure because they are being the very essence of what the Creator intended. I love and applaud you for being a mama who gives space, freedom and total support for that pursuit.
    P.S. My 19 year old son is taking ballet in college this fall. I attended his Male Dance recital last spring. The powerful, graceful and primal rhythm of the dance of 30 young men has like watching warriors prepare for battle.

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  29. Jessa

    I would tell the nay-sayers that ballet was created by Louis XIV, the “Sun King” – a man as poised in battle as he was on stage, and that the role of a man on stage, especially in ballet is to show strength, and to protect the women when they are flying through the air, a masculine role if ever there was one. Men are far too often discouraged from the world of ballet; a world that was made for them.

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  30. My brother called to me, fresh out of the shower. He was standing in a towel on the bath mat beaming…his feet with heels together, pointed out. He had spent so long watching me dance, and that day I convinced my parents it was his time. His dance teachers thanked me. His classmates teased him until he eventually gave it up. Now, at 22 he directs plays, dances, does martial arts, leads his student campus (chosen by the governor), and is strong enough to do what he wants.

    Now, I watch my own toddler. She’s “lucky” because she apparently possesses the right anatomy to make it appropriate for music and rhythm to live in her soul. She first fell in love with ballet at 10 months, catching me watching a dance program she turned and stared, and I knew then what I see every day….she loves to dance, but is entranced by ballet (she’ll start next Spring or Fall). We must allow our children to be who God intended them to be. If he loves ballet then I applaud him for it. The only response should be to ask to see him dance.

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  31. LOVE LOVE LOVE! My daughter was privileged to dance in a studio where there were several male dancers. Talented boys … teenagers, even … who were as athletic and strong as any boy I’ve ever seen on a football field. Yay for you, Ashleigh, for letting your son thrive in his giftedness and yay for him too!

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  32. Sheila

    You have nailed it! :-) That was beautifully written…the last, your son’s quote, brought tears to my eyes. It reminded me of Eric Liddell from “Chariots of Fire”. He said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.”

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  33. Oh, that last line made my heart swell. I also have a son who has music and rhythm in his blood, and while I’m not sure how he will express that passion throughout his life (he is 2), I hope I will be as supportive as you.

    Also, as a fan of theater and dance, I have to say that there is something so breathtaking about a strong and graceful male dancer. All my best to your son…may we all cheer him on as he soars across that stage.

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  34. Our most important jobs as parents, I think, are to help our children 1) know the Lord, and 2) know what the Lord has given them to do for His glory. Keep parenting well, Friend.

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  35. Laura

    As the mom of a 13 year old artistic, dancing boy, I know the feelings you experience. Many of the top artists, chefs, designers and dancers in the world are men, but they sure do have to fight a long, hard battle to get to the point where it’s okay to be who they are. Your son was obviously made to dance. I hope he can find a community of other dancers – male and female – where he can feel entirely accepted – passions and all.

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  36. Erin Wilson

    Crying my eyes out. Most people never find what it is that makes them feel alive… what an amazing thing to know from such a young age.

    Boys/men who dance are the strongest & coolest guys. Cheering him on from my corner of the world (cheering you and your husband on too!!)

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  37. This is my son. He’s not quite three but he’s been exactly the same, dancing since he was born. I would be very sad if anyone told him he couldn’t dance because it was girly. His second cousin is a professional dancer so I would hope to learn from him how best to support him. As many commenters have said, finding anything that gives him so much passion is wonderful and should be encouraged not frowned upon. Why are people so negative? So determined to pigeon-hole a child? They should watch a video of Lukas McFarlane.

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    • Ashleigh, Never let your boy stop dancing, if it truly fills his soul like it does mine then it will make him happy and fulfilled forever. Thank you for sharing this story and if you need any advice don’t hesitate to contact me =)

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  38. I feel like you assume a lot of your audience and maintain a defensive edge throughout this article, and that makes me sad because in order to write from that position, you (and your son) must have endured a lot of ridicule from small-minded people. As someone who felt the music from a young age–but did not have the chance to take dance lessons until I was 26–I get your son, and I am so happy that he has the opportunity to embrace that passion at a young age. The last line of your article reminds me of the famous runner Eric Liddell (whose story is told in Chariots of Fire) who said, “I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” I hope that your son continues to find his pleasure in dance and continues to feel God as a part of his art. And doggone it if I’m not crying a little right now.

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  39. Beautiful! My husband works on Dancing With The Stars, so we know our fair share of male dancers…and would never think twice about seeing a boy in dance class! Maybe it’s a regional difference (I live in Los Angeles, obviously…)

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  40. Jeb Hoge

    May your son be the Gene Kelly of his generation. Be sure to watch “Singin’ In The Rain” with him soon.

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  41. I’m crying.

    Just yesterday, my 12 year old son asked if I could sign him up for dance lessons and I said no, without hesitation.

    I think I need to revisit this…

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    • James Gatehouse

      Please, please do.

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    • Awndrea

      When you do sign him up, let us all know!!!!! We can be your supportive community of fellow dance lovers, women and men.

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  42. Beautiful! Thank you for such an eloquent response. I am a ballet studio owner, and I think it’s a shame that the only way I can coax boys into coming to ballet class is to offer scholarships. It’s unfortunate that our culture views dance (particularly ballet) as effeminate. Many other cultures have folk dances that boys learn growing up, and it isn’t considered feminine. Ballet is a wonderful, expressive art form that requires a high degree of physical strength, dedication, and skill. It isn’t just brute force, but the ability to communicate with people through movement alone. And it can evoke a great emotional response. I myself have often felt closest to God when I’m dancing. Great job encouraging your son, and I hope that he always enjoys dancing with such abandon and a sense of the pleasure it gives God’s heart.

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  43. Natalie S.

    My son (only 2.5 years old) is exactly the same with music…he’s just got to dance! Did you know that ballet dancers are the MOST FIT athletes pound per inch of their body mass? One of the most athletic things a person can do. Never let the world quench the joy God has placed inside of him. You are doing great!

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  44. Ash~ I love how free he is when he dances, how strong and poised he becomes with each practice. I danced ballet (and tap and jazz) for 12 years and felt that same surge of joy after long rehearsals and mastering complicated choreography! Love that his skill level is growing… I think a young Mikhail B. must have felt the same, so intoxicated with the music, the movement, the moments of sheer joy. So glad you see his strength and delight, that you empower him to lean into what enlivens him inside and out. So good!

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  45. Why do you say he’s built to carry a football? If he dances, I’d think he was built to dance.

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  46. Kate Ware

    My three girls and I loved this article so much. Thank you for sharing this part of your life with us. Thank you for sharing the photos too – they convey your son’s inherent poise, strength, dignity and freedom. Dance is Power. People who do not feel they have poise, strength, dignity or freedom would naturally find your son intimidating, and they try to hide their intimidation (and subsequent embarrassment and confusion about feeling intimidated by someone as wonderful as your son) through contempt or disapproval or bullying.

    Our favourite work-out video is the New York City Ballet Workout. It is brilliant and features men in equal representation/ratio as women. What I love the most about it, is that it doesn’t make ballet appear feminine um… in ANY WAY. It features people in a tremendous state of physical health and strength and power, yet provides strength-building exercises that you can follow along and get real results. It doesn’t make ballet seem sexist or sexual or anything. I think it would be really encouraging and empowering for your son to watch and dance along to. And you and your husband can participate as well (IF you can keep up, this stuff is intense!!) We are not a sport-oriented family at all, but my husband and I frequently do the New York City Ballet Workout with our three girls, because it feels AMAZING to use the muscles God gave you in such a powerful way!! And it is so good for posture, breathing, circulation, etc. Ballet is as relevant for health as yoga, and has many of the same principles. Encourage your son to keep dancing: he will live forever!! <3

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  47. Amen and amen! God makes things (albeit sometimes through human hands or innovation) because He knew we would love them.

    I love this.

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  48. As a man who never fit in with the ‘masculine’ crowd this resonated with me. My parents even made a veiled attempt in my teens to see if I was gay – to their credit it was done to be supportive – which I am not.
    As an artist I am touched by the story of a gifted artist who found his passion early in life. I have faced many challenges in identifying myself as an artist.
    I pray that I would never give you any of the familiar looks you describe, but that I would instead offer a heartfelt and knowing smile of encouragement.
    Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.
    May God bless your son’s journey of discovery!

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  49. Wow.

    I didn’t get ballet before I moved to college. And i thought men that did it were prissy. Until I had a male ballerina roommate who was stronger than many of the men I’ve ever known. they have to be to do those lifts.

    I came to love ballet more as I watched my wife, a ballerina herself dance. And the males in the dances were amazing too.

    We’ve often talked about how we would be if our son wants to dance. I think this is the perfect response. I kinda hope he does dance.

    This is very beautiful. Sharing with my wife, and hope she will share it with her classes she teaches too, where many of the girls still think boy dancers are weird.

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  50. Tears. This is beautiful! There is dancing all through the Bible…and the Lord delights when we dance for him and feel his pleasure! Your son is operating in the pleasure of the Lord as he dances!

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  51. Jacob

    This was wonderful. To allow children to follow their bliss and not worry about the stigmas that society places on things allows them to be an individual. Your son may not always follow with the ballet (or maybe he will), but he will learn the lesson that happiness within is greater than what others think. He is learning how to handle the negativity from others with wonderful support from you and I must applaud you for doing this and it is my hope and dream that other parents will learn from this as well. Perhaps one day it will no longer matter what our interests are, but who we are as a person.

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  52. Cindy Battles

    Parenting. You are doing it right.
    (From the Mom of both an 18 year old daughter and a 17 year old son who live and breath theatre.)

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  53. My daughter’s favorite quote is: “If ballet was easy it would be called football”. It is not for wimps!

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  54. i love it. i’d like to feel that you’re explaining too much and being too careful but the fact that you’re doing it means you’re probably not… but i think if i met you and you told me what your son does, or he boldly proclaims it, that the likelihood is that i would respond with ‘that is super cool – show me some moves’ – that wasn’t one of the mentioned responses so i’m not sure how it fits in, but it is sad that there has to be this whole created story and nervousness and tension [and like you explained warranted which is even more sad] and i hope that he learns not to listen to those voices but to be able to tune his ears into the ones that respond with ‘that’s cool – show me some moves!’

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  55. I love it!! You and your son are amazing!!

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  56. Heather Holtslander

    I came to this post because a friend posted it on Facebook. I clicked through because it was about a boy in ballet. My first thought was “Yay! A boy who apparently loves ballet! I want to read about him!” I didn’t have to think about how to respond: if we were meeting face to face, I would not be shifty-eyed while I thought about what to say. “Fantastic! What’s your favourite part about dancing?”
    “God made ballet because He knew I would love it.” Yes. Yes, He did: you and Mikhail Baryshnikov and so many others.

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  57. Oh, that boy! He is my hero. Anyone who can’t see how amazing he is because dance doesn’t line up with their idea of boyhood…well, they’re fools. The possibilities are endless and I do believe God delights in seeing him leap across a stage.

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  58. I think this is so awesome. As a 43-year-old man who just started taking ballet classes this summer for the first time ever, I commend you for affirming and supporting your son in his interest. I understand the negative feedback–it doesn’t get a lot better when you’re older. Ballet is great and I’m so glad that he loves it so much.

    Reply
    • Sarah Westphal

      You. Rock.
      Seriously.
      Thanks for sharing! Makes me reconsider some of my dreams…never too late. Never.

      Reply
  59. Jodi Whitted

    Great post. I love this. Beautiful.

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  60. JJ

    My first instinct, which i’d probably curb, would be to say how brave he is to follow his passion even though many folks probably think it’s odd. More likely i’d go with my second response, which would be pure excitement. I love to know boys who love to dance…
    {I didn’t find dance until college, and haven’t pursued it since, but there were 2 phenomenal male dance instructors at my EXTREMELY liberal college and they both turned out to be strongly involved in local churches.}

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  61. What a beautiful story! Thank you for sharing it. As a former ballerina, I think every child can benefit from the wonderful gift of dance. My son does not take lessons, but he loves dancing around the house to music, and I taught a couple of ballet steps. He just attended his first ballet performance last week and loved it.

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  62. I would applaud this young man, and ask What his favorite dance is? and does dancing make him Happy!?!?! I feel sorry for the person who doesn’t love to dance

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  63. He did, Troy! God did make ballet because he knew you would love it.

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  64. Shari

    As I was reading this I am thankful that you and your husband are encouraging his passion. Dance is something to be proud of. It takes a lot of hard to work to perform and be a good dancer. God has obviously put that drive in him. I have a 14-year old son who crochets, knits, sews and makes greeting cards. We encourage the creativity in him. More parents need to be open minded regarding boys sometimes.

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  65. laura r

    I love your post! There is a documentary on netflix called “First Position” about a group of kids, boys and girls, and what they go through to be ballet dancers. Best documentary ever! If you haven’t seen it, well, I think you will love it and there are similar sentiments as yours stated. I have such an appreciation now regarding what kids give up to become great ballet dancers!

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  66. Cari

    If it had been four years ago I probably would have been “one of those people”. I probably would have leaned on the side of thinking you were progressive parents wanting to get him in touch with his feminine side. BUT my daughter has been in dance for the last four years. So now my response would be “high five!” because there are no male dancers in any of her classes and I can’t help thinking – who will dance the male roles when they grow up? Presumably a transplant from Russia. Then I would be even more overjoyed to hear how passionate he is about it and that he has found his gift and calling. Childhood is very hard when it comes to peer pressure and finding oneself. But… in adulthood, everything seems to even out. I just had my 20th high school reunion. None of my friends came- I wasn’t suprised, I saw the list of attendees. I went anyways and felt totally comfortable with all those “cool kids” who are just normal people like me.

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  67. This is one of the single most beautiful posts I have read anywhere. Thank you for loving your son and for SEEING your son for exactly who he is. And anyone who dances, male or female, in my book, they are at the very tiptop of the pyramid of athletes. There is nothing more athletic than excellent dancing. Not.One.Thing. Many, many blessings on your beautiful boy and on you both as you parent him. I’m guessing he has some truly great things ahead in his life.

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  68. LOVE IT!!!

    I’m so thankful for your son and the other little boys who dance, because my little girl once told me that she didn’t think boys were supposed to dance, and I showed her about a million videos on YouTube but I can’t wait to show her this story. Your little guy knows what’s up, and I’m thankful for him and for you sharing his story! :-)

    Also, I am dying to see the choreographed Taylor Swift video! Tell him he has some fans across the country :-) <3

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  69. can i just say how much I love and appreciate this post. i have a six year old girl in ballet and a four year old boy that asks about dancing constantly. i have put him off. i want to say it’s because of the expense. my girl didn’t start until this year. i had the conversation with my husband last night about it. i told him i didn’t want our son to look back at me and say “mom, what were you thinking?”

    why do we let society dictate what is and isn’t appropriate for our family in our particular season. this was the much need breath of fresh air that i needed. thank you from the bottom of my mama heart for paving the way.

    xo

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  70. great article. we just moved away from east TX where we had friends whose oldest son loves ballet. i think he feels similr to your son. very artistic in many ways! it was a challenge for the dad to adjust to a son who shared few of his interests…ie hunting or sports. he does love the outdoors…just doesn’t like any killing.

    his dad has adjusted, but not without scars for both. (our family didn’t have this particular struggle. we had all girls. our struggles were of a different type.) i love the article you wrote. applies to different areas in different people, but just the same…learing to accept the children we have and not the ones we wnt to brag about can be a difficult learning curve for sure!

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  71. Eline

    When he likes to dance, let him dance!

    Isn’t t great when they find, so young, a passion they can explore.
    Maybe it will weather off, maybe it will stay
    It doesn’t matter
    As long as it gives them joy

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  72. Kelley

    Tatum Channing. That is all I have to say. Incredible dancer. Husband and Father.

    Reply
  73. Simply beautiful! Our daughters used to skate competitively and there were 2 brothers who (figure) skated in the same rink. Even though he was talented, one brother quit skating after he was teased mercilessly at school and thrown into his locker. Such a travesty that boys aren’t “allowed” to be artistic. God is the Master Artist and I’m so glad you and your husband recognize and embrace your son’s desire to be like God!!

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  74. Bethany

    I’m so sad that those are the responses you get from people! I think if I was in that scenario, I might seem surprised, but I would say (and mean!), “Well, isn’t that awesome! Dance is pretty cool.” Props to you and him, and I hope you find more and more people who can give reasonable responses.

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  75. I love this story. I am sad about the horrible response she gets. But I love that she is willing to help her child make his dreams come true. Every child deserves a parents like that

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  76. LeAnn

    My son is 16 and he has been dancing ballet since he was 4. He just won a variety show locally performing Don Quixote. I can assure you there was nothing feminine about it and yes he wore tights and yes there are idiots out there that have said all of those things to us. But in 2 weeks, my son will be going to a school in Germany to continue to pursue his dream of becoming a top ballet dancer. Tell your son he is really not alone at all. There are many wonderful men in ballet and they are definitely not feminine and definitely valued.

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  77. Charles

    Thirty five years ago I was your son. Since then I have danced on five continents and lived on three. I’ve performed in every major US and European city. I have seen the world for free, graduated college on a scholarship for dance I even met my bride on a stage in Germany. By the age of 26 I had already seen more of the world than most people ever will. When I retired from dance, the discipline it instilled in me made it possible for me to graduate top of my class from law school. Dance has inspired me in ways most people only dream of. Tell your son to keep it up. There are places he can go where he will find himself surrounded by others like him, ABT JKO in New York, SAB, Central PA Youth Ballet, NC School of the Arts, Houston Ballet, San Fran Ballet… as a male artist he will share a kinship with the rest of us, it is a close knit group who share a passion and a dream. Thank you for your dedication to him and to the fine arts.

    Reply
    • Deanna

      Bravo Charles!

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    • Charles: THANK YOU for posting this. My son (6) has just discovered aerial dance (on fabrics) and is going insane about it. People are all ready raising eyebrows, making comments. I will remember your comment, your life, for my son and any other kids that need it.

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  78. This is so sweet, I loved it! I especially loved his quote about dancing. I was just reading another blog yesterday by a young woman who is a ballerina, and she talked about how dance is a powerful way to bring glory to God, and a form of evangelism. I think many people don’t realize that, about dance. Anyway, thank you for the beautiful article, and God bless you and your family!

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  79. Julia

    Oh this is wonderful! I LOVE ballet I always wanted to move to New York and dance in the ballet, unfortunately I was unable to pursue my dreams because of another person….. Keep him in it mom, forget everyone else because what other people think of you is none of your business anyway. Hope to see Troy someday in a ballet!

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  80. Kate

    I love this. My son loves dancing and gymnastics and he’s got a naturally affinity for it. He could also hit a pitched baseball at two like it was nothing and throw/catch a ball at four better than I can as an adult but what he LOVES? Swinging on those bars and doing somersaults and moving to music.

    I’ve had one of my friends recently ask me how I feel about it or if I’ve thought about directing him into different sports. Another asked me if I thought he’d grow up to be gay.

    1) I don’t know if he’ll be gay. He’s four. I also know I’ll love him the same.

    2) Why would I stop him from doing something he loves? I’d never discourage my daughter from trying something, why would I discourage him?

    I think I might just have to save this link and forward it on!!

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  81. Lawrence Chase

    Ballet should be part of everyone’s learning experience: it teaches one about the body, about how to read music, about grace and art and performing before a live audience. It is physically challenging and mentally challenging and extremely enriching.
    The benefits from learning Ballet stay with one their entire life. Not to mention the ability to get important scholarships for college. I was fortunate to have been taught by some of the early greats who came out of Ballet Russe. It was one of the most incredible and important and beautiful times of my life and for those I was with and came to know.
    Kudos for this young lad to go into a premier form of artisitic expression. He will gain much from this wonderful experience.

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  82. Nancy Mitchell

    What you SHOULD tell about your ballet dancing son – In the 1930’s and 40’s A neighbor boy was well known for his ballet. Some kids made fun of him others appreciated him. Ah! in 1942 we began to know what WAR meant. Then we young people began to hear about how the military service was looking for male ballet dancers to teach parachuters how to land on their feet without hurting themselves. We all had a new appreciation for both ballet and this boy who was in big demand.

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  83. ME

    Not a pretty ending in my opinion. Lots of luck to you on this journey.

    Reply
    • L McDonnell

      What does that mean? – not a pretty ending? What is the ending anyway?

      Reply
  84. Adrian Gale

    As i was reading this article it struck me how we associate certain activities with sexuality – even the fact that we dress baby boys in blue and baby girls in pink. It seems we are trying to drum in a child’s sexuality from birth (nature v nurture argument). Passions for sport,the arts or whatever should be seen as just that; they don’t define one’s sexuality.

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  85. Oh I just love everything about this Ash. Expect the part where we don’t live close enough to come and watch a recital. Also, have you read Thursday’s Child? It’s an old beauty and it’s been a long time since I read it, but I think it might speak to you.

    Reply
    • Scratch that, it’s actually called Thursdays Children and it’s by Rumer Godden. It’s beautiful.

      Reply
  86. Connie Nowakowski

    Ashleigh!!! I was thrilled to read this. My son, Jim, was copying his sister’s dance moves by the age of 2. We put him into dance classes that fall. At 8 he looked me in the eye and told me he was going to dance with his life.

    Today, at 24, he is starting his 7th season with Houston Ballet. He has danced in the Ukraine, Italy, & Spain by invitation. He is going to NY City and then to Paris this October. He constantly thanks his dad & me for supporting him with his dream. We have always thought he was amazing, but when other people tell us that, we know he is something else.

    He engages the audience when he steps on the stage –when he was little he would request an audience for his dances — he told us he likes to make people happy and dancing does that. At 17 he won $10,000 at an NFAA (National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts, now Youngarts.org) and it was presented to him by Mikhail Baryshnikov – his idol. Baryshnikov was only 1 inch taller than Jim and told my son that he was absolutely amazing. — THAT was it for me – I KNEW he was awesome because Mr. B had said so.

    You can look him up on Youtube or at houstonballet.org —

    Keep supporting your son, it will pay off over and over again.

    Connie Nowakowski

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  87. As a male dancer who just graduated college for dance your story truly hit close to home. Your son sounds like an amazing individual. I hope he keeps dancing and lifting his head high when he tells others what it is he does outside of school. Thank you for your story.

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  88. Deb casey

    Wonderful that his family accepted his pursuing his dreams not theirs — until his dreams became their dreams.

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  89. Krista

    I would tell him the quote from Billy Elliot…

    “Tutor 1: What does it feel like when you’re dancing?

    Billy: Don’t know. Sorta feels good. Sorta stiff and that, but once I get going… then I like, forget everything. And… sorta disappear. Sorta disappear. Like I feel a change in my whole body. And I’ve got this fire in my body. I’m just there. Flyin’ like a bird. Like electricity. Yeah, like electricity.”

    I want to feel like that about something, and I’m so happy your son has found his passion.

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  90. Jennifer

    What a gift to know so clearly what he is meant to be! Most of us go through life without that clear knowledge. Bravo to him!

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  91. StephGarvey

    I love this!

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  92. Ashley

    That passion is what will make a professional! Keep your head up because when this ends it will absolutely wonderful! Being an art student myself I see so many wonderful dancers and never miss and opportunity to see them dance. The men are so strong and wonderful makes me kind of wish I was a dancer and not an artist! But, I come from an entire family of artist (including my father!) who have encouraged me to pursue my dream so keep doing what you’re doing! Good luck!

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  93. Charles

    Wow. This knocked me out. I was the boy who stayed inside and practiced the piano for hours when everyone else was outside. My parents were pretty good about it, but you and your husband are seriously awesome! Wow. Wow WOW!

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  94. Kate

    Love this article and that your son has found his passion. May he be blessed to follow his dreams wherever they take him.

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  95. Melissa

    3 cheers for you and your son Ashleigh!! So wonderful for him to know his passion so young! a New boy came to our school last year leaving a school where he was bullied for being in dance… our kids welcomed him and thought it was cool! He dances in Pacific Northwest Ballet yet even in our small school musical, he shared his passion with raves of applause- And you should have seen him climb the vertical wall at camp… the most limber kid there.!!! film your sons next dance and post on U- Tube- would LOVe to see him dance!! ( next time someone give you grief, let them know that Gene Kelly didn’t play Football either….) Thank-you for sharing!!

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  96. I am so in love with this story; thank you for sharing. Keep dancing! :)

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  97. The last line brought tears to my eyes!

    As a classical pianist whose physical coordination rules out all forms of dancing that involve other people who could be injured by my flailing, I love watching dancers (men and women both) who clearly love what they do. And that’s my unsolicited advice to your son: LOVE WHAT YOU DO, and do it well.

    I’ve lived with enough “don’t quit your day job” jokes when I went through life saying that I wanted a job where I could play the piano all day. Now I live in a city with two universities that pay me to play the piano all day, in a way that combines my passion for playing with my passion for teaching and coaching young singers and instrumentalists. Your son’s road may not be easy, but then most of the really great views are at the end of hard roads.

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  98. Beautiful. Thank you for posting! My three year old is starting his first ballet class this fall. He’s Russian born and I love the idea of keeping him in touch with his heritage this way but so many people don’t understand my motives at all. I hope he loves it like your son does and I hope he is encouraged by open-minded people like yourself. Thank you!

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  99. Jenn Richards

    My son is 8 years old. If you ask him, he will say his favorite color is red. But that is not true. His favorite color is pink. He used to say “pink is not a girl color or a boy color, pink is just light red!” And I was so proud of him! But he has noticed that liking pink is not socially acceptable so he says his favorite color is red. But I know the truth.
    He’s got music in him also. I’m trying to find his outlet. I offered him ballet classes because he, too, saw a ballet performance at his school and was amazed. He declined my offer an I’m afraid I asked too late, that he was too old and worried about it. But perhaps dance isn’t for him and he needs an instrument. We’ll find it, whatever it is.
    So bravo to you and to your family. Only real men can do ballet.

    Reply
    • Michelle

      FWIW, I pushed my own 7yo pink boy into ballet class last year because it was clear he would love it, but was scared to go because he was worried about being made fun of. We flat out bribed him with video games at first. Within 2 months he was so proud of his dancing that he invited friends to see him perform in the show. And this fall 3 of his male friends will be joining him in class. I think by going first and talking about it, we normalized it for others. And so far (fingers crossed) no one has said a negative word.

      Reply
  100. This dance mom would say “Way to go, Momma! Good for you for letting your son pursue his passions!” I’ve seen little boys in my daughter’s ballet class quit because they were taunted at school. And, it’s such a shame! Good for your little guy having the courage to pursue his dreams! Blessings to you both on this journey!

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  101. Oh my gosh, I think it would be AMAZING if I had a son who wanted to do ballet! I would rather have a son who dances than who goes into typical sports; though my hypothetical son is welcome to do whatever he aspires to, so long as it inspires growth and is not illegal. ;)

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  102. I’m sorry that your son has suffered enough to move you to write this piece.

    For what it’s worth, my response would be “that’s wonderful! I loved ballet, too, when I was young, but I wasn’t very good at it, so I chose to do something else instead. It’s great that you’re good at something you love, and I hope you continue to enjoy it.”

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  103. I have a little boy who loves for us to watch his “cool moves” all the time. Music is in this little guys core and I’m hunting classes for him right now. I’m gonna start with hip hop because I’m afraid if someone doesn’t teach him, he’s going to hurt himself trying to copy others’ cool moves. Ballet, tap, jazz, cycling, skiing, fishing… whatever – bring it on. I need to nurture those loves and let him experiment with passion while it’s still fresh. Love this!

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  104. Ardiss

    Both of my sons LOVE dancing. My eldest son also has an artistic eye and therefore notices bright colours and beautiful things around him. He often draws butterflies and picks flowers. His favorite colour is pink and has chosen sparkly pink necklaces as “prizes” from birthday parties or doctors offices. I have no worry about my 5 year old’s sexuality either but we get “scoffs” and “oh really? your favorite colour is pink?!” Thank you for this wonderful story. I love that my son sees the world the way he does. He is always reminding me of God’s glorious creation and that God made pink and blue. He painted so many flowers pink He must love it too.

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  105. Krystal R.

    I love this! Your son has an amazing passion and what a joy to have discovered it so early! I had my husband read this as well and we both immediately smiled and said we could see this being our little Liam, who at 2 months old will already ‘dance’ when he hears music.

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  106. Carrie R

    I would tell him it was awesome, and ask who his favorite dancer was and what was his favorite part of dancing. People forget that way back in the day, women weren’t even allowed to act so it was always men playing women, that had nothing to do with their sexuality. Also, many ballets need a big strong man to lift a ballerina. Society is so whack. I have 3 month old boy/girl twins and will be exposing them to dance, scouting, and various sports and instruments so that they can choose which they like best and run with it. People shouldn’t stifle children by saying something is too masculine or feminine for them. Good for you for nurturing that passion and letting him run with it.

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  107. Wow, wow, WOW! This is wonderful. I love that he has such a passion for it at a young age. And what he said to you at the end of your post… well, that’s simply amazing and so beautiful. Good for him and for you as his Mama!

    Keep dancing little guy! Maybe we’ll see him on So You Think You Can Dance in a few years!! :D

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  108. TheNextMartha

    Ballet is bad ass. Most grown men don’t have 1/10 the strength of a ballet dancer. You go kid.

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  109. Shannon

    Male ballet dancers are tough guys. Baryshnikov could do things that professional athletes would kill to do. Its a sport as well as an art form, especially with modern ballet.

    Keep encouraging him to follow his dreams and passion. In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.”

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  110. Grace

    I too have a son who was a ballet dancer. He danced for the joy of it. Ballet took him places and gave him opportunities we never could have imagined or afforded. Eventually he decided not to make a profession of dance. It wasn’t FUN anymore. But while he danced he defied gravity and flew. Dance has so many opportunities for men. Remind those naysayers that football players may lift and throw balls, but dancers lift girls. If you haven’t taken him to a professional ballet yet you might consider it, find one with an easily followed story like Nutcracker or Sleeping Beauty.

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  111. Brad

    This really touched my heart! I hope your son continues his love for ballet! :)

    Reply
  112. babz

    my dear friend’s son who danced all of his young life , was the lead in many shows, all through college. then he became a navy seal . and was strong in his seal skills.he said, it was as tough a discipline as ballet.

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  113. R G

    I am a man who started dance in high school. It was my favorite class in school, and after, and what I chose to study in college. Thank you for supporting your son in dance. I can tell by the way you explain things that he loves it, and that he feels it. I hope that he can continue in dance. I hope that he doesn’t face half of the harassment that I did in high school because of it. I hope that you are all happy together. This story is very encouraging, thank you for sharing it.

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  114. Gina

    I wish my brother could have kept dancing. He is tall and graceful and handsome. I am happy your son is unashamed. Delightful though this essay is, I doubt it could have kept him from drifting away.

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  115. Lucy T

    I think this is awesome. How else would we get young boys learning this beautiful dance art if no one lets them “feel” the music and perfect the skills he needs. It is a very athletic form of dance.

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  116. Tanya

    If you become friends with adult dancers they will be genuinely excited when your son mentions his love of dance. They will have long, approving conversations with your son about the awesome aspects of dance. Some of them might tell your son their stories about how non-dancers don’t understand.

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  117. A friend of mine posted this link on fb, and I am so glad she did! I am so glad to hear of another mama cultivating her son’s passion and talent in dance.

    My 17 y/o son has been in ballet for over 9 years now. When he initially showed interest, I basically blew him off at first. I had my daughter in ballet, but never thought about sending my son to classes. It hadn’t even occurred to me, honestly. I knew he wasn’t sports-minded, but had no idea that he would be interested in dance. He kept asking about it, so I had to address it. I sat down with him and discussed it at length. I told him that he would definitely meet with negativity over his choice from some people. I told him that some people may make fun of him, call him gay, etc. I didn’t sugar-coat it at all. I also told him the positives–that he would be graceful, coordinated, strong, confident, etc. I am very open with my kids, and I wanted him to have the information before he decided. I asked him to really think about it before making the final decision. The next morning, he came in to me while I was getting ready for work, and said he wanted to do it. I called my daughter’s studio that day, and got him enrolled in classes. That began his journey!

    Over the years, we have had to deal with so many negative comments from complete strangers, friends, and even family. My son is extremely passionate about dance, and does well with it. I know the comments hurt him at times, but he has powered through and hasn’t let it deter him from doing what he loves. The comments have made my mama-bear instincts flare up at times for sure! :)

    My son now dances at the Kansas City Ballet School. He also dances for their youth ballet company. He is in class and rehearsal 6 days a week, for many hours each day. It’s hard core! He doesn’t mind being the only guy in a room of 20+ girls; in fact, he greatly enjoys it. :) He has received multiple scholarships over his years of training, for both his school year training and for the summer intensive programs as well. He is a senior this year, and he is making plans to continue his career in ballet by attending a university’s school of dance.

    I am so glad that I didn’t discourage him from starting ballet all those years ago. I wouldn’t have been able to watch him realize his passion, watch him grow in this. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to see the transformation he goes through when he gets up on that stage to perform. I wouldn’t have had the chance to watch him soar across that stage, and to hold my breath as he does the various lifts, twists, and turns with his partners, only releasing it when he successfully completes them and they are back on the ground. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to watch him take his bows, head held high as the audience claps and cheers. And so much more. I would have missed out on so much. More importantly, HE would have missed out.

    My son has been blessed with a great gift. He has found what he loves to do, what he excels at. I am extremely proud proud of him, and honored to support him in following his dreams. I can’t imagine him doing anything else.

    Reply
  118. This is so beautiful. My daughter has a few boys in her dance class and they are the favorites among the girls. Thank you for sharing your perspective and for encouraging your son in his passion for dance!

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  119. Hazel

    My daughter has been doing ballet for 11 years now. In that time she has had 2 boys in her class, one who has gone on to study dance full time with a scholarship. The girls in her class all loved having a boy and were very protective of him and anyone who might have a go at him for doing it. For the people who say it is not a masculine sport, they need to go and watch a ballet and see the physiques and stamina of male ballet dancers in order to do a full show and lift the ballerinas – I’d love to see them try it!!

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  120. Tarah

    I am right there with you except my 11 yr old DD & 9 yr old DS ice skate. Figure skate , not hockey. You don’t know how many times I’ve explained that to people. No, he’s not interested in hockey. I feel the questionable looks of, how can you support your son in a sport that he will turn gay in? Or he’ll grow out of it. He very well may “grow out of it” since he yas soccer, baseball and basketball simply because there is not enough time for everything. But if not, so what?! I just over heard, a not so quiet comment at a family gathering, about this very thing(not in regard to my son though, this person probably isn’t aware my son skates). But it made me uneasy & a few others that heard it were too. He may receive this as a fw ! Thank you for sharing, Ash!

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  121. Heather

    Amazing!! I am grieved that he and you have to deal with absorbing the pain of the insensitive comments and responses. I think classical dancing is very masculine for the record. For your son: my girls love to see the strong men who love dancing lift beautiful, lithe, graceful flowers of women across teh stage! You look great! Keep at it! We love your passion for it and we love the courage that you have to do what you love.

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  122. I don’t know you but i am so proud of you! I love that you took notice of his passion are allowing your son to pursue it. What a gift you are giving him. And what a gift he is giving the world.

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  123. Stacy Ward

    As the mother of a 13 year old son, Keaton…who is starting his 6th year of dance…I.Love.this. My son has learned to embrace his passion & carry his head high as he knows who he is, where he comes from, what his values are & how hard he must work to achieve his dreams of dancing professionally. He’s a boy, who happens to love to dance. In the words of a line from Billy Elliot “If you want to dance…then dance” By the way, if you haven’t taken your son to see Billy Elliot, the broadway musical, I highly recommend it. We took Keaton to see it about 2 or so years ago, afterwards hhis father & I took him around to the backstage door, where he met Zach Manske, who was playing the character of Billy Elliot. He was such an inspiration to our son. Enjoy every moment of his dancing, I remember when Keaton was your son’s age & asking about starting dance lessons. I love to watch the progress each season!

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  124. Yes! As a lover of ballet, I am so sad that our culture automatically questions the sexuality of male dancers. In other parts of the world, male dancers are celebrities and no one assumes anything about them. God bless you and your son for your passion and your bravery.

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  125. Davis

    What I would tell your son is this: Why worry what other people think about sports. In an average 4 hour football game there are about 11 minutes of action. In other words 6% of the game there is actually something going on. The other 94% of the game, the people who would chide your son, are sitting there literally wasting their time. Ballet has action 100% of the time. So which one is a more worthwhile experience from a simply “action filled” perspective?

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  126. Stephen Jones

    Heck, if the tough-as-nails mayor of a deeply “masculine” city like Chicago once wore toe shoes proudly, it makes you think twice about stereotyping any kid who feels the beat. From his bio: “Rahm [Emanuel] particularly excelled at dance and, while attending New Trier West High School, earned a scholarship to Joffrey Ballet, Chicago’s Premiere Ballet Company.”

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  127. My son is a dancer,too. He hasn’t tried ballet out yet but maybe he will one day. Thank you for your caring intuitive response to your son’s passions. You are a gift to him. He might really enjoy the Step Up series of movies once he’s old enough to watch them (not exactly fodder for pre-teens) but lots of excellent male dancers!

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  128. I have tears in my eyes – love this! I would tell your son how absolutely strong ballet dancers are because they have to lift the women over their heads and make it look like it’s easy. I would tell him it’s one of the hardest sports there is.

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  129. Like most other commenters, this story made me want to cry. You have a beautiful son and a beautiful love for him. This is wonderful.

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  130. I would tell him he’s got more physical talent than I ever had. My first-year ballet teacher begged me not to sign up again.

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  131. Sara Jean

    So when he travels the world dancing…can I be his roadie??

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  132. I had a boy in my ballet class in elementary school. I was always so sad that their weren’t more, especially since they were able to do so many things women just can’t do (that amazing leg strength!) Also, in high school, I was in co-ed cheerleading and always lamented that there were never more than 2 boys in it as a time and they washed out pretty quickly from the taunting. I just don’t understand why these aren’t socially acceptable options for boys. After all, at the more professional levels, who wants to see a ballet with all women? And cheerleading was was more fun with young men to do the lifts!

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  133. Sarah P.

    Oh! It’s been a tragic week but this just put me over the top. I am a crying, hot mess right now. Both my boys (7 & 11) love ballet (and Modern, and Jazz )- and it’s been a looooong row to hoe. Thank you for writing this. God Bless.

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  134. Stefanie

    Beautifully written article. Having gone to one of the largest ballet schools in my country, I was privileged to train with many boys. I lived, ate, and danced with them, and they were neither any more masculine or feminine than any random sample of teenage guys. I could write about how ballet is considered masculine in many cultures, how men have to weight train more than other athletes for it, how it demands incredible physical strength, how boys are surrounded by tens of skimpily-clad girls everyday in the studio… But I like how you didn’t make these comments. Trying to “prove” ballet is masculine is irrelevant if your son is in love with it. If he has found his passion, something that makes him feel closer to God, then why care if it is perceived as masculine, feminine, straight, or gay. You can try to argue with naysayers and “prove” that ballet is indeed “masculine,” (which I think it is!) but why bother when you can just share the most important part- that your son has found something he loves that makes him very happy! Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

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  135. Jim

    Thank you for this. We have a dance school and are fortunate to have many boys in our school. When they are in class (or just hanging around) they tell us this is the only place that they can absolutely be themselves. All we see is the joy of dance in their heart and soul.

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  136. I was really touched by your post. Dance is in my blood, and I hope my children – of either gender – will one day love it as deeply as your son. =)

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  137. Carz

    If anyone questions his sexuality then remind them that he is the boy hanging around the girls in leotards instead of hanging around boys in tight shorts. That usually shuts them up.

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  138. Erika

    My two older boys took a semester of dance classes and loved it. I wish I could afford to keep them in it, but had to make them choose between dance and gymnastics and they chose the gymnastics. Everyone thought the little boy dancers were so cute during the recital. There is definitely a stereotype against boys who want to dance. One of the things that I liked immediately about my husband was that he got a minor in dance in college. So, at least they have a lot of support from him if they decide they want to try it again. I hope he continues to do what he loves!

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  139. Trey Hooper

    I took 3 1/2 years of Ballet in high school and College. Yes there was taunting and teasing- until the first show and my detractors realized that I was stronger then most of them and more physically fit than any “sports” player. It didn’t hurt that the most beautiful and graceful women on campus were my friends and partners. You need not look at others and wait for them to judge your family or your son. He is already mentally tougher then most of his peers and will have better coordination than anyone e,se in his class when he starts puberty. He will be mentally and physically able to handle any challenge that comes his way for the rest of his life and, with your guidance and acceptance, will be a great role model to others. Enjoy it – both the knowledge of what is to come and the wonderment that is your creation…of course a few great pas de chabals and grand jete’s will help with the wow factor – but he’s awesome just the same.

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  140. Karen

    Thank you from the mom of a gifted boy ballroom dancer… Who had his joy and love of dance systematically and constantly sucked right out of him by bigots who thought it was more important to hurt and condemn a gifted child than to learn something. His Dad and I are still trying to pick up the pieces of his heart and convince him that his natural sexuality -straight – isn’t a mistake because a**holes assumed and accused him of being gay every single day.
    “Why worry about what others think”? Because those “others” are determined to destroy little boys just because they can.

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  141. He sounds like a lucky boy who will be a beautiful dancer.

    And just tell the Baptists he’s jumping for joy. (Hat tip to the Duggars.)

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  142. Beth

    I have two sons (6 & 9) taking three classes of dance (tap, ballet, and hip-hop) a week. They’re not as passionate as your son, and I don’t foresee a career for them out of it. But! They’re having fun. And that’s a wonderful thing to see their faces light up with joy.

    I am a bit creeped out about how them taking dance suddenly makes it appropriate to discuss a child’s sexuality. What the heck is that about?

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  143. Jay Laverick

    Herschel Walker, Heisman trophy winner from the NFL took ballet for years as part of his training :)So did Hall of famer receiver lynn swan

    http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-videos/09000d5d8294a56e/Films-Encore-When-football-meets-ballet

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  144. Paul Mendenhall

    I’m happy you are so supportive of your son’s innate talent. But as I was reading your article, I couldn’t help feeling that you protested too much. You seem defensive. I wondered if you haven’t, in fact, responded in just these ways, and now you were saying you won’t anymore. That’s fine, of course. But your telling someone that your seven year old isn’t gay seemed really odd. First of all, how could you possibly know? And second, why would you care?

    Frankly, you seem to be surrounded by homophobic jerks. Why?

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    • Katherine

      Because the world is full of homophobic jerks. My so-called liberal, progressive friend asked me if I “wondered” about my toddler because his favorite color is pink. (?!)

      What she describes is the norm reaction for when you have a son who is interested in something “feminine.” (And why ballet is considered feminine is a mystery to me…same with the color pink….)

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  145. Lou

    Well, this article certainly makes a lot of annoying assumptions about me.

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  146. Janelle

    Ballet is such a beautiful thing to watch. And to think, your son is gracing people with that beauty through the desires of his heart. How wonderful that he is following his dream! My heart aches for him for those who can not or will not understand. For those that don’t understand the arts are truly missing out. And anyone who could try and break the dream of that little boy should be ashamed. Does he love Billy Elliot?

    I wish him, and you!, many years ahead of watching him strive for his dream and continue his journey of happiness.

    Go Dance!!
    Janelle

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  147. Terry

    My son, a 26 year old modern dancer in NYC, sent this to me. I’ve read it 4 times already, with a tears and smiles at remembering exactly how this feels. It is a difficult choice but following you passions in life is so worth it and as the mom of a son ” who dances” I say BRAVO!

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  148. Christopher

    “Great! How’d you get into that?” would be my enthusiastic and affirming response.

    We’re not all the same.

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  149. Heather

    I’d squeal with delight that he dances because Billy Elliot is my favourite movie ever! Then I’d make all of those jugheads watch it. Then I’d explain that male ballet dancers are more athletic, stronger and more physically fit than most mainstream athletes. Then I’d hug you and your son because this world is just full of stupid people. I wish him every success in his future awesome dance career!

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  150. I never played sports as a kid, I was hopeless at them. But I started dancing in high school – at first because I was doing musical theatre and needed some rudimentary jazz dance, and then because I discovered that I loved dancing. It was the first time in my life that was good at something physical, the first time that I felt like my body was skilled and not just clumsy and awkward. It was the first time that I knew the pure joy of movement!

    Once I started dancing, I found that I could be good at sports if I want to be – the skills developed through dance (balance, flexibility, preternatural coordination, strength, incredible endurance) transfer to all physical activities. I tried my hand at football and rugby, and discovered that no one could tackle me, I seemed to be the only person on the field who knew how to dodge around and jump over people. I discovered that dance had made me fast and fleet and powerful.

    I had a friend who was on the high school football team, a starter, and he and I challenged each other to go through each others’ training regimens. I went to football practice, had my butt kicked, and developed a whole new appreciation for just how difficult that sport is!

    My friend came to my ballet class – and couldn’t even make it through the full hour. He was one of the greatest athletes in my school and ballet was more than he could handle.

    I recall that Mike Ditka, legendary coach of the Da Bears in Chicago, made his team take ballet lessons in the off-season, to teach them to be more fleet and better balanced. And it worked wonders on them.

    It’s ridiculous that people insist on seeing dance and sports as being qualitatively different things. All systems of physical effort, of movement, all systems that work to harness the potential of the body belong together. Dance, sports, martial arts – on a fundamental level, they all celebrate the wondrous things our bodies can do!

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  151. Amanda Kirk

    I didn’t read all 166 comments, so this may be a repeat of something someone already touched on, my apologies if so. Men/boys who do ballet are FAR from weak or girly, have you seen the muscles on those legs? How many men do you know that can lift another 100lb human being up into the air like a feather and not like a sack of flour they toss over their shoulder? And the endurance, most beer drinking, football loving neanderthals wouldn’t last 5 minutes doing the cardio a ballet man puts his body through.
    Good for him for following his passion and i hope he knows how truly strong he really is!

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  152. Cheri Chesley

    This is lovely. I grew up with a boy who was a close friend and also danced. His mother danced and passed on that passion to each of her four children. All through my childhood I remember helping lay out his next costume and helping with his shoes during recitals. When his little sisters started dancing I was back there helping them. For your son to have found what he loves is remarkable and should be embraced. I’m so glad you’re not the kind of parent who would discourage a boy who loves to dance.

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  153. Christie

    My words to your son would be the same as they are to my son. Follow your heart not the crowd. Only you know what makes you happy and what other people think does not matter. As long as you listen to your heart and not let others make up your mind for you, you will grow up to be a very strong man and I will be a very proud Mom.

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  154. Cindy

    My 22 year old son who has been dancing since age 10 posted this on his Facebook and smiled brightly as he said, “This letter is about me.” All of these boys/men take a different path because they have a passion that beats in their heart just like those who have a passion for sports, writing, or medicine. The only difference is that when you tell someone your passion is dance, you usually get the head tilt and a pause before an awkward “Oh, that’s great!”. I wish I had written this years ago, but I am glad this mom did.

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  155. John Butterfield

    This touched me in many ways, having been a dancer for over twenty years I know excatly what you are talking about. To those backward male relatives you might let them know that sports illustrated polled athletes all of them said Ballet dancers were in the best shape compared to all other sports.
    Here in the west it is hard to be a man and to enter the world of dance. People assume many things about you , many things that are not their business. What if its true? So what, is he good at it? does it help him focus in the rest of his schooling? It keeps him fit, helps him work with others, listen to music, and express himself as a person and as an artist. There is so little joy in our world why would you want to crush a young boys joy to epress himself in such a beautiful and physically challenging way?
    You tell him to keep dancing, that all the men and boys who are out here dancing now have your back, That he is welcome in any studio we are in. Who knows he could be the next Paul Taylor, or Mark Morris, or Balanchine the doors are wide open. You go young man keep on dancing

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  156. Katherine

    A friend directed me to this post. I’ve never read your blog before.

    It sent me into full out tears. I’m really not a crier. But your son sounds just so special and amazing! It is so great that he has this passion and that you have nurtured it.

    I have a 2 yr old who also loves moving his body and loves music. I can’t wait to get him into dance. He also break dances (does headstands up the wall and sometimes spins around.) I tap dance so I hope he and I can do that together some day but really anything that would bring him as much joy as ballet has for your son would make me the happiest mom in the world.

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  157. Sharon

    Any guy who can lift a 100 lb. woman and make it look like she weighs no more than a feather is STRONG! Male ballet dancers are serious athletes. Anyone who says differently, doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

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  158. Don

    Actually, I’m the person who wouldn’t ask about sports.

    I’m the person who would ask “What do you like to do?” and then, after his look at you and response “I dance”, I would say “Cool. What style?”

    And when he’d say “Ballet,” and I’d ask how long? and what have you danced? and what was your favorite thing about it? and tell me more.

    Because it’s a rare and beautiful talent, and extraordinarily difficult, and it’s brilliant that he’s doing it and that you support him.

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  159. Joe

    “Mama, it feels like my heart is flying when I’m dancing. I think God made ballet because he knew I’d love it.”————best ever!

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  160. I LOVE this. I have two sons and they both started dancing this summer. They loved the pictures of your son. I can relate to this post a bunch already, even though they have barely started dancing since they are younger than your son. I am truly grateful for such posts! A friend shared it with me. I even recently posted photos from my boys’ summer classes and they are so excited about ballet starting up in about 12 more days this autumn! They jump all around the house always and the oldest one has a huge love for music and has always danced. Yey for us moms who endure no matter the horrid comments we might receive, and our sons who will grow strong through it, because they love it!

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  161. Aaron

    A-ma-zing!

    I like to think my response would be “Awesome! Show me a move!”. But I’m lucky in that my wife and I both come form a background in performance, though drama rather than dance.

    I love to see my boys dance, and to dance with them. Though neither of them are quite as into it as your son seems to be. If his heart keeps flying, he’ll be unstoppable.

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  162. Kimra

    My son also danced for serval years, before stopping when music lessons and school took more time. Our recital one year was called, “Girls, Girls, Girls..and One Awesome Boy.”

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  163. “What do you do?”
    “It’s not the school, no one will taunt you”
    “I dance,” he’ll say. “Ballet. This year I’m doing hip hop and tap and jazz, too, but ballet is my favorite.”

    “Wow, that’s awesome! What style of ballet? Where are you taking classes? The girls must love you!”

    You go dude; do what you want to do, and have fun doing it.

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  164. John

    Bravo to you and your son. But, Ashleigh have you considered that there are those of us out there whose eyebrows wouldn’t raise a quarter of an inch? There are plenty of men and women who think that dance, music, theatre…that all the arts are essential and beautiful, and belong to everyone. Boys and girls alike. That’s what I think, and I know I’m not alone in that thinking. Please don’t leave us out of the equation.

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  165. This is wonderful. My son is almost five and has only been doing ballet for a year but he loves it too.
    They didn’t even have a single costume option for him at his recital. I had to make something. He got all of those concerned looks and comments from other adults as well. But at his recital, the big one at a big theater downtown. He stepped on stage to wild applause.
    It makes me so happy to know that your son us still dancing at 7 and I hope mine will be by then too.

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  166. Gayle Chamberlain

    Dear Mom of a Son who Dances,

    You are an amazing woman, you have every right to gush over every one of your son’s accomplishments including landing that perfect toe stance.

    Dear Son Who Dances,

    What a vision you are. Stay strong in your love of the dance and you will go far. Do not ever let anyone make you think you are less then they are because they play sports and you dance. Real men dance.

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  167. Larkin

    That conversation wouldn’t phase me one bit… but, to be fair, I live in a super liberal big city, I’m involved in the performing arts, and the vast majority of people in my social circle are artists. It bums me out that there are still people who would react negatively to the idea of a little boy taking dance classes, but I’m so glad that you are encouraging him to do what he loves. Don’t they realize that the performing arts need talented men just as much as they need talented women? How do they think their local ballet company is able to perform The Nutcracker for the holidays every year??? It wouldn’t be the same if it was all ladies.

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  168. Jennifer

    This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing.

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  169. bdawgz

    Great story. I always wanted to dance when I was little but was too embarassed to tell anyone in fear of being teased. I took acting classes when I was younger and would tell my mom that it ended 30 mins later than it actually did so that I could watch the girls dance across the hall. When I was 24 I decided to pursue the “acting dream”. So, I dropped everything and auditioned for a musical theatre program at a top school and got in. I had my first dance class and was overwhelmed with joy. It was hard work, but hard work that I wanted to do. I am now 32 and although my career is more focused on acting/singing, I did have 3 professional contracts as a dancer after graduation. It still blows my mind that I didn’t start dance till I was 24 (and overweight) and with passion and dedication have managed to work professionally.

    I admire your son. It sounds like he has a true and honest passion for dance. With passion like that he is destined to become one of the “greats”. I’m so glad that you are supportive and encouraging of his passion. A big regret of mine is never speaking up when I was younger and wondering what I could have been had I started at a younger age. It is sad that we live in a world that makes a young boy hide his passion because its not “manly” enough.

    Best to you and your son :)

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  170. Oh, Ashleigh! This just makes me cry. May we all have that kind of passion for something. Don’t most children, for something, and yet we beat it back for some reason or another? Dear Lord, let me catch a glimpse of what it is for my own babies and give them wings, no matter what.

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  171. S. Corey

    My son started dancing at age 4 (following in the “footsteps” of his two older brothers) and found his passion right then and there. Ballet, tap, jazz, hip hop, clogging, ballroom – he took it all. He is now a professional musical theatre performer/dancer and has been working full time in the business since age 15 (and worked pretty steadily as a child as well.) He’s 24 now and supports himself entirely as a dancer and choreographer. He had to put up with comments here and there from people, but it never really bothered him. People assume he is gay…that doensn’t bother him either because he feels very secure with himself and doesn’t feel the need to correct anyone – because it’s really none of thier business. Anyone that would bother a child about something they are good at and passionate about doesn’t even deserve the time it takes to explain all the benifits of the arts. Keep on supporting that wonderful young dancer of yours!!

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  172. I. Love. This. The whole thing was killer. The last line made me cry. Thank you.

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  173. Terri

    I love this letter. I grew up in a large dance studio with lots of young men present, so when my son wanted to dance I thought it was perfectly normal. I felt comfortable encouraging my son, but how little did I know what he would have to face during his growing up years. My son became a professional ballet dancer that was a principle for a number of companies. I am extremely proud of him and his accomplishments, however, I understand this letter in the very depths of my being. I watched my talented son get slighted by his peers, ridiculed by adult men and receive funny looks from women. As he grew up he was met with a lot of comments and behaviors that would have crushed any one. He even had girls refuse to date him because of how they perceived his masculinity. However, his love for ballet gave him a sense of being special and a chance to be more than one of the group. He has lived an amazing life that was made possible by him focusing on a dream that no one else could see.. He has traveled the world, met people that the rest of us only read about, and learned about other cultures from a first hand experience. He has an appreciation for the hard work and dedication it takes to do this thing called ballet. Even now as he moves into another career he reminds me of how fast that part of his life passed and how he wishes he could start it all over again. His first love will always be ballet and he has become a wonderful young man because of the lessons he learned from this beautiful art form. I have a hard time understanding why there is such a narrow mindedness when it comes to ballet, especially, when those expressing these opinions have probably never attended a ballet performance let alone a ballet class. When I see and hear all these things that this other mother who wrote this letter has seen and heard, I simply close my eyes and see my young son looking up at me saying “Listen,Mom, their clapping for me. Isn’t that the most wonderful sound you’ve ever heard? Yes, son it is a wonderful sound. And yes, son they are clapping for you.

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  174. Tamara Sz

    My husband was a ballet dancer until his early twenties and I so relate to this. I hope your son has many joy-filled years of dancing ahead!

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  175. Maggie

    This made me cry. But in your list of “You could be the one who…” responses, you forgot “You could be the one who smiles and asks to see his best move, because you know plenty of boys who take dance lessons and find it normal.” There are lots of us out here, you know!

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  176. I teared up reading what your son said. He is wise beyond his years. Thank you for bringing up a child who is able to be himself and know how to express himself in this world where too often we are suppressed by what society implies we should be doing.

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  177. Vanessa

    I would have loved if either of my two sons had dance ballet but neither showed much interest. My youngest even got the Angelina Ballerina videos to encourage the thought, but to no avail. I also have to say that in America horses are so commonly thought of for girls and not for boys. I have had riding lessons a couple of times and only one man ever in class. It’s not like that in Europe.

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  178. Robin

    Interesting–and more than a little bit sad–that you presume a negative response, insisting that even the best of us will raise our eyebrows “a quarter of an inch.” I don’t know where you live, but my eyebrows don’t move a bit, and neither does any sort of system of “alarm”. I know many boys and men who dance, including ballet, and it seems perfectly normal to me in every way possible….no surprise, no negative reaction, not even slight. Maybe it is time to practice expecting only positive reaction….?

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  179. Jennifer Fuller

    Remember, if dance were easy, it would be football ;) No ones realizes the dedication, sportsmanship, balance, physicality and how in shape you have to be to dance. And then on top of that, you have to be creative and have an artistic spirit!! And for those that worry he’ll become gay. . . Ask how many guys would turn down lifting beautiful, flexible, fit girls who are not wearing a lot of clothing. . . Psh, the other guys are fools!

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  180. Kim

    I can only dream my boys can find a love/passion as strong as this boy has. I think it is amazing he has found his purpose at such a young age. I know plenty of adults still searching.

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  181. my son dances too- also won a scholarship- and he is amazing and we are so proud of him. where he gets it, i don’t know, because we don’t dance. well, at least :) but we love him for all his talents and pleasure he takes in his dance- and to those who “don’t get it”? God help them if they say the wrong thing to me or to him, cuz ain’t nobody got time for that…. no time for haters, and i don’t play nice with them.

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  182. kim

    As someone who grew up in the dance world, I can’t tell you how many times I wished there were boys in our classes! The older girls got to do all the cool dancing because they had male partners to dance with. We little ones were stuck doing the “boring” routines in the back. I had the opportunity to meet your son we would probably talk so much about dance and music it might bore even you to death! Way to go Mom and Dad for being supportive to something that nourishes his soul and spirit as well as his body!
    Dancing is as difficult as any of those so called “manly sports” and sexuality has no part of it. If he turns out straight fine, if he turns out gay that’s fine too. The other adults that behave that way are ignorant and belong in caves. Wish him well for me and remind him, practice, practice, practice!

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  183. Katie

    You know, I just found this article via link on tumblr, on I literally teared up. I don’t often tear up, but I’m so happy for your little boy to have you as his mother. That’s what parents are supposed to do, support their children in their passion. Don’t ever stop.
    I wish him the best of luck!
    I’d probably be one of those rare people asking him what piece of music he likes to dance to best and keep talking to him about dancing in general, enjoying his eyes lighten up, because it is amazing to witness a child being happy. That said, I really hope that wherever you live will change and you’ll start to get more positive response, so that you won’t immediately expect a bad response. I smiled instead of raising my eyebrows ;-)

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  184. Jeff

    Way to go Mama! Keep supporting your talented son!

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  185. Trezlen

    That’s so awesome! I’m glad that you support him in this thing that he loves deep in his soul!

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  186. Dee Lancaster

    Doesn’t everyone know women love a man who can dance? I hate gender stereotypes. We’re denying the world so much potential. My sons ride horses and get bugged because horses are for girls. My son, bless him, answers ‘George Patton rode a horse and he was pretty manly. And oh yeah, I have a black belt and remind me why I care what you think anyway?” I love cars, tuning them , building them, and most people are OK with it, now. But then I’m not supposed to do things like bake or read romance because it doesn’t fit my image. Go figure.

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  187. Christina

    My husband and I were ballet dancers. Now we have three kids and the two girls take ballet lessons. The boy started Hip Hop last year and after a performance he proudly told us: “mom, now we are all a family of dancers!!!” I was so proud! I keep asking him if he wants to take ballet classes but he says no. Maybe one day…

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  188. John

    This is quite frankly and simply the best post on Deeper Story I’ve ever read.

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  189. Mariska Talirz

    Very inspiring and comforting to read too, as our son is just the same. He is now nine and already knew when he was seven that he wants to become a professional dancer and is doing everything he can to achieve this, including up to 13 hours dance practice a week. I will show him this article too, just so he knows there are morer boys out there just like him. Thanksfully, as he has been dancing since the age of three, all his friends accept and respect him for it, they have (so far) never mentioned a negative word. Let’s hope it will stay this way and that he can fulfil his dream….

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  190. Carrie Ann Swaim

    I loved your story!

    My ‘built for football’ boy dances and plays football, but he doesn’t dance because of football. He dances because he LOVES to dance!

    This past weekend he had the opportunity to meet Rasta Thomas’ Bad Boys of Dance and then attend one of their shows. The mother of one of the dancers approached him at the show and asked if he took any dance classes yet. He smiled at this lady, whom he didn’t know, and replied, “Yep! I take them all!”

    She was a little surprised and told him how her son started in acro and begged to take tap when he was younger. She had been worried that he would be made fun of, but finally let him start ‘dancing’. She then asked my son what his favorite dance class was. Without hesitation, he replied, “Ballet!” :) Yep, I love my Ballet Dancing Son!!

    Tonight,he reminded me yet again of his love for dance. His duet partner was going to be absent tonight and I forgot to tell him. I arrived at his performing arts school and he instantly started questioning me as to whether I knew she wouldn’t be in class today. I began to explain that I had forgotten . . . He looked up at me and told me that he was glad I hadn’t told him because it would have made him sad all day because he really likes his duet A LOT! LOL!

    Yay for the Ballet Dancing Boys!

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  191. Kate

    I’m surprised that this is still even raises eyebrows – was recently reminded of powerful male dancers through the beautiful Ballet Russes exhibition here at the NGA – the great Nijinsky (of course) but also Mikhail Baryshnikov, Serge Lifar, Michel Fokine, Adolf Bolm, Léonide Massine, Anton Dolin, George Balanchine, Valentin Zeglovsky, Theodore Kosloff…models of athleticism and grace!

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  192. A

    I’m sending love, from the one who would listen to this, smile big and ask him all about his favorite ballets, what parts has he danced so far and which does want to try.

    I’m not a Christian; won’t ever be. I don’t believe in much, but I certainly believe in the goodness of people. Go you, for allowing your son to be whomever he wants and needs to be. Oh, and to those people who think dancing has anything to do with sexuality? Tell them about Baryshnikov. Not that it makes a difference, either way, but still. All this proves is that he has an artistic soul and talent; the rest, future and hormones will bring.

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  193. A

    PS: I bet his daddy is bursting with pride: from what I’ve read on your blog, he knows all about courage and choosing the hard way, if necessary.

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  194. Danielle

    Hey, my name is danielle, I just saw this as a post on Facebook, and the dancer in my jumped screaming “read it!” Bravo to your little son! I am a trainee with the world’s premiere Christian Ballet company, Ballet Magnificat! in MS. look up our youtube videos and let him watch! maybe one day he’ll come be a trainee here and be in the company, helping us to spread the Good News through our ballets and ministry time afterwards. Please feel free to contact me :)

    The Lords richest blessings!
    D

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  195. I absolutely love this. I am of a unique back story that makes this incredibly meaning, but that is not what this is about. I danced from age 3 to just a few months ago when I left for college and I miss it so much. Your son’s story inspires me to get back at it. HE is such a truth about dance. It isn’t about being feminine and often its about control which is seen as a masculine trait by society. Dance is about emotion and stories and enjoying life. Thank you so much. I am so glad I found this. I am so glad you have shared this with the world. I hope he never looses that passion.

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  196. sarah

    Nope, I wouldn’t have any of those responses you mentioned. I’d think of Baryshnikov, and Nureyev, and I’d tell your son he’d chosen an awesome sport.

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  197. Right now I’m debating whether or not to become a parent. I’ll be aiming to be as awesome of a mother as you clearly are.

    Thank you for your story.

    P.S. I was just like your son, and when I was three my mother took me to ballet classes. 25 years later I’m still dancing. Nurturing this passion of his will instill an incredible sense of discipline and focus and will be a great outlet for him. My hear goes out to your and your son for the narrow-mindedness you have experienced.

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  198. Alvina

    I find your story, the comments that you expect from society, and the comments on this article so interesting because it offers me insight into a culturally ingrained thought process that I don’t have. In my culture, dance, any kind of dance, does not imply a certain sexuality. At least it didn’t used to; it’s changing now through contact with more “dominant” forms of thought, with more girls than boys taking dance…whereas in the past it used to be pretty equal.

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  199. Joshua

    This Is literally the best thing ever. This reminds me of my own mother and how she helped me get into dance classes. I had always loved to dancing and my mother actively searched for classes for me. We found an amazing program and she was beside me all the way through my company taking me to classes 1 hour from our home 2 times a week. She did this for 8 years. She told me that she knew god wanted me to dance, from the moment i was a toddler and would move to rythem. My dad was even a bigger supporter than my mom. He loved going to my dance recitals as much as going to my brothers soccer games. If I met your kid I would be delighted to tell him that I danced too. I was in a program with 300 other kids, it was a large company. My favorite part of our season would be welcoming in the new younger boys. they would be really shy at first but they were really passionate about dancing and seeing all these other older boys really helped them come out of their shells. When i was young I was the same way when it came to talking about dance with new people. I know im rambling now but this just made my day it reminded me so much of my own experience and im so happy to see other boys follow their dreams and do what they love :)

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  200. Ashleigh. How am I just now reading this?! Your words and your mama-heart are breathtaking. What an amazing boy you have. What an amazing mama he has. I love this so much I could cry/laugh/eat chocolate. Thank you.

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  201. Dianna

    This is beautiful. As someone who did ballet for 12 years growing up, I can honestly say that he will be a wonderful addition to the world of culture and performing arts. No matter what he decides to do with his life, you will have grand kids one day who will know what culture truly is.

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  202. Melissa brown

    My 10 yr old just started his second year of dance and loves it. He also takes voice and has been in plays. And he’s captain of his school basketball. The dance studio has been so kind and lets me pay what I can. My other two kids have special needs and may not find what they enjoy while they are young, but I’m glad he does. His coach even let’s him leave basketball practice once a week to make it to dance. A friend gave us a book called THE BOY IN BALLET CLASS and it’s cute as can be. Oh he also just started cotillion and has always been a little big and awkward, but is gliding through the waltz just fine, thank you!

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  203. Nicole

    I am sorry you have encountered so much negativity! My 5 year old son loves to dance (tap and ballet) as much as he loves his toys (his words, not mine). We knew when he was a baby that he felt music very deeply and he is very athletic too so dance is perfect for him (and he’s the first dancer in the family). Just in case you have not seen it yet, be sure to watch First Position with your son! One of the young dancers does talk about other kids at school making fun of him for dancing ballet. Most of all, the movie is inspiring and amazing. Kudos to you for supporting your son and helping him find his love for dance.

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  204. courtney

    I love this! When my husband was young, he used to say that he wanted to be a ballerina when he grew up. He wanted that so badly, but of course his parents would never allow their son to dance, and all of his five older brothers mocked him for years and years about his desire to dance. In fact, he is 31 and his older brothers *still* ridicule him for wanting to be a dancer when he was 5. It breaks my heart! I’m pregnant with a little boy now, and I hope he finds the same passion (for anything) your sweet son has found in ballet!

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  205. Meg

    Reading this has been the last note I needed. Tomorrow I will find a dance class for my 7 year old son.

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  206. Kent

    My daughter posted this on her facebook because she too is a dancer. She told us this weekend that she is really proud of her parents in allowing her and her sister to pursue their passions. I will pass that praise along to you too.

    If we do not allow our children to pursue their passions and instead only inflict our own deisres on them, they will reach a point in their lives where they decide they’ve accomplished nothing and have a bucket list that can’t be completed because of age and failing bodies.

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  207. Claire Parker

    And you can tell all those people who pretend dancing isn’t a sport that the muscle mass of dancers, especially male dancers, rivals anyone who’s playing “real” sports. He’s so lucky to have found his passion at such an early age.

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  208. I am crying. I am a dancer and my kids adore dance. They watch ABT’s Swan Lake on youtube.com and stage dance parties regularly. My son dances, but I know he is lonely for other boys. He’s so talented and natural and I encourage him every step of the way. May your son always be proud of his passion and talents. May he persevere – whether dance turns out to be an interest or a career. You have a great kid there as you know, and you are the best mom a dance-loving son could hope for.

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  209. Anon

    You should probably try to introduce him to a few sports, or possibly martial arts. He doesn’t have to play them a lot, but learning new forms and new ways to move one’s body helps an athlete of any type. Yes, different types of dance are helpful, but they’re really not the only things that can help.

    This comment is truly only said by an athlete in respect of bettering the future of athletics as a whole. As a well-rounded athlete, your son will understand more about the body than he would as specifically a dancer, which most likely will help him with dancing.

    Also, in case you haven’t noticed, I agree with dance being, if not a sport, then the art form thereof, so please don’t think I’m being insensitive.

    I’m also in no way suggesting you force this on him, more like get him acquainted with the base actions (like playing catch or hitting a tennis ball or passing a soccer ball or something) and let him do whatever he wants with that knowledge.

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  210. I love this! What would I say? I would say, fantastic! He could be the next Baryshnikov (who also never had a problem getting a date in his life). Why the obsession and assumption all boys must be athletes? Good for you supporting his dream! I have a toddler who loves music and feels the need to dance. Had she been a boy I still would have encouraged, likely more so because of all the rude and ignorant people he would encounter.

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  211. chris

    love this well put .. As a mom of a competitive boy dancer who does all dance genres and he is only 9 .. I love this my son has been bullied and teased as we live in a small hockey town and boys should be playing hockey… love this article and will definitely be sharing this… \I love the fact my son is passionate and loves everything to do with Dance.. Im thankful for his teachers he is the only boy on the competitive team and everyone treats Daniel so good. |Just wish the stereotyping would just stop good for your boy well done. from one mom of a boy dancer to another well done

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  212. preview it beforehand but he might want to watch “breaking pointe” on the cw website. (http://cwtv.com/cw-video/breaking-pointe)

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  213. Tracey Drake

    How wonderful to have found the thing that makes your heart soar at such a young age. How lovely that you support him and help to make his dreams come true. If there were no little boys who love to dance, there would be no male dancers, and that would be very sad indeed.

    I hope your son has an amazing life that is filled with dancing and overflowing with joy. :)

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  214. DY

    Your boy’s gift of passion for dance is phenomenal. Einstein observed that “great spirits have always encountered violent opposite from mediocrities.” Your son, having been born with an incredible gift, will be hounded quite a bit by the people of mediocrities. However, dance will give him the strength to persist. One day, many of those mediocrities will also heap praise on him after being moved into breathlessness by his art. Einstein also believed that “dancers are the athletes of God.”

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  215. Heather

    This is beautiful. Thank you.

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  216. Patti

    Thank you for sharing this story! I’m actually a bit surprised to read that there’s so much negative reaction to a boy wanting to dance in this day and age. Outdated gender norms seem to be one of the last areas where people still feel free to openly say narrow minded, prejudiced things! Interesting how girls are praised for wanting to do things stereotyped as masculine but that is not the case the other way around. It really showcases how “masculine” labeled pursuits are more highly valued in our society. As the mother of two preschool boys I can’t wait to see what they find as their passion and I’m thankful to families like you for helping pave the way for them to do anything they want to! We should all also strive to teach our children not to react to others based on stereotypes of what people “should” like!

    Reply
    • lizzy

      I just had a conversation with my son today about this. He’s in the 4th grade and was teased at school today by one of his best friends about being “a ballerina.” I discussed with him how much I was teased about my “masculine” career path and often being the only girl around; I think the praise of girls/women in many fields is only superficial or for those who are at the top.

      He was upset because it was his friend, and he’s pretty good at shaking it off with most others. Or, for those he doesn’t really care about, he’ll tell them his belt level in martial arts. lol

      He’s been cast as the Nutcracker this year and is really enjoying his first partnering!

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  217. Malou

    I am a Broadway dancer and dance teacher and I am so proud of this little boy. It takes strength to follow your heart. Focus, discipline, physical strength and perserverance are all qualities necessary to be a dancer as well. It is as much a sport as football or baseball. I applaud his spirit and expect great things from one who encompasses such qualities at such a young age. BRAVO!!! PS. God bless his parents who support his dreams.

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  218. Deirdre Alton

    My son is a 14 year old pre-professional ballet dancer who has been taking class since he was 2 1/2. He has endured the teasing, the bullying, and sometimes even physical violence – but he still dances over 25 hours a week. As a result of his tireless effort, he has won scholarships to both ballet school and summer intensive, he dances in TWO pre-professional companies and he attends a performing arts high school. Until a few years ago, I didn’t know any other moms of ballet boys, but now I am building a network of moms, from Canada to California. Bravo to you and welcome to our little group!!!!!

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  219. Janea

    I think I about cried when I got to the end and your sons thoughts on God making ballet because he knew he would love it. I think it is wonderful he gets to follow his joy. If boys didn’t do ballet who would lift the ballerinas, who would toss them in the air? I try and get my son to go to swing dance lessons with us, sometimes he does, mostly he just watches, I hope someday he will make a girls swoon at his dancing confidence, until then he can sit and watch till he’s ready.

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  220. Joel

    Beautiful post! I am a 25 year old dancer! I distinctly remember the fear my father had when I first asked to start taking dance lessons. My story parallels you son’s. I remember visiting my great aunts house when I was very young. She would play recordings of marching bands and watch as I danced through her living room. However, once I began taking lessons, there was fear about sharing my passion. It was not until I got to high school that I began to realize how proud I was that I was a dancer, and actually how accepting many of my friends were about it. Those that chose to tease or name call, had no place in my life!

    Thank you for sharing your son’s story!!

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  221. What a beautiful post! Inspiring and just lovely. You are a great mom and defender of what is pure and true. <3!

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  222. Erynn

    I used to attend the ballet a few times a year before I moved to America… It really wouldn’t be worth watching if little boys didn’t grow up to be dancers. Thank you for supporting the arts by letting your son dance :) and to him I would say that ballet is a wonderful way of storytelling and I love watching it.

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  223. Jan

    *I* will be the one who says “THAT’S WONDERFUL! You are so lucky!” I love ballet and I especially like to see boys and men dance because they can fly so high and they are so strong. I don’t get to see much ballet, although there was a great show about it on TV over the summer called Breaking Pointe about the Salt Lake City ballet, and I learned a lot about the dancers and how hard they work. I hope you enjoy your lessons, learn a lot and go on to dance on the biggest stage in the world!
    Love,
    A Grammy

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  224. Dana Corby

    Dear Ashleigh Baker:

    What a WONDERFUL article! Your son sounds like a great kid.

    I’d like to refer you to a book relevant to your son’s situation, “Early Autumn” by Robert B. Parker — one of his ‘Spenser” novels. In it, Spenser takes on the care, over a summer, of an unloved teenaged boy being fought over by his divorced parents. Among the things Spenser exposes the boy to is ballet — and the boy, for the first time in his life, is galvanized. Despite cruel taunts by his jerk of a father, he begins ballet studies and is happy for the first time in his life. In later “Spenser” books, he’s occasionally mentioned as a happy if minor member of the corps de ballet who visits Spenser when he’s in town.

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  225. Gabrielle B.

    I’m a dance teacher, and would absolutely love to have a boy that age in a class of mine. Partnering in dance is becoming more and more popular and it’s hard to teach girls what it means to be lifted, to hold your weight, what a woman’s job in partnering is – without a man!

    But in all honesty –

    I would (and do) adore and treasure any student that age who is that passionate. Congrats, Mom, you have an artist.

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  226. Stefanie Sasinek-Roil

    I’d be the person that plunked down on the seat next to your son and talked about how much I adored dance at his age. I’d ask how he broke in his shoes and what his favorite part of dance is. I’d listen as he told me about all the little things that only other dancers can ‘get’ and praise him for following his joy. I’d encourage him to ignore the people that think that sports are the only things that take strength and ambition and fortitude. Then I’d tell him that the dance world can be catty and cut-throat, and to IGNORE that, to rise above it, and to dance because he loves it, only and always. Because one day, like me, he might not be able to dance anymore, and it will be the memories of that feeling of flying, soaring across the floor that will never fail to bring a smile to his heart.

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  227. Sarah Mennell

    My brother danced all through our childhood. He’s one of the most remarkable people I know and while he stopped dancing in middle school, I continued to dance and frankly boys and men in the dance world are so much rarer than those in sports that they are often cherished more at least by the art community. Thanks for sharing this article!

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  228. Kris Schmautz

    This story hits really close to home. I too was that boy, who enjoyed dancing ballet. I didn’t do it for any other reason than that is what I loved to do. The part about your boy looking for reassurance is very emotional for me. I remember being teased by the other guys in school because they didn’t understand. Getting bullied, questioned about your sexuality, feeling hurt all the time because others were ignorant. I congratulate you on being there for him, and thank you from someone who knows those feelings of pain. Thank you.

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  229. Katie

    My five-year-old son just started tap dancing. He’s built like a football player, too, but has music and entertaining in his soul. Somehow this mom and dad with four left feet have managed to turn out four (almost five–littlest guy loves a dance party, too) fabulous dancers. I love it!

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  230. Allie McCabe

    Thank you for being able to express how I feel. My son dances as well. And while his first love is hip hop. He started ballet this year and being the only boy in his class I was worried he wouldn’t enjoy it. When he came out of his first class and I said so buddy how was it. He looked at me and said I love it mom. I love anything to do with dance. I’m proud of my son.

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  231. L McDonnell

    I am pretty sure her son understands himself and his path completely. It’s the adults with the problems. As far as what to tell her son…. is that some people have problems. It’s their problem, not yours.

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  232. Abigail

    I wish more guys danced, just in general. It wasn’t always thought that dancing was “sissy”. It used to be that every man was expected to be able to waltz or Virginia Reel or jitterbug depending on the time era. Now men are just expected to sit in front of a video game console and believe that guys who dance or do art of any sort have somehow lost a bit of manliness. But I know some very manly men that also know how to swing dance quite well…and let me tell you, a girl can appreciate a man like that.

    I also think it’s ridiculous that men and boys are expected not to show any emotion, or enjoyment and appreciation for the arts. I hope your boy continues to love beautiful music and beautiful dancing, and never be ashamed of it.

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  233. Penelope Hassmann

    As a professional dancer for many years (albeit contemporary) I take one look at the photo of your son at 7 and say without a doubt he has real ability. But you know that already. A dance career is hard but for those with it in the soul there is no alternative. All the best…

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  234. Kaite

    two words…Mikhail Baryshnikov

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  235. steph

    I have a kid who is very healthy, but has only one kidney. The doctors suggest he not play contact sports and he is really into golf. But he also takes dance. And he loves it. No matter what he does – continues dance, sports, music, drama, etc. – his dance training is beneficial. And I am proud :-)

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  236. Tracy

    Dance brings hearts and minds and bodies together. When I read this I was touched to tears. I am so happy to hear your son has found an outlet for his amazing talent, but dance is more than that………it heals us in ways we may never understand.

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  237. Oh my! This moved me to tears. You go little man. Dance your little heart out, and when you catch your breath go dance some more.

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  238. john ortiz

    Love the story
    Keep on dancing and one day u will be dancing all over the world just like me! Its a beautiful life

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  239. Belle

    What a wonderful piece! I have a brother who’s been dancing since he was five and endured much of what your son did. But now, my almost 18 year old brother is applying for dance scholarships for college. Keep encouraging your son! Some day all the judgement will fade away.

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  240. Meghan

    This is outstanding!! I used to be worried that my two olders (a boy and a girl) weren’t very interested in sports…because everyone else their age was. I like to see people’s faces now when I tell them that they read instead – at the level of college upperclassmen (as high school underclassmen). I love the conferences with teachers where I hear that MY kids are the only ones who “get” the intelligent jokes they crack. My youngers? (a boy and girl…) it changes all the time. But I’m glad they’re confident enough with me to know that it’s ok to change it all the time. Right now, Marine Scout Sniper and Vet. Ok. Whatever it is, be awesome at it!!!

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  241. Maureen Mays

    I have a dancing 4th grade boy and I could truly feel every word of your story. Every painful/uncomfortable or nervous moment when he discusses ‘being a dancer.’ Thank you so much for sharing.

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  242. Lauren

    I am a ballerina myself, and I appreciate men in ballet. I take pas de deux classes regularly and can say that most guys in ballet are stronger than any other athletes-after all who else could do 16 turns, a ton of breathtaking jumps then lift a girl over his head and walk around? Also, I know many male dancers who are not gay, and have girlfriends or wives. There are those who aren’t straight, and that is fine too.
    Overall, my message to men in dance is: keep doing what you love. I can tell you first hand that everyone who takes ballet seriously appreciates guys.

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  243. Bravo! My 15 year old son is a ballet dancer and I know the feelings you describe. I’ve always been amazed because my son is so self-assured about it. Now in high school he takes a weightlifting class with the football players so he can build up more strength for lifts. He wears his American Ballet Theatre shirts there all the time, but he’s as strong as any of them and nobody gives him a bad time. He’s been teased a little, but not nearly as much as I expected. It’s actually adults who are a lot less understanding about it than his peers.

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  244. Alex

    Wanted to share my 14 year old son’s recent Facebook status. He’s a serious ballet student from a ballet family: “It’s really just plain dumb that so many guys reject ballet when male dancers are practically the strongest guys in the world, ballet was created by a guy, you’re surrounded by a bunch of girls, and it’s just freakin awesome. For you guys out there…..stop being stupid.”

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  245. Jen

    As a mom of 5 dancers, 4 of which are boys, we commonly see what you are writing about. We can encourage, love, and support our children in any way possible. I am getting ready to turn part of our basement into a dance area so they can practice at home.

    It is Nutcracker season and 4 are old enough and have auditioned for parts so we are awaiting the casting sheets.

    Dance on my friends!

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  246. Erin

    I rarely leave comments on blogs, but I couldn’t resist this time. This is a beautiful story, and I hope to see your son dance one day on the huge stage he so clearly belongs on.

    I do have to say though, my reaction would be a little but different than you described. I would ask him what a male ballet dancer was called. The studio I did my brief ballet stint at had no males, so we never learned.

    You are a fantastic mother, and it is amazing he has found something he loves so much. I’m 24 and just now working that out for myself. I wish I had his passion and dedication at that age.

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  247. I did ballet for twelve years, and while I enjoyed the discipline, I did not have dancer’s heart. Your boy sounds like he’s a born dancer – what a gift it must be to watch him embrace his passion.

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  248. Amberlee

    As a dancer one of the big problems I had as a youth was a lack of boys in classes. Boys are very important in ballet (much less ballroom). One of the few guys I ever had in a class with me had this to say about other guys giving him crap about dancing:

    They ask me if I’m gay. I ask them if they are. When they wonder why I’m asking, I tell them I get to spend several hours a day with my hands all over girls bodies. It’s part of my job to lift them up by putting my hands near their nether regions. If they aren’t gay, why aren’t they in dance class?

    I very nearly lost it laughing at that.

    I hope that your child continues to dance and that the strangeness of society doesn’t dampen his joy for his art. Moving your body and feeling joy in that movement is part of why we are alive. He’s lucky to have a wonderful parent like you (and you’re lucky to have such a special man in your life).

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  249. lynne

    This is simply amazing.

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  250. Ashley

    To all of those naysayer “Christians” who mercilessly bully and emasculate this gifted young boy for following his passion for dance let me point you to to the Bible verses Psalm 149: 3-4. (NIV), “3. Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp. 4. For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with victory.” (SOURCE)

    Basically saying that God wants EVERYONE to dance and find JOY in what they do. NOT ONCE does God say dancing is for men or for women. It is a way of self expression for all to take part in together.

    I hope your little boy continues to follows his passion. I wish you both all the best.

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  251. Brad P.

    I really enjoyed reading this story. I know first hand how cruel kids can be to males that grow up dancing, instead of playing football or basketball. No matter what happens in life, I hope he stays passionate about the art form and follows his dreams. I ending up quitting dance when I was almost 17, regretting it for years until I applied for a job teaching at a local dance studio. Almost 2 years later, I’m still dancing and doing what I love, while helping others progress in dance and have fun doing it, all while earning a paycheck and being a role model. It’s one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve ever had, and I’m sure he’ll get the same amount of admiration later on down the road :) !!

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  252. I love this! He is adorable. For those of us who have been dancers and know that wonderful feeling to dance and perform – it is everyone else who is missing out. :) Hope you all have a great dance year. Such a great post.

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  253. Kristen

    I have never commented on a blog before, but this brought a tear to my eye and brought back so many memories that I can relate to. My son has fought his way through the teasing and judgmental comments to be a male ballet dancer from New Zealand who is now training in the LINES Ballet BFA program in San Francisco. If it doesn’t knock them out, the knock backs make them stronger!

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  254. Kathryn

    I wish more adults had this much passion in what they do. God Bless you son for reminding me to not just take time to do the things I love, but to take time in enjoying them and remembering why I love them!

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  255. Melanie

    Thanks for this. I would also tell those people that when I was a dancer, a large percentage of the boys and men in class and in the company were straight, and trust me, they had girlfriends because you’re definitely going to meet girls in dance class.

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  256. Amy Hodman

    My son is a 12 year old competitive ice dancer and I have gotten a lot of the same remarks and questions that you have. He doesn’t like to talk about it at school due to teasing he got in 4th grade about it. Yet all his teachers and the guidance counselor celebrate what he is doing and are nothing but encouraging and supportive of his dreams to try to qualify for the US National Championships this year. I think some of the kids at school are coming around, too, especially when they hear about the difficult lifts he has to do with his partner on the ice.

    You are a FABULOUS mom, keep up the great work!

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  257. Adam L Brinklow

    I don’t get this? There have always been men who danced ballet. Every company in the world has men dancing in it. Not just a few, but dozens. Usually just as many as the women. Do folks really consider this unusual? When was the last time such people left the house?

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  258. Jennifer Wood

    A young man after my own heart! Rhythm does not discriminate! God made us all with rhythm in our bodies. Our heart beats to a rhythm, our breathing occurs in rhythms, our speech is generally in its own rhythm, our walk is in a rhythm…etc. etc. However, the true gift dancers posses is not bodily or musical rhythm; instead, it is the ability to experience and translate the music through use of our bodies and rhythm! Every time I get the opportunity to watch or teach a ballerino (male ballet dancer), I get to experience what it means to truly love dance. It takes a strong young man to embrace what he loves when it is not considered to be “mainstream.” I hope your young man stays true to his love and his gift! There are many who are held back by their parents. He is so fortunate to have your encouragement! BTW… my response to him would be to ask what is his very favorite step to perform in ballet? And then, I would ask him to show me!

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  259. Kim

    Your words perfectly expressed my feelings as the mom of a male dancer. Bravo!

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  260. Dan

    I love his quote at the end of the article. It reminds me of Eric Liddell in Chariots of Fire saying, “When I run, I feel His pleasure”

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  261. Amy

    My favorite line, “I think God made ballet because he knew I’d love it.” Sounds like your son knows a lot about ballet and God’s love. :)

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  262. Katey

    I would like to believe that my response to your son’s telling me that he dances would be, “Awesome! Do you watch ‘So You Think You Can Dance’? That’s one of my favorite shows!”

    Because that was what I thought when I read it.

    Dance on, kiddo, dance on.

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  263. Kyle

    This is awesome because I started tap and jazz when I was nine years old due to a group of tap dancers I saw on PBS. I don’t remember what they were called, but there were 28 of them all dancing and tapping in unison and I thought it was amazing. So, I went to my mother and said I wanted to tap dance. She enrolled me in a school the next week. I’m now a 28 year old man and I’ve learned many types of dance from ballroom to hip hop. I still love dancing and I make up my own dances any time a radio is on. I can’t help myself. I know exactly how this boy feels because I was him. I’m not gay and even if I was it wouldn’t matter because sexual preference shouldn’t determine if boys should dance. Just like sexual preference shouldn’t determine any sort of major decisions about what people should or shouldn’t do.

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  264. Lara

    That is one lucky boy and we should all be jealous. Everyone should find that thing that makes their heart soar! As a former dancer, I know that feeling that comes from dance and wish with all my heart that my son finds it too. Whether it’s in dance or soccer or macrame – I don’t care – and no one else should either. Great article. Thanks!

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  265. Marcus R. Alford

    WOW….You are the best and I truly mean, the BEST mom. I’m a proud male dancer and can tell you that we need a million more of you. WE can’t wait for your son to hits the heights and fulfill his dreams! I’ve had the honor to have taught a number of male dancers and so many of them have gone on and have become professional dancers. Each and every one of them can tell you that because of the support of their parents and family it made the road to their DREAMS so much smoother. Thanks again for being there for your son.

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  266. Ashley P.

    That is so cool! When there’s music in your soul, you just gotta dance. I’m glad he can do what he loves.

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  267. Thank you and your husband for supporting your son in this art! I am proud of you for that and so proud of your son for doing what he loves even if it’s not “right” in some peoples’ eyes!

    I danced for 16 years myself and in those 16 years my favorite teachers were male. A ballet teacher I met at a convention/competition that I ended up touring with one summer, one of my studio teachers who used to work for Disney and taught my adult tap class, and my solo teacher who let me tag along and be his assistant teacher when I couldn’t get enough dancing in my life. The latter became one of my close friends (though we had always been like brother and sister), I babysat his kids and his kids were in my wedding. When I go “home” I always make sure I contact his family to try to get together.

    That last teacher, he had the passion your son seems to have. If he continues as he gets older to have that same passion, I am positive he will be that person to some very lucky young dancers.

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  268. dobes

    I had that son, 30 years ago. He walked by 9 months, ran by 11. Had perfect balance, moved like poetry – people would stop to watch him running through a fountain in the park. I assumed he would be an athlete, but at 5 he said he wanted ballet classes. At 6, after he had insisted for a year, I took him to a “movement” class for young children in a church basement, and, for the first time, really appreciated how talented he was in that area. So I took him to the Boston Ballet’s boy’s classes, where he danced in the Nutcracker for the first time at 7.

    Once he got onstage, it was all over. He loved it! He studied ballet at the Boston Ballet for the next two years, and his teachers told me he would have to go to New York, to the School of American Ballet. When he was 10 we moved to New York, and for the next 9 years he was on full scholarship there, completely devoted to ballet. At 19, he got a job with a ballet company, and moved quickly to soloist and then to principal.

    Eventually, the stage stopped holding a thrill for him, and in his mid-twenties he left ballet, went back to school, became a computer engineer and now works for a top social networking company. He’s married (to a ballerina) and the father of a baby girl who, not surprisingly, also shows some physical ability. What I want to say is that, by allowing your boy to pursue his interests, you tell him that it’s important to make what he loves central to his life. And, as a bonus, the ballet world itself offers some lessons that are rare in this day and age, about history, about competition and cooperation, about the rewards of hard work and self-discipline, about how nothing valuable comes cheaply or easily. It’s not a bad environment to grow up in, and he will use its lessons no matter what he decides to do later.

    Two things I would say to you: first, stop paying any attention at all to what other people say or thing. It’s not your business! If you just let it all roll off your back, so will your son. And, second: if your son is so seriously interested in ballet, don’t fool around with the little corner schools. They don’t know how to train boys. Find the biggest school in your area, or, if you live far from any city, find the one run by a man who trained at one of the big schools. First of all, the company-affiliated schools often offer scholarships for talented boys. And, second, they often have a group of boys, so your son can be with others with the same interest. Finally, they know how to train boy dancers – they do NOT have the same set of skills or movements as the girls and should not train with girls past a certain point.

    Good luck!

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  269. April

    thank you for sharing this – it makes my heart soar reading about a boy that has found his passion in life… when so many of us as adults, myself included, are still searching for something to be passionate about. i know i fall short when it comes to my reactions when confronted with male/female gender roles and how those play out in life – but i aspire to be a parent like this that loves and encourages my child to be the best at whatever gifts and talents God has given them whether it be ballet or football. and not just for my own children but all the children i interact with.

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  270. Melissa

    When I read the first bit of this, I stopped and imagined what I would say to your son. It wasn’t hard.

    My eyes would get a little wider. “Wow!” I’d say. “That’s so cool! I don’t think I’ve ever known a boy your age who knew he loved to dance! I’m so impressed!”

    Because seriously! It’s so amazing that he found this passion so young and that he’s so dedicated to it!

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  271. Kara

    I’m just going to say one thing, and this is for him. Kid, never let anyone tell you that dancing is anything less than a glorious way to worship God. Knock ‘em dead, tiger.

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  272. Devon

    My brother danced professionally until his body wouldn’t let him. My father photographed ballet, specifically working with one incredibly talented male dancer many years back. I never had the patience for traditional classes but love to dance when out with friends and have been involved with swing dance for a number of years now. To say this article hit me hard is an understatement, since the idea that men can’t or shouldn’t dance is so far out of the realm of acceptable thought to me that while I know a lot of people do think that way, I am fortunate enough to come from a place where it’s a shock to hear that a child with incredible passion is so badly treated for doing what he loves. Thank you so much for sharing your daily struggle for art, love, and acceptance. Your strength and support are examples of what every parent should be, and the sheer joy it sounds like he’s found in dancing is a powerful lesson in living.

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  273. The world needs more male dancers ^.^ I am incredibly pleased that he carries this passion, and I’m even more pleased that you are encouraging him despite that some people may give you flack. You’re awesome, your son is awesome, and I hope the outpouring of support you’re seeing will reinforce that when you need it most.

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  274. Christy

    Thank you so much for writing this! You have an awesome son! I can say one of the proudest moments of my life when my son decided he was going to be a professional dancer – his field, at 20, is ballroom, and it is indeed a gift from God. :)

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  275. Ryan

    This article makes me smile so much. I’m a dancer myself (not ballet, but still), and I have a young nephew who also enjoys dancing (though he hasn’t been enrolled in lessons, yet). I hope that enjoyment continues.

    I’m so happy to hear of your and your husband’s support of dancing. It’s a wonderful thing to be able to move to music without hesitation or embarrassment.

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  276. Jamie Pinson

    Just saw this article and want to comment. I’m a guy who’s just discovered ballet. I actually got interested in it after reading a romance novel and yes I love those too. I don’t care much for sports. I like things that make me feel and the first time I watched Swan Lake on Youtube it brought tears to my eyes. I believe there are plenty of straight males out there like me who appreciate things of beauty. You should be very proud of your son. When men think of ballet they think of women wearing pink tutu’s, of really skinny girls dancing. They do not think of how much effort, practice, sweat, blood and tears not to mention broken bones and pain goes into learning the art of ballet.

    You’re son is following his heart and in the process is bringing beauty into the world, I hope he will continue to follow his dreams and I also hope one day I’ll see him on stage performing. When I first started learning about ballet I was very surprised by how much dedication goes into the craft. The novel I read really showed the difference between a dedicated ballet dancer and the guy she loved who was a professional athlete. He played baseball, but as busy as he was it was NOTHING compared to the ballet dancer. Ballet dancers usually don’t have time for fun or a normal life, to them ballet becomes their life. It has to be because it’s usually a very short career, children study for years and that’s just for a chance to possibly get accepted with a troupe, even then there’s no guarantee they’ll go high up the latter or make it out of the corps and that still takes years and years of hard work, of working every single day. Those that do make it to prima (not sure what the male equivalent is) are those who worked nonstop each and every day, who had the talent and the drive. It is not a profession for the weak by any means. And after all that you have maybe 10 good years to look forward to and that’s if there are no injuries. Some ballet dancers dance well into their 40’s and some even go beyond that but that’s usually the best of the best. For the most part ballet requires around 10-14 years of hard work for maybe 10 years of dancing and that’s if you’re lucky and super talented.

    The funny thing is that your kid could probably beat up every single kid at school who makes fun of him without even breaking a sweat or getting winded. Ballet dancers are strong. NO NFL linebacker could perform Romeo in Romeo in Juliet. They wouldn’t even make it to the final scene, they would probably collapse after minutes, with every bone in their body cramping, out of breath and unable to go on yet ballet dancers have to keep going on. Heck, some of them play multiple roles in a play. The amount of strength and stamina it takes is just staggering. Women have to literally put all of their weight on two toes, men have to be able to hold women in the air, kick their legs straight out and literally fly through the air. Leaping like that is hard to do.

    I sir applaud you and your son. You for being open minded and allowing your son to follow his heart and your son for being who he is. It’s a very special gift that allows your son to feel music the way he does. Not many people experience that gift. All artists, no matter whether they’re authors, singers, dancers, sculptors bring beauty into the world and some would even say that the arts are the highest calling that we can attain to. I certainly think so. There is not much in the world that can bring a tear to my eye the way a good book or ballet can and that is something to be cherished. The way it makes me feel is to be cherished so I thank you for allowing your son to bring that kind of beauty into the world. I wish you and him the best and hope he will always follow his heart.

    Let me leave you this little article. Even though it shows more women I think it applies to men too. If anyone ever thinks ballet is for the weak then point them here:
    http://www.buzzfeed.com/donnad/you-should-know-ballerinas-are-more-hardcore-than-you

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  277. Laaur

    This is so lovely! My ex-boyfriend who remains a very, very dear friend today, was a boy who played dress-up in princess gowns and high-heels and danced ballet as well as jazz and modern throughout college. He is a wonderful, kind, handsome, loving man who is marvelously sure of himself at 22. I pray your son will keep his confidence as he grows older.

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  278. Liz

    I look forward to seeing Troy’s name go down in history as one of America’s foremost dancers of the 21st century.

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  279. Stacey

    Lovely article. My two oldest boys (9 and 13)are competition dancers and take tap, jazz, ballet, lyrical, contemporary, hiphop, gymnastics and acro. My youngest is in predance. My husband is a martial instructor which they all three learn when they have time. People are always really surprised that we prioritize their dance over the martial arts. But My kids get more eyebrow raises from adults than they do from other kids. I hope your little boy keeps doing what he loves and doesn’t let others ever discourage him.

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  280. Mallory

    This is beautiful! Yes, I believe God loves His creation and delights when we delight. God did create dance especially for His glory. Those of us who feel the call are privileged to worship Him this way! Thank you for trusting your son’s judgement. He is God’s created! He knows innately where he is most worshipful!

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  281. Candi in MI

    If I had a chance to talk to you I’d smile and tell him that I read a story of a man who danced so hard he danced his clothes off. His name was David, and he became one of the greatest kings in the Bible. Your son is awesome and I am sort of jealous that he has found his passion and continues to love doing it no matter what any others may think or feel about it! And awesome on you mama for encouraging that in your children! Keep on with the great work all of you.

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  282. Tracie

    LOVE!! Our 8 year old son is a dancer as well! His love is Ballet and Tap! He will be dancing in The Nutcracker this year for the second year in a row! Ballet boys are the best!!! Best wishes in your dancing from our son to yours!!

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  283. Erica

    Your description matches my daughter to a T, sounds like I’ve been remiss in getting her signed up for dance lessons. Thank you for your post. I wish society as a whole were more aware of how dumb sterotypes are. We bought a builders set at Lowes the other day, and they wanted to know how old my son, was. Quite suprised to learn I have a daughter who likes to build things and has her own tool sets. Anyway, wish your son the best, he’ll be a great dancer!

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  284. Jason

    I just wanted to write to say thank you for sharing your story, Ashleigh.

    Lately I have been finding myself in my living room more often performing various martial arts moves combined with a series of dance moves. Most of this is just what comes natural for me as I listen to a piece of music. From genres such as classical orchestral, to cybernetic jazz, to Japanese folk music and anything in between.

    Lately, I have had a realization that we as a species perhaps haven’t been utilizing our bodies nearly as much as we should be, and I believe this is why many human beings find themselves with ailing health and failing joints.

    We were designed for movement, and it is always inspirational to read of a story, especially of one who is so young, truly taking an appreciation for the most miraculous tool he has for acting out in this world: his body.

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  285. Hi there, I loved reading this and it just highlights the issues that young men and boy dancers experience throughout their training. We are very supportive of make dancers and s much so have just opened the UK’s first Boys Only Ballet School (www.BoysBalletLondon.com). Would you be willing to link our website as we would so much appreciate your support. Thank you for reading! James

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  286. Tasha Peterson

    My son is 11 he started dancing at 6. He is on a competitive team and this year we will head to nationals. He is the only boy on his team. This story could have been written about him. It’s absolutely absurd how some close minded people view dance. It is apart of human history it transcends race, religion, orientation, and culture. But the best part is our boys are leading the way for men to re enter sport of dance :) Thank You for sharing!

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  287. Jennifer

    So much of what you have written is my son. My son has been doing ballet since he was six and he will be 12 in a week. He has been in the Nutcracker six times with numerous parts. He tells boys that makes fun of him that it helps him in soccer and basketball, besides he has 12 beautiful girls to dance with. He says he has music in his bones and can’t help but move when he hears music. I feel God has given these boys a special talent and strong hearts.

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  288. Darin

    so im 15 and iv liked tap and ballet but i cant find it in me to ask my mom im on of those people that like video games and hanging out im like 5’5″ and 130 but how do i ask my mom the one whose seen me in only loose clothes’ if i can join those?

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  289. Ashleigh – this is breathtaking. beautiful. i love what your son said… and how envious we should all be of him because he has already found what makes his soul fly with delight. how many of us are still looking, still wondering why we are here, and what we were made for…. What a beautiful example to see a 7 year old GET IT. and kudos to his parents for stepping back and allowing God to draw him in and allow him to fly.

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  290. Jennifer L.

    Your post made me cry. I so much want to help my kids find what they are passionate about, as your son has. I found this post because I’ll be signing up my 6 year old son for ballet in the fall and I was curious what the internet had to say as far as encouragement for him.

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  291. Claire Day

    Brilliantly written. My son, aged 9 also dances and what you have written rings true. Recently at school some girls were teasing him a bit about doing ballet but one, who was clearly a little wiser, spoke up for him saying “You couldn’t have ballets like Sleeping Beauty if you didn’t have ballet boys”. Surprisingly, nothing more has been said. He also plays drums, which no-one questions. Yet both are expressions of the same thing!

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  292. Lillie Tidwell

    Our 8 year old son started ballet at the age of 5. He loves it. He is, and has been, the only boy in the ballet academy. Another young boy started last year. Our son is very muscular and is built like a linebacker. But, he has no interest in football. Rather, he prefers the arts. He does martial arts as well as classical. He is very active in judo, tae kwon do, and jeet kune do. He has numerous trophies and medals from his martial arts. But, his first love is ballet.
    He did go thru a period of time when his classmates made fun of him for taking balet. But, for his school talent show, he gave a martial arts demonstration and finished by breaking boards. That put an end to the teasing.

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  293. JDR

    That is so awesome! Sounds like a great kid – congratulations on a job well done!

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  294. Liz

    I am crying while reading this because this post shows a mother’s love as pure and simple in form as it can be. You love your son because he is your son, a beautiful child of God plain and simple. Regardless of what anyone says or thinks. Love is love and God has taught us that. God loves you, God loves your son, your son loves dance and so it is right and good that your son loves dance. Thank you for posting this and sharing your experience but most of all for sharing how it SHOULD be when a son loves to dance.

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  295. Liz

    Oh and btw, my brother in law is a professional ballet dancer with the Atlanta Ballet, going on his 20th season there. He is married to my sister in law, another 20 yr Atlanta ballet veteran. He is just as masculine as any other average man, and a dancer his whole life. He is a great guy who is as nice as can be, and smart, and funny, and just great.

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  296. Nicole

    Thank you so much for this post! You have no idea how badly I needed this t right now. My son is 6. He wants to do acrobatics in the worst way. I have signed him up & his father is less than thrilled. I have been second guessing my decision ever since. Your post made me realize that I need to support my son & allow him to explore what makes him happy. Thanks again!

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  297. Bella

    Ballet is wonderful. I’ve been in it for 12 going on 13 years and it is honestly the only time I am ever able to be truly 100% happy and free. During the advanced class I take we have a boy stop in who is a musical theatre major at the local college around the corner from the studio and he is a very good dancer. Too all of your sons relatives that question his sexualcity and masculinity that male dancers are some of the strongest men I know. I would like to see a football player catch a 120lbs girl mid leap and hold her high above his head smiling and making it look gracful and effortless at the same time. And I would like to see a football or soccer player with the same passion for their trade as a ballerina and ballerino have for theirs because often from a young age we have to over and over again give up things for dance. My motto is usually “I can’t I have dance “. I think being a dancer male or female is one of the most rewarding things a person can do because it allows you to be yourself in your most purest form possible

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  298. James

    This post is so true! I often examine society and see how each person is expected to do this, and to do that. If you’re a boy you do this, a girl does that. But God has so much more planned for each of us. I never want do things just because people expect me to do it.

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  299. Lillie Tidwell

    I, too, have a ballet dancing son. He’s now 9 years old and is in his 5th year. He’s built like a linebacker. He also takes judo, jeet kune do, and tae kwon do. He loves his dancing and all of his classes. For a long time, he was the only boy in class, but, now he has three buddies to dance with. When we have endured (very limited) criticism (who’s going to mess with a martial artist?!), my response is “While other boys stare at beautiful girls, my son holds them in his arms and dances with them! ”
    Btw… it was his father that enrolled him!

    Reply

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