The men in ballet take center stage


I’m turning the mic this week over to Grier Cooper, fellow author, dance blogger and former dancer. She’s the author of the Indigo Ballet Series, ballet novels for young adults, and today is pub day for Book 2, HOPE. Congratulations, Grier! It’s a wonderful book that I just tore through, and even though it’s categorized as young adult, it’s a compelling, engrossing reading for adult lovers of ballet fiction, as well. You can check it out on Amazon HERE. You can also read my blog about her and her Book 1, WISH, from 2014, HERE.

But here I am, spending too much time at the mic. So, without further ado, here’s Grier.


Let’s Hear it For The Boys: The Men in Ballet Take Center Stage

by Grier Cooper

In the beginning, men in ballet held a supporting role, so to speak; lifting, catching, keeping a partner on center during multiple pirouettes…in essence doing whatever it took to make their female counterparts look good. Men mostly remained upstage in the shadows, their faces hidden under tutus as they carted their partners around on their shoulders, awaiting their solo, their moment in the spotlight.

Mathilde Kschessinskaya and Pavel Gerdt
Mathilde Kschessinskaya and Pavel Gerdt in La Bayadère

Women have historically occupied far more time center stage, serving as the focal point of the pas de deux and dancing their own solo. Plus, those pretty, sparkly costumes and crowns that twinkle in the light draw still more attention. In short, it was all about the women. There were occasional exceptions, freak virtuosos like Mikhail Baryshnikov or Fernando Bujones, men whose technique and good-looks were equally astounding, but men in ballet were typically not making newspaper headlines.

Until 2011, when David Hallberg became the first American to become a principal dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet. Now that made headlines.

David Hallberg
David Hallberg

One could argue that the critically-acclaimed film Billy Elliot (2000) paved the way toward building public awareness for male dancers everywhere (particularly after Adam Cooper, a real-life principal dancer with Royal Ballet, was cast as the adult Billy), and it has been steadily building ever since. The role of men in ballet is changing dramatically, and today’s male dancers are artists in their own right, enjoying equal footing and equal time center stage with their female counterparts. Male soloists such as David HallbergCarlos Acosta and Benjamin Millepied are now household names. Companies like Ballet Boyz, (an all-male company formed by former Royal Ballet lead dancers) and 10 Hairy Legs are shaping the re-branding of ballet from a male perspective. In both cases, there are no female dancers at all.

Andrey Ermakov
Andrey Ermakov

Male ballet dancers are now so revered that droves of football players signing up for ballet classes. Headliner Steve McLendon of the Pittsburgh Steelers says, “ballet is harder than anything else I do”. Football players aside,  ballet men are some of the strongest, most athletic and graceful beings on the planet. Who doesn’t love watching those gravity-defying leaps and insanely difficult turns?

To quote a recent tweet from the Ballet Boyz: “It’s a truth universally acknowledged that real men wear tights.”


Grier Cooper left home at fourteen to study at the School of American Ballet. She’s performed with San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet, and many others, totaling more than thirty years of experience as a dancer, teacher and performer. She blogs about dance and has interviewed and photographed a diverse collection dancers and performers including Clive Owen, Nicole Kidman, Glen Allen Sims and Jessica Sutta. She is the author of the Indigo Ballet Series ballet novels for young adults. Visit Grier at

2 thoughts on “The men in ballet take center stage”

    • Love that line too, Annette!

      Am I the only one here who’s starting to hum the song from Mel Brooks’ “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”? (It goes something like… “We’re men. We’re wearing tights!”)

      Um, okay. Off to go find the link to share, b/c the above is a pretty flat description for what is really pretty funny.


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