Why Don't Men Dance En Pointe?
To dance en pointe in ballet is to rise up to the toe tips, so that the body’s weight is entirely focused down on that small area. Dancing en pointe usually uses special pointe shoes, which are substantially reinforced, often being crafted with canvas or leather. While it is uncommon, men do in fact dance en pointe on occasion. This is by far the exception, rather than the rule, however, and there are a number of reasons for this.
Dancing en pointe first became popularized in the 1830s, and was used most often in romantic ballet. The look of a ballerina when she is en pointe is meant to be otherworldly, to convey the etherealness of the female form and to reinforce the smooth, graceful motions already present in romantic ballet. Male ballet dancers are not meant to encompass this ideal to the same extent, and therefore it is not as necessary to have them dance en pointe.
Preparing the body to dance en pointe is a rather difficult ordeal. Most ballerinas spend at least a few years of regular practice before they are considered ready to dance en pointe. The bones must have fully formed to ensure that the pressure will not damage the development of the foot, and great care must be taken to use proper form and build sufficient strength. Strength training can be a rigorous endeavor, and injuries are not at all uncommon.
These challenges are all very real for ballerinas, who often weigh less than 100 pounds. For male ballet dancers, who often weigh substantially more than that, the challenge is even greater. Extreme care must be taken in developing strength in the arch and ankles, and for many male ballet dancers it simply is not worth the trouble to be able to dance en pointe. At the same time, some male ballet dancers, including Baryshnikov, have argued for the value of male dancers learning to dance en pointe, if only as a strength and balance exercise, and to foster greater empathy and understanding with their female counterparts.
If one disregards weight as an excuse, there really is no good reason why more men don’t dance en pointe. The general consensus is simply that one doesn’t see male ballet dancers on their toes because choreographers don’t tend to come up with compositions for them. There are a few exceptions to this, including a few shows of Cinderella, and Sir Frederick Ashton’s adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which Bottom the donkey dances en pointe to represent hooves.
One other notable exception is the all-male ballet corps of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, in which a number of the male dancers wear ballerina attire and dance female parts. As the corps focuses primarily on classical and romantic ballet, this means that most of their shows feature many male ballet dancers dancing en pointe. Although the corps is in many ways presented as parody, the technical prowess of the dancers is nonetheless quite formidable, and quite clearly shows the ability of male ballet dancers to dance en pointe with a great deal of skill.
This was a very interesting read. I'm not a dancer, but it was a childhood dream, so I have followed ballet a bit. I was always told it wasn't a matter of should or shouldn't, but rather a matter of couldn't because of their weight on such a small space would seriously damage their feet, far worse than women, unless the man was very small. That men don't do it for their bodily health.
Les Ballets Trockedero de Monte Carlo. Of course, men can dance en pointe! And very well!
"I wish it were more equally distributed, like that we could see ethereal males, as well as grounded females, everyone in different types of beauty." Yes exactly!
Human beings are unique, why should there be a limit on people's expressions of beauty based on their gender?
I wish it were more equally distributed, like that we could see ethereal males, as well as grounded females, everyone in different types of beauty.
@bfree: You couldn't be more wrong. I've watched ballet for years and I think men en pointe are absolutely gorgeous. Men's bodies are as graceful as any woman's and I would love to see men en pointe in any and all ballets.
In my preschool days, my mother taught tap, toe and ballet and would take me along to her classes. While she taught, I'd play with my coloring books and such. I'm told that then, at four years old, I asked my mother if I could learn ballet and she said she'd have to ask Dad. Well, Dad vetoed that one. It is a shame because all my life I have had the perfect body to dance ballet. I rode unicycles from age seven so I have always had fabulous gastrocnemius muscles.
Because I was always very skinny and lightweight, the only sport I ever did was wrestling because opponents were matched by weight. Beginning in seventh grade, I wrestled in the 70 pound category, 75-80 in eighth grade, 80-85 as a HS freshman, 85-90 as a sophomore, then quit in my junior year while in the 95-100 pound bracket, so at age seventeen I was literally a ninety-five pound weakling.
I was an avid crossdresser by age ten, so I intentionally never built up visible arm and upper body muscle because my number one priority was to always look as 'good' (feminine) as possible, particularly in a dress and I always felt that visible musculature did not appear very feminine. In fact, at the start of my freshman year, I faked a weight training accident and injury that I was able to use to get my doctor to excuse me permanently from weight training.
I know that I would have loved to not only dance en pointe, but would have been in heaven dancing en pointe in a tutu. It's kind of ironic since I had my very first orgasm while all made up as a girl and wearing my older sister's recital tutu!
A ballerina might only weigh 100 pounds but she still has very delicate feet. Putting all that weight on the point of her toes can be just as dangerous as that of a heavyset man.
I don’t think men should even try to dance pointe anyway. They’re bodies aren’t near as graceful as the female and they look rather silly doing it. This is just my opinion I don’t mean to offend anyone.
The funniest thing is, some men do. They take pointe usually when they do "drag-type" ballet as a novelty. Or when they play roles like The Ugly Stepsisters in "Cinderella" and all that. Some guys even take pointe to increase their balletic abilities. I personally know a few who do.
Of course, some of them eventually go on to have some of the same foot problems the ladies who take the great sport do. But, some of them are as great as the women, some greater. So take that with a grain of salt.
Hell, take it any way you see fit. --A Lifelong Dancer, Dane Y.
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