Sporting plan to boost boys in ballet

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Boys and girls at ballet barreImage source, iStock
Image caption,
Only a minority of ballet students are boys, says the Royal Academy of Dance

Moves from Angry Birds and Minecraft as well as footballers' goal celebrations are being used to encourage more boys to take up ballet.

Just 1.8% of ballet exam candidates are boys, says the Royal Academy of Dance.

Now the RAD has enlisted help from Marylebone Cricket Club to challenge gender stereotypes in dance and sport.

Royal Ballet principal dancer and cricket enthusiast Alexander Campbell said he was delighted to be an ambassador for the project.

Under the plan, Marylebone Cricket Club and the Academy will run a pilot scheme in primary schools, with boys encouraged to take up ballet and girls to play cricket.

"Cricket and ballet were a huge part of my life growing up, and continue to be a huge part of my life today," said Mr Campbell.

"They are fun and engaging at all levels, and I am absolutely delighted to have the opportunity to introduce children to my favourite art form, as well as my favourite sport."

Five male stars with a ballet past

Image source, BBC, Getty Images, Reuters
Image caption,
Rio Ferdinand, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Christian Bale have all studied ballet
  • Action film star Jean Claude Van Damme, 56, studied ballet for five years in his youth and was still doing the splits in his 50s. In 2012 he told Men's Health magazine: "Ballet helped me a lot with dexterity and flexibility, and it is the hardest workout a man can do."
  • Former England and Manchester United footballer Rio Ferdinand, 38, won a five-year scholarship to the Central School of Ballet before opting to take the more lucrative option of a professional football career. He went on to play for the Three Lions 81 times, captaining the team seven times.
  • Rapper Tupac Shakur studied ballet and acting at Baltimore School for the Arts in the late 1980s. He was shot dead in a "gangsta rap" feud in 1996 at the age of 25, but clocked up more than 75 million album sales.
  • Oscar-winning actor Christian Bale, 43, studied ballet before he got his big-screen break as a teenager, when he was cast by Steven Spielberg in his 1987 war film Empire of the Sun.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger, 69, who was Mr Universe before he became an actor, was shown taking a ballet class in 1977 bodybuilding film Pumping Iron, so he could become better at posing during competitions.

Overall, the initiative, called Project B, will put £30,000 into dance provision for boys over the next three years - and there are plans for further fundraising and investment.

It will include new choreography, available online for boys to download and practise, devised by Iain Mackay, principal dancer at Birmingham Royal Ballet.

"I've looked at ways of bringing what young boys interested in ballet can take from their passions outside the studio and use it to give them confidence and a common language," said Mr Mackay.

"Whether that be developing their favourite footballer's elaborate goal celebration, jumping and posing like super heroes, spinning across the room like Angry Birds, or creating patterns and shapes like building blocks in Minecraft.

"I hope the choreography I have created will motivate and excite aspiring male dancers to get involved and enjoy the athleticism and physicality that ballet holds."

There will also be more boys-only workshops and masterclasses throughout the UK and financial support for for male students on RAD teacher training programmes as part of a drive to recruit more male dance teachers and increase the numbers of male role models.

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