Whitlam Institute

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

What Matters 2019 Shortlist

Piroetting out of Society's Shackles; Boys and Ballet

Piroetting out of Society's Shackles; Boys and Ballet

Joly Harrison-Murray

Year 10, Scotch College

I rotate the door knob clockwise and creak the door open ever so slightly until BAM. There I am. Hunched in the corridor feeling like an utter fool decked out in ridiculous pumps and blue tights ready for my ballet class; a victim of my gender stereotyping upbringing. Through exposure to ballet, it is a certainty that boys would be able to express themselves, socialise, and enjoy a beautiful art form, plus maybe even fantasize about being Billy Elliot, if our fundamentally flawed stereotypes were destabilised. Through the understanding of the stigma, lack of exposure and forfeited benefits we can begin to comprehend why ballet boys are part of a miniscule, discriminated minority and the desperate requisite for change.

Frail, feminine and homosexual; are just a small quota of the names that generations have carelessly associated with boys who do ballet. The concern that ballet is not for boys is not a hasty, trendy decision, it's a deep-rooted stereotype issue, years-old. From their first plie, boys suffer from the predicament of having 72% of people presume they possess a homosexual sexual orientation, and subsequently suffer from discrimination. From youth, we are indoctrinated that boys should pursue an AFL flag and girls should seek the apparently easily attainable, principal ballerina position. As of 2016, 612,000 5-14-year olds participated in AFL while only a mere 41,000 boys were enlightened to the tremendous satisfaction of dancing. Our stereotypes fundamentally revolve around ideas such as boys sporting tutus and tiaras, connotations not associated with boy ballet contrary to these misconceptions we have formed.  Our critical judgements irreversibly decimate the artistry of boys.

What would you make of a boy doing ballet? For one little girl at the studio on my first day it meant bursting into tears, undoubtedly traumatised by the sight of me in tights. But also because from all of her experiences, being exposed to a boy doing ballet was something she couldn't say she had experienced. No boy is ever told to hang up posters of Rudolf Nureyev like they do Nic Nat Nui because they are promptly influenced by gender expectations and never exposed to these alternative superstars. The lack of exposure and conformalising to stereotypes by our parents and guardians consequently manifests into generations of lost potential talent and strangled human expression.


People's hesitance to endorse boy ballet results in blindness to the honest benefits of what this unique art achieves. In a world of freeway like sounds we call pop music we have depreciated the value of true classical music, the rhythmical roots of modern music, something ballet aims to remedy. It helps bridge the segregation between girls and boys in a world of single sex schools and socialising. Furthermore, a boy's social interaction and emotional intelligence have been scientifically proven to be enhanced through the tuition of ballet. This evidence leads to one final thought; if similar physicality can be achieved, stunning art can be performed and you are 76% less likely to get injured, why do we let outdated stereotypes define us?

In 2000 Billy Elliot showed the world that ballet was not just girls being fairies, but rather an astounding art that enhanced the human mind and body.  The poisonous stereotype of ballet dancers constrains many boys, however in the last decade more boys have breached our unhealthy societal restrictions to the tune of numerous benefits. This progression demonstrates the necessity to persist with advocation of the benefits of ballet because it has been proven to enhance qualities we often deem superfluous, and at the end of the day; real men lift women, not weights.


1. http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4172.0Feature+Article22010

2. http://www.footyindustry.com/?page_id=3243

3. https://activeforlife.com/ballet-is-for-boys-too/