（5 June 2016, Sunday）Eleven-year-old Kenzo Seah won an award in the finals of the Youth America Grand Prix, a prestigious student ballet scholarship competition billed as the world’s largest. In the finals in New York two months ago, the Singaporean clinched the second prize in the precompetitive category for boys aged nine to 11. He performed a 76-second variation from the ballet La Fille MalGarde. As part of his prize, he was offered a scholarship to attend a two-month dance programme at the Berlin State Ballet School in Germany. More than 5,000 hopefuls reportedly vie for scholarships in the competition every year.
Who says ballet is for only girls?
On dance shows such as Dancing With The Stars and So You Think You Can Dance, it is not uncommon to see men perform ballet moves – spectacular turns and awe-inspiring jumps – to thunderous applause.
Some ballerinos have emerged as social media stars. On Instagram, Russia-born dancer Daniil Simkin has more than 72,000 followers, while French dancer Benjamin Millepied has more than 75,000. Despite this, there are still only a few boys in Singapore doing ballet. A check with 10 dance schools and institutions with dance programmes shows only a handful of boys donning tights and doing splits.
The Singapore Ballet Academy has five boys. The School of Dance – which has one studio in Mountbatten and another in Yishun – has none. Kavanagh Dance in Thomson Road has one boy among its approximately 300 ballet students. Its founder and artistic director Ruby Kavanagh, 56, says some people still believe boys who do ballet are effeminate. “This perception is wrong,” she clarifies. “Boys in ballet are taught to move differently from girls. The boys’ training emphasises strength and endurance, which are masculine traits.”
Dance veterans say although societal views of male ballet dancers have changed slightly, there is still some way to go. Dr Caren Carino, vice-dean and principal lecturer of dance programmes at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, says: “Parents today are more enlightened. They are more exposed to ballet and ballet performances.” Ms Cheah Mei Sing, dance faculty head at the School of the Arts, sees a consistent though small male representation at ballet concerts by home-grown dance schools. She says: “There is a small but growing shift in mindset.”
Media: The Straits Times, Life, Page C2
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南洋艺术学院 Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts