Men In Ballet: A Tribute To Legends

Hello dancers and welcome back to From The Top! Today we are talking about a subject that we here at FTT love to dive into and that’s the importance of men in ballet! Sometimes the genre of ballet can be stigmatized as a strictly female dance style, when in reality, that is the farthest thing from the truth! Not only is there a rightful place in ballet for men, but there is an importance in including them. If the prima ballerina is the sage of a performance, her male counterpart is the basil. And while that may be a rather bizarre analogy, it’s very true. However, most importantly, men should never recoil from the thought or be ashamed to take up the art of ballet. It should never be something that is made to feel out of place or out of line to have a desire to study this genre that is just as much for the male gender as any tap or hip hop class. So if you are needing a little encouragement to take the plunge, allow us to offer a source of inspiration by sharing four male ballet dancers who became trailblazers in this industry! And if you are already a ballet dancer, allow us to also be a source of inspiration to simply keep doing your thing! Let’s get into it!

  1. Mikhail Baryshnikov
Photo credit: Classic FM

Mikhail Baryshnikov is  Russian-American dancer, choreographer and actor. He began his studies in the art of ballet in 1960 at the age of 12 years old. In 1964, he trained at the Vaganova School and joined the Mariinsky Ballet (then called the Kirov Ballet) in 1967. In 1974, Barynshnikov assumed the position of Principal dancer with the American Ballet Theatre, a position which he held until 1978. From there, he took on the position of Principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. But it doesn’t stop there! Mikhail’s career in ballet also became a catalyst to other avenues of success!  He graced television screens and movie theatres all over the world, making his television debut in 1976 on PBS and acting in countless movie roles such as 1985’s “White Knights” alongside the legendary tap dancer Gregory Hines. Mikhail Baryshnikov’s career has inspired ballet dancers both male and female with his work ethic, class and magnificent ability. We know that he will be a beacon of inspiration for many more years to come!

  1. Carlos Acosta 
Photo Credit: Playbill.com

Carlos Acosta is a Cuban – British ballet director and dancer. He rose to notoriety in his ballet career in the 1990s while in his teens. In 1998, Acosta joined the Royal Ballet Company. In addition to his incredible athleticism, his ability and technique was so incredible that it earned him a spot amongst the greats, including that of Mikhail Baryshnikov as mentioned above! In addition to his work with the Royal Ballet, Carlos Acosta also danced with The English National Ballet, The National Ballet Of Cuba and The Houston Ballet. Through his career that spans over 20 years, Acosta is currently the director of The Birmingham Royal Ballet, As time continues to go on, we will continue to watch the amazing career of Carlos Acosta and we are delighted to be able to witness the great trail that he has already laid and will continue to lay for male ballet dancers all over the globe.

  1. Michael Smuin (1938-2007)
Photo Credit: Smuin Ballet Facebook

Michael Smuin is another exceptional dancer that we have the joy of adding onto this list. Smuin began his professional career as a Principal dancer at the American Ballet Theatre. He later continued his career with the San Francisco Ballet, where he served as the Co-Artistic Director from 1973-1985. In 1994, Michael Smuin founded the Smuin Ballet based in San Francisco, California. In addition to his career as both a performer and an artistic director, Smuin choreographed for other legendary dance companies such as the Dance Theatre of Harlem, Washington Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet and Milwaukee Ballet. Though he left us too soon in 2007, we will always continue to honor his legacy and the impact he made upon the ballet industry. 

  1. Arthur Mitchel (1934 – 2018)
Photo Credit: Afropunk.com

And last, but certainly not least, we have the one and only Arthur Mitchel.  Mitchell first began his dance training after being accepted into the High School of Performing Arts, where he began to pursue a career in classical ballet. Upon graduation, Arthur was offered a scholarship with The School of American Ballet, also known as the educational division of the New York City Ballet. In 1955, Mitchel made his very first debut in the New York City Ballet primary company in a performance of “Western Symphony”. He rose to the position of the Principal Dancer in NYCB in 1956, just a year after joining the company. Though Mr. Mitchel is a dancer recognized for many accomplishments, perhaps his most well known accomplishment is being the founder of the legendary Dance Theater Of Harlem, which he established in 1969. He was passionate and determined to create a place that could effectively provide classical ballet training to the children of Harlem. Starting out in a church basement with only 30 children, Dance Theater Of Harlem grew to be the legendary place of dance that we all know, love and look to for constant inspiration. It will forever go down in history as the first African American Ballet Company in the world and for these achievements, and many, many more, Arthur Mitchel is established as a dance legend that will always serve as a source of inspiration for generations past, present and future.

We thank you all so much for spending this lovely Friday with us! We hope this post was the source of information that you may have been looking for or simply needed. We look forward to watching you bloom and grow in this beautiful art of ballet! Have a wonderful weekend and remember…

Keep dancing!


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