There are typically about 20 women in one of professor Larry Robertson's ballet classes and no men. Well, maybe one or two—three, max. Except on Bring a Boy to Ballet Day. Twice a semester for the past 10 years or so, Robertson has invited each student to bring in a guy who's willing to give ballet a whirl. Responding to the invitation over the years have been friends, boyfriends, fathers and, in at least one case, a ballerina's best friend's boyfriend's best friend.
The scene at the beginning of class is a study in incongruity. Rows of dancers in leotards and ballet slippers gracefully rest their feet, toes pointed, atop the ballet barres. Guys in T-shirts and baggy gym shorts are interspersed, their sizable feet in white socks jutting up on the barres at right angles.
In the midst of it all stands Robertson, a man whose youthful physique and spirit are an advertisement for a life devoted to dance. The goal of this periodic exercise, he says, is to have fun—and develop respect for the challenges of ballet dancing. "You don't understand how difficult it is until you've tried it," says information technology major Aaron Teune '11. "I couldn't believe some of the poses the girls were holding."
After a warm-up, Robertson instructs the visitors on safe partnering and then teaches them a pas de deux. Stretching at the barre is difficult for Teune. But the actual dance? "Not as bad as I thought it would be," he says later with a grin. "We were just props."
Some of the men enjoy it so much that they come back on another Bring a Boy to Ballet Day. And once in a while a guy gets hooked. Jon Wells '06, for example, went on to take ballet every semester and also studied aerial dance with professor Gay Nardone. After graduating, he studied aerial dance full time and performed professionally on fabric and trapeze for two years. He now teaches flying trapeze at the Trapeze School New York in Reading, Mass. Business management major Sam Stage '12 also signed up for ballet and added a dance minor after visiting Robertson's class. "It was hard, and it still is," he says, "but the atmosphere is comfortable." As for being the only guy, no complaints there: "The ratio is really nice." And on Bring a Boy to Ballet Day, he gets to bring a girl—and show her how hard it is to do ballet.Return to UNH Magazine Campus Currents