Ballet Training

Upcoming "Danseur" Documentary Confronts the Social Stigma of Being a Boy in Ballet

Ballet student Ashton Bradley in a scene from "Danseur." Photo courtesy NuArts Foundation.

Updated on 6/20/18

"I never wanted to stop dancing, I just wanted the bullying to stop," says American Ballet Theatre corps member Patrick Frenette in the trailer for Danseur, a new feature-length documentary about the social stigmatization young men face in ballet. His words shed light not only on the prevalence of harassment boys endure from peers outside the studio, but also their passion and determination to keep dancing in spite of it. The film, produced by NuArts Foundation, features interviews with ballet students, teachers and directors, as well as professional dancers like James Whiteside, John Lam, Derek Dunn and Harper Watters. And while screening dates are yet to be determined, Danseur has already generated a lot of social media buzz.



The documentary is the brainchild of director Scott Gormley. "I have a son who is a dancer, so I watched what he went through," he told Pointe last week. "I thought, is this typical?" After doing some research and talking to other parents and dancers, he realized that cruel and relentless teasing, along with social isolation and disapproval from peers and adults, was all too common. "It just felt like a message that had to be broadcast. My goal with the film is to educate people about the subject and hopefully start some conversations about what young men face when they choose to dance."

Gormley spread the word that he was working on the documentary and, after interviewing several young men, developed a teaser. "Once it was on YouTube and people started sharing it, I got more emails and more phone calls," he says. He eventually reached out to high-profile dancers like Whiteside, who were eager to participate. Gormley noticed common themes from all of them. "No matter who it was, they said they felt like they were an outcast from the general population," he says, adding that most bullying took place during middle school. "I'd hear that they were embarrassed, that they wouldn't share with other kids that they were dancing, that they'd disappear after school and make excuses for not participating in sports." Some were physically assaulted, while others lacked parental support, especially from their fathers.


The abuse is enough to make many boys quit ballet. "But what I found really interesting," says Gormley, "was that the ones who moved past it had a pretty strong sense of self early on. No matter what anyone else thought, they were going to dance because they loved it." (Sadly, two of the dancers featured in the film have since died. Fourteen-year-old Alexei Bauereis was struck by a car in 2016; Darrell Cleveland, a beloved teacher in Dallas, was murdered last summer. The film is dedicated to them.)

Gormley is now in the process of contacting film festivals about possible screenings. The film's first domestic screenings have been announced. See below for more information, and we'll keep you posted as more are added.


Tuesday, June 26 at 7:15 PM

Houston Ballet Center for Dance

The screening is open to the public and includes a Q&A with Houston Ballet soloist Harper Watters. Please RSVP to HBRSVP@houstonballet.org.


Tuesday, July 24 at 5 pm

Nantucket Dance Festival, Nantucket Atheneum Great Hall

www.nantucketatheneum.org


Friday, September 7

Point Park University, PIttsburgh, PA

9:40-11:10: Screening and conversation/discussion with Director (Scott Gormley) in the Center for Media Innovation with a selected group of students, administration, faculty and community partners.

4:30-6:30 pm: Screening of the film with all dance majors (and possibly cinema majors) in the GRW Dance Complex Studio Theater (or the Playhouse if available)


International Screenings:

Monterrey International Ballet Gala & Workshop, Monterrey, Mexico
Thursday, August 30, 2018 at 8:00 pm
Invitation only
The screening will held at "Sala Chopin" of the "Escuela Superior de Música y Danza de Monterrey"

In Partnership with Royal Academy of Dance Australia and Project B, Sydney, Australia
Saturday, September 29, 2018 at 5:30 pm
Dendy Opera Quays
Tickets: $25 sold here

For more information, visit RAD events

New Zealand School of Dance, Wellington, New Zealand
Wednesday, October 3, 2018 at 6:30 pm
Embassy Theatre
The screening will be followed by a Q&A from 7:45 – 8:15 pm


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