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

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

Updated on 08/28/19

"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. Screenings are slowly being added around the country—check out the list of dates at the bottom of this story.




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. "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 in 2017. The film is dedicated to them.)

Screening Dates

Upcoming screenings for Danseur are listed below. We'll keep you posted as more are added.

September 4, 2019: Chicago, Illinois, in partnership with See Chicago Dance and the Ruth Page Center for the Arts

September 15, 2019: Falmouth, Massachusetts, in partnership with Turning Pointe Dance

September 17, 2019: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in partnership with Pennsylvania Ballet

September 27, 2019: Saratoga, New York, in partnership with the National Museum of Dance

September 29, 2019: Portland, Oregon, in partnership with Portland Ballet

Latest Posts


Getty Images

What's Ahead for Ballet Companies in the Age of COVID-19?

Let's be frank: No one knows what's ahead for the performing arts in the U.S. With COVID-19 forcing the cancellation of nearly a year of performances so far, including many Nutcrackers, ballet companies face a daunting path ahead with no roadmap for how to survive. While schools can offer classes online or in small groups, what does the future hold for companies when it's not safe to gather large audiences or corps de ballet?

"We are in for a very hard set of months," says Michael M. Kaiser, chairman of the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland. "Nothing will change until there's a vaccine."

Pointe set out to find out what the new normal looks like while the virus is with us.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

#TBT: Sylvie Guillem and Éric Vu-An in "Mouvement, Rythme, Étude" (1985)

Sylvie Guillem and Éric Vu-An, two former leading dancers with the Paris Opéra Ballet, were both muses to Maurice Béjart. The boundary-pushing choreographer created several roles for each of them throughout their careers, including the 1985 duet "Mouvement, Rythme, Étude," when Guillem was just 20-years old and Vu-An just 21. In this excerpt from the ballet, the pair juxtapose technical brilliance and finesse with Béjart's playfully absurd post-modern movement.

Keep reading SHOW LESS
Christopher Duggan, Courtesy Boston Ballet

Tips for Fitting into a Company Setting When You’re in the Junior Ranks

Landing a spot as a second company member or trainee is thrilling—your dream is starting to come true! While you'll still be training intensely, you'll also have opportunities to perform in company productions and take company class. But the newness of professional life can also be nerve-racking. To learn the ropes quickly, you'll need to know what will be expected of you, both in the studio and in your interactions with other dancers and staff. A few simple tips can keep you from making common missteps.

Keep reading SHOW LESS

Editors' Picks