Dance is often perceived as a feminine artform. Many men fear being judged by society or their peers if they have an interest in dance. For performative dances like ballet, men can face harmful stereotypes and judgment just for getting involved in this difficult, classical artwork. This is incredibly sad. Ballet required incredible dedication, harm work, and physical control. It’s an impressive career for any devoted dancer, regardless of gender. Also, dance is a great form of exercise and self-expression.
There are many amazing, influential male ballet dancers out there, so we at Nothing But the Arts want to share a few of our favorites!
Tetsuya “ Teddy” Kumakawa
Kumakawa always stood out, even before he made it big. He chose to pursue ballet after he saw his younger cousin perform, but his father was hesitant. He figured that his son wouldn’t stay interested in a female-dominated artform. But, in an interview with CNN, Kumakawa said, “I always wanted to try anything I hadn't done before. And also, what I loved about dance was no one else did it at school. So I could be a special boy who knows something that other people don't.”
Kumakawa definitely did end up being special. At the age of fifteen, Kumakawa traveled to Britain and studied with the Royal Ballet School, where he quickly joined the ranks of professional soloists. In the years since then, he started the K-Ballet group with some of his old friends from the RBS and moved them to Japan. Since then, he says he's seen more and more men become interested in ballet, probably due to the influence of the K-Ballet. He continues to work for the K-Ballet as artistic director, choreographer, and teacher.
Acosta was the eleventh child of a poor family in Havana, but he became the English National Ballet’s youngest principal dancer at age eighteen. He spent eleven years touring, joined the Royal Ballet, and became a Principal Guest Artist. He was an International Guest Artist for productions worldwide.
Since retiring in 2015, he has opened the Acosta Danza, the Acosta Danza Academy, and the Carlos Acosta International Dance Foundation. With all three of these companies, he hopes to help his fellow Cubans to grow in their appreciation of ballet. The Carlos Acosta International Dance Foundation in particular helps impoverished children to pursue their dreams in dance and choreography. Acosta is now the Director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet.
Soloist for the Houston Ballet, Watters is also known for his hit Youtube series “The Pre-Show,” which shows him and his fellow castmates preparing for Houston Ballet shows. He spent his childhood in Dover, New Hampshire, where he devoted countless hours to dance. In ballet, he found a community which gave him support and confidence in himself. Watters is known for his bold self-expression and daring experimentation with fashion. His Tiktok and instagram have brought new popularity to ballet on social media. At a little over a decade with the Houston Ballet, Watters is at the height of his career and his influence only seems to be growing.
All three of these men challenged societal expectations, committed to their dreams, and reached people who would have never thought ballet could be for them. They didn’t let other peoples’ doubts or judgements get between them and where they wanted to go. And that has had an amazing impact. Kumakawa is famous and respected in Japan, Acosta has helped countless impoverished youth to pursue their passions, and Watters continues to challenge expectations and appeal to the young to be true to themselves and follow their passions. How can you use your passions to reach your potential?
Do you want to meet other young artists and talk about how you can influence the culture around you? Check out our Geneva Chat!