Dancer Steven Mcrae talks de­fy­ing stereo­types.

AHEAD OF HIS RE­TURN TO THE AUS­TRALIAN STAGE IN JUNE, THE ROYAL BAL­LET PRIN­CI­PAL DANCER RE­VEALS WHAT IT TAKES TO FORGE A CA­REER AS A PRO­FES­SIONAL MALE DANCER

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - as told to Al­ley Pas­coe The Royal Bal­let will per­form from June 29 to July 9 at the Queens­land Per­form­ing Arts Cen­tre; qpac.com.au.

It was great when Billy El­liot came out be­cause the film put male dancers in the pub­lic spot­light. My story is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent one, though. When I started danc­ing at age seven, my fam­ily to­tally sup­ported me. I grew up in West­ern Syd­ney in a mo­tor­sport fam­ily; my dad was a drag racer and an auto-elec­tri­cian. I started danc­ing com­pet­i­tively at eight and my fa­ther be­came my big­gest sup­porter.

Ev­ery­one at pri­mary school knew me as “Steven the dancer”. I danced five or six days a week be­cause I loved it. Even if some­one did make a neg­a­tive com­ment, it wasn’t enough to stop me. Ul­ti­mately, if you re­ally want to do some­thing, you’ll pur­sue it no mat­ter what any­one says.

I moved to Lon­don af­ter I turned 17 to train at The Royal Bal­let School. It was not an easy sac­ri­fice to make at that age. I’m not go­ing to sugar-coat it, any­one who wants to go over­seas to train should know it’s not an easy road to take. It’s iso­lat­ing and it can be very dif­fi­cult.

I was lucky I had a quick rise to the top of the ranks. In 2009, at age 23, I was made a prin­ci­pal dancer. To per­form at that level you need an ex­treme amount of ath­leti­cism. Ob­vi­ously I’m bi­ased, but I think we have to be in bet­ter shape than most elite sports­men. Other male ath­letes peak for their match and then have down­time. Once a bal­let dancer starts a sea­son, they train six days a week, up to 10 hours a day. Per­form­ing the role of Romeo in Romeo And Juliet is like a mini marathon; it’s three hours of go-go-go. And it’s not just the phys­i­cal el­e­ment, it’s emo­tion­ally drain­ing, too.

I think any stigma sur­round­ing male dancers is cre­ated by peo­ple who don’t have knowl­edge about the pro­fes­sion. Those who hold that opin­ion have never gone to watch a per­for­mance; they haven’t seen the work that goes on be­hind the scenes. I’ve in­vited peo­ple to watch a re­hearsal and that has blown their minds be­cause they re­alise how de­mand­ing it is.

I think ev­ery child, boy or girl, should try danc­ing be­cause it’s great for their con­fi­dence. They don’t have to do it six days a week or pur­sue a pro­fes­sional ca­reer like me, but they should have a go. Par­ents who think dance isn’t a real pro­fes­sion need to let go of that pre­sump­tion and al­low chil­dren to pur­sue their own pas­sion.

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