A first-hand account of a UNH ballet class in the program’s annual ‘Bring a Boy’ day

By Tim Drugan-Eppich

Staff Writer

was excessively perspiring, trying to make my clunky body look graceful, and pointing my toes with a ferociousness they hadn’t felt before.  It was Bring a Boy to Ballet, and I was absolutely crushing it.  Not really, I was struggling.

Ballet II class taught by Susan Endrizzi engages in a barre warm up as a part of “Bring a Boy to Ballet” day.
Ballet II class taught by Susan Endrizzi engages in a barre warm up as a part of “Bring a Boy to Ballet” day.

On Friday in New Hampshire Hall, it was “Bring a Boy to Ballet” day. It is a day that happens once a semester, and the premise is explained quite well in the title. In a class of predominantly women, the Ballet 2 class was treated to a day where extra testosterone is brought in to help raise awareness of the program.

“I kind of expected to be thrown completely out of my element-which I was-but I never felt uncomfortable,” said Jack Shea, a boy who attended the event on dancing for the first time.  “The teacher and my partner were really helpful and made it easy to have a good time.”

“We want to spark an interest in dance, and expose men to ballet,” said Susan Endrizzi, the instructor of the class.  “But the main goal is to have fun.”

Endrizzi also emphasized that female guests are welcome to attend.

But the fact that it was fun did not negate the fact that it was hard.  I began to realize it wasn’t going to be a romp among the daisies when we started on the barre, in first position, which was the first thing we did.  So what I’m trying to say is, it was hard right away. 

First position is standing with your feet in a V shape, but when Endrizzi was demonstrating it, her toes were pointing in opposite directions.  My tiny V looked pretty stupid in comparison, maybe 30 degrees separated my toes, and my hand was already sweating on the cool metal of the barre.

I would have felt fine about myself, except that there was another fellow across from me who had been warming up with splits, could stand on his toes, and had biceps and pecs that were straining against his shirt.  After questioning the surrounding dancers I found out that he was a student in the class, which made me feel a touch better.

Brett McConn is in the master’s program for science and accounting.  After going to a few “Bring a Boy to Ballet” days the end of his sophomore year, he was convinced to take a ballet class and has been at it since.  I don’t think that doing math gets you ripped, but ballet is a daily part of his life, so perhaps that could have something to do with it.

“Most guys have this weird perception of ballet as not manly,” he said. “But you can see guys on YouTube doing huge impressive lifts and jumps.”

Endrizzi agreed with him.

“The balance, strength, flexibility and endurance make it a great way to stay in shape,” she said. 

I suddenly felt like my weekly squats and pushups were somewhat ridiculous when looking at the coordination and athleticism brought out in the unique movements of ballet.  I should buy a tutu.  Kidding, McConn was in tights, showing off that even his legs were more muscular than mine.

“It was definitely a sort of humbling experience,” he said.  “I have a lot of respect for how much skill the dancers have.” 

The barre work included various spins, leg lifts, and forward bends that made my hamstrings feel like banjo strings.  Twang.  Remember that balance Endrizzi was talking about as a necessity for ballet? I didn’t have it.  I’m sure I looked downright goofy flailing about on the various jumps and tiptoe walking.  In fact, I know I did, for there were large mirrors lining the walls.  My calves burned as my ego bruised.   Putting the barres away on the side of the room, I heard other boys groaning about muscles they hadn’t known existed being put through the ringer. 

Partner work, now this is what I was excited for.  I mean, the girl that invited me was attractive, and I’m a young man, rife with hormones.  So let’s dance.

A choreographed dance was what Endrizzi had in mind, and a choreographed dance is what she got.

“You all picked up the choreography really fast,” Endrizzi said.  But who was the best? “Of course you were, Tim.” Nice.

Whether she meant that compliment or not will remain a mystery, but she did pick me to demonstrate the moves we were tying into a larger dance, so I must have been somewhat competent.  Or perhaps she wanted to make everyone else feel better by displaying the worst.  I’ll never know.

The dance included lots of steamy eye contact, some bowing and trying to make tricky moves look easy.  It also included a waltz. 

Every once in a while you surprise people, and I had the privilege of doing just that.  Waltzing was introduced as an essential part of the dance, and unbeknownst to my partner and Endrizzi, I’m a pretty good waltzer.  So as I was tapped to demonstrate the section, I promptly blew Endrizzi’s mind and everyone else’s.

“Oh, you know how to waltz,” Endrizzi said, as I twirled her around the room like a spinning top. Women fawned over my moves, my partner stood in shock of the talent that she had invited with her that day.  Alright, I might be remembering it with a little excess braggadocio, but I was quite pleased with myself. 

Just as my confidence was blowing through the roof, lifts were introduced into the dance.  The guys in the class exchanged looks as Endrizzi explained the lifts.  Here was the big moment, the big test, if we had any manliness left to make up for the atrocity that had taken place in lack of flexibility and coordination up until now, this was the opportunity to negate all that.  While my partner could be described as petite, I was a bit nervous over a shoddy gym-going record.  How many times had I been in the past month?  Does going just to take a sauna count?

But putting our hands on the hips of our respective females, we gracefully lifted the ladies high into the air, and gently brought them back to earth.  Oh, what manly men we were.

The class wrapped up with running lifts where the women lifted the boys. Kidding, we were still lifting, but now it was combined with trying not to trip over our feet. 

As time ran out, I realized why McConn was so jacked.  I could feel muscles screaming from confusion. “What was all that?” they seemed to be asking. 

“It was definitely worth getting to see the artistry behind something that I previously knew very little about,” said Shea.  “I think that it’s important to try new things, especially those which I would never really associate myself with.”

I regret that I will be finished with school after this semester; for I would enjoy going back and seeing if I can’t point my toes even more furiously.  If anyone has the opportunity to take a ballet class, I highly recommend it, you might surprise yourself.  Or get an unexpected compliment.

“You have great feet,” Susan Endrizzi told me.  That compliment will get me through the rest of the semester.