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'Ballet for Boys' at the Straz Center is boosting kids' talent, self-esteem and grades

Tampa’s Patel Conservatory sees big leap in boy dancers
boys doing ballet
Posted at 5:03 AM, Oct 07, 2019

TAMPA, Fla. — There’s a big leap happening in ballet — more boys are joining.

“This is so good for dance,” says 17-year-star Tyler Wright.

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The Straz Center’s Patel Conservatory has responded to the rise in young male dancers by hosting a “Ballet for Boys” class.

Wright will be a big part of the Straz’s Next Generation Ballet performance of the “Nutcracker” this Thanksgiving.

He remembers a time not too long ago when he was one of the only boys in ballet class.

Same with the Patel’s Dance Dean Philip Neal, who grew up in the 80s.

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“Dance was a strange thing to explain to my family, my friends. There was some bullying," he said.

But Neal, Wright and today’s talent at the Patel say acceptance of boys in ballet is much more widespread — no teasing or bullying.

The boys are also reaping more than just the physical benefits of dance. They're experiencing boosts in self-esteem and time management.

“Dancers have to be very disciplined and that often translates to schoolwork,” says Neal.