Sure, the San Francisco Ballet is performing Swan Lake and it’s an excellent opportunity for a family. But what if you don’t want to risk taking squirmy little ones to Swan Lake but would still like to expose them to something cultural for less money and less time? Bring them to Swan Lake from Stapleton Ballet where the cast is kids ages 8-18.
Ballet was considered masculine and predominately men until the second half of the 18th century. Women took up ballet study, and eventually overtook men in the performance of ballet. Now, the art is sometimes stereotyped as overly feminine, and male ballet dancers can be hard to come by; or so it may seem. Charles Torres is a man who busts many of the myths about ballet and his personality challenges a number of outdated stereotypes of masculinity. I sat down with Charles to talk a bit about dance and the male gender.
How did you find the world in terms of being receptive to ballet when you started?
Back then it was still not considered cool or macho. Nothing really has changed except the bullying has gotten worse for boys in ballet. I was able to be apart of a community with four other little dudes and tons of girls but most of all, our teachers were loving toward us even when we acted up.
How has it changed today?
It hasn’t really. All boys can hope for is an open, loving and nurturing community from fellow students teachers and staff.
What advice would you give to boys who want to dance? And to girls?
Go for it and know that there are tons of sacrifices: blood sweat and tears. What I find sad is that the younger generation is breaking down physically much faster and often more severely than before. Unfortunately, the larger companies still don't think as much as they could about a dancer’s afterlife.
What makes doing Swan Lake with these young people so special to you?
When Stapleton Ballet’s founder and director Virginia Stapleton first asked me to do this, I was at first thinking no way! Then that night I spent considerable time editing the music down and made the entire ballet under two hours total and yet the music still stayed true to the story. This has turned out to be one of the most special times in my career! Honestly, it is truly magical to witness these young ladies grow over a 6-8 week rehearsal period.
One always hears about football players taking ballet to strengthen themselves as athletes. What do you think about that?
Back when I started it was cool and guys were more open to it helping, but these days it can be more of a public relations stunt.
Do you consider ballet dancers to be athletes? Are they as strong as other athletes? Perhaps even stronger?
We are more than athletes. We are constantly trying to obtain perfection. By this I mean overall perfection. Not just something about record making time and distance.We take movement to a frontier that no athlete can touch.
About Charles Torres:
Born in Mesa, Arizona, he began his ballet training as a young boy. Charles received full scholarships to San Francisco Ballet School, School of American Ballet, and others as well as earning his Bachelor’s Degree and Master’s Degree from St. Mary’s College.
Charles currently is a guest artist, teacher, and ballet master in demand throughout the country. Since 1998, Charles has been a principal guest artist with several bay area companies. He also is a frequent guest artist with several companies in the Los Angeles and Bay Area, including appearing with the San Francisco Opera Ballet. Charles began his teaching career in 1989. He is currently ballet master at Stapleton School of Performing Arts. His students have gone on to all the major ballet schools, colleges, and universities around the globe.
About Swan Lake:
The Stapleton Ballet brings to the Marin Center stage one of the most magical and well-known works from the classical ballet repertoire. This is a story that is as poignant today as it was at its inception over a century ago. Our dramatic four-act staging of this masterpiece features opulent costumes and scenery and a cast of over one-hundred accomplished young dancers with professional guest artists. Performed to one of Tchaikovsky’s most memorable scores, this is a powerful tale of love’s triumph as Prince Siegfried attempts to rescue his beloved Odette from the vengeful Von Rothbart, who has cast a spell on the young beauty and turned her into his Swan Queen. In the end, Swan Lake reminds us of the transformative power of love, appealing to classical ballet fans as well as newcomers to this magnificent art form.