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Article: Steven McRae: Boys Do Ballet & We LOVE it!

steven McRae, Principal Dancer at the royal Ballet with a Group of male dancers dressed in dancewear from Boys Do Ballet

Steven McRae: Boys Do Ballet & We LOVE it!

It’s not every day that Imperfect Pointes gets to put the questions to one of the greatest male Ballet Dancers of our generation. But when we had the opportunity to sponsor the Boys Do Ballet masterclasses at LV Ballet School, that’s exactly what happened.

Imperfect Pointes held our first all male pop-up shop at LVBS. Steven McRae, Principal Dancer, Royal Ballet, shared his expertise on the day the day with over 60 young males, across 3 classes. He told us he was filled with pride watching the students celebrate their collective passion for Dance.


We wanted to give our community the chance to share some of that McRae magic, so we put your quick fire questions to Steven, from injury, to his favourite role and how he winds down.....

  1. What are the 3 things you recommended to help a male student ballet dancer remain focused motivated when injured?

    SM: I truly believe that an injury is an ‘opportunity’… An opportunity to add another level of understanding, appreciation and respect for our bodies. There is a tendency to see an injury as time wasted however the knowledge I have gained during my rehab chapters is invaluable.

    Also, your passion for Dance will be further ignited whilst you are forced to take a break… Visualise the moment you will fly again because YOU WILL!

  2. What does your internal monologue sound like throughout your recovery from your injury?

    SM ‘There is a way through this…… We will find a way’. I have always had this approach and I believe anyone who chooses to view the cup half full does this too. I completely appreciate that it is not always possible to remain positive. Challenges are painfully difficult at times. However, I do believe that there are ways to tackle problems by searching for solutions rather than more hurdles.

    Dancer, Isaac said: “Great time studying technique but the best part for me was the Q&A, so grateful to learn from, and meet such a dance legend.”


  3. What do you use as a healthy way to rest and recover during the ballet season at the Royal Opera House (on your off days)

    My children and I LOVE LEGO sets... LEGO building has been such a constant in my life, and I find it not only wonderful to sit and spend the time with my children, but I also enjoy the calming nature of designing, building, problem-solving and creating something unique.

  4. Favourite male lead role in Ballet?

    Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s ROMEO in Romeo & Juliet will always have a special place in my heart, not only because I believe MacMillan’s version is extraordinary, but also because it was my first Full Length Principal Role and I have had the honour of revisiting the Ballet alongside some of the greatest Ballerinas of our time.  

  5. Does artistry in ballet come first or technique or the other way around?

    I try not to separate everything too much because, as a Dancer you are an Artist using everything you have to express something. Artistry and technique go hand in hand. You cannot think that doing a step with ‘flat turnout’ but with a smile plastered on your face is Artistry, nor will a flat turned out leg connect with most of the public. A dancer's technique helps provide them with a vocabulary to use but the human, the person inside, will allow the Dancer to connect with the audience.

  6. Define the word 'potential' in the context of an up-and-coming young dancer?

    In the world of Dance and especially Ballet, there are no guarantees nor ways to predict how a young dancer will evolve in time. What ‘is’ possible is to nurture the Artist within, so that even if Ballet is not the chosen path at a later date, the human, the explorer, the creative, the intellectual and the individual feels they can flourish in whatever they choose to do.

    ‘Potential’ can be defined as possessing qualities that give the people watching, the feeling that there are qualities that ‘could’ allow that dancer to progress much further. Those qualities range from a natural way of expressing themselves, the way they hear the music, the technique they may have already started developing, or sometimes it is that 'X factor' that we all know exists among some people in certain settings, and you cannot teach it or buy it.

    We ALL have the potential to do wonderful things in life. It is just a case of exploring different avenues in life so that you feel that you can expand on that potential with the passion needed to do so.

  7. What tips have you got for older dancers who didn't start when they were young?

    It is never too late! Dance is for everyone and how we interact with it changes over our lifetimes. However, the positive impact of Dance is there for everyone to experience, no matter what age we are. Be patient with yourself.

    It is always so easy for us to compare ourselves to everyone else, especially if, as an adult, you are in a class with people who have been dancing since they were very young.

  8. What strength training do male ballet dancers need for pas de deux?

    As a young dancer, working on your coordination, finding another dancer's central balance/and off balance, as well as visualising how you would like to be partnered, if you were the individual being held, are really useful skills to develop as a young partner. As you grow and develop, strength training, guided by a professional, will enable you to build strength to protect your own body, to better support the dancers you partner and increase muscle strength and endurance needed for completing many full-length ballets.

  9. What age did you start ballet?

    I started Jazz aged 7 and was doing Ballet and Tap by the age of 8, followed by Spanish, Hip Hop, Contemporary….. Any style thrown at me.

  10. Finally, what are your thoughts on the growth in sustainable dancewear for males?

    I am always happy to see more dancewear options for males and the sustainable element is something that I hope we will all seek from the brands that we choose to enjoy.

Key takeaways from Steven McRae, Principal Dancer with the Royal Ballet:
Don't try to aim for perfection

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