Boys at the Barre: Boys, Men and the Ballet in Japan

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Journal Article
Japanese Studies, 2019, 39 (2), pp. 145 - 167
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© 2019, © 2019 Japanese Studies Association of Australia. Since the introduction of ballet to Japan in the early 1900s, male dancers have figured prominently, with a profile equal to that of female dancers. Despite this, the association between ballet and girls’ cultures has been dominant in Japan, as in other cultures. As a consequence, ballet is often considered to be a highly ‘feminine’ activity, with associations as a ‘queer’ activity for males in contemporary culture. What does the increase in visibility of ballet in Japanese boys’ culture tell us? This paper examines Japanese popular media that target boys and men as its core audience, especially the magazine Dancin’, possibly the first ballet magazine in the world exclusively for boys and young men. I examine how the magazine operates in contrast to the female version to attempt to create a virtual, imagined community that might offer a sense of belonging and encouragement to otherwise isolated ballet boys.
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