Ballet academy

Ballet academy responds to stigma of boys in ballet

CINCINNATI — Children of all ages develop a passion for ballet at the Cincinnati Ballet Academy.

“It’s very athletic, it’s very discipline-oriented,” said Zack Grubbs, director of the academy and former Cincinnati Ballet soloist.

Academy students learn the grace, balance and discipline of former Cincinnati Ballet dancers – men and women who inspire the next generation of performers. Many of these students are boys, and to this day Grubbs finds himself responding to the stigma of boys in dance.


Boys are welcome at the Cincinnati Ballet Academy and one class is reserved for young boys.

“When I started dancing, I was barely 12 and going to college,” he said, “so it was pretty hard.”

The conversation about bullied male dancers came to light after last month’s controversy involving ‘Good Morning America’ co-anchor Lara Spencer accused of making a sexist and stereotypical comment about Prince George taking lessons ballet.

Spencer has since apologized.

“I screwed up, I did it. The comment I made about the dance was insensitive, it was stupid and I’m deeply sorry,” Spencer told a GMA audience.

This moment on national television caused many in the dance community to speak out about the bullying experienced by some male dancers.

“They have a lack of knowledge,” Grubbs said. “They don’t understand what they’re talking about because dancing is very physically demanding.”

Zack Grubbs

Pierre Muller

Zack Grubbs is a former Cincinnati Ballet soloist turned director of the Academy.

The Cincinnati Ballet Academy has an all-boys class that started this month. The course was so popular last year that there was a waiting list.

Grubbs said he talks to his students about his experiences growing up in the world of dance.

“We’re talking about trying to push what it is about the dance that you really love, individually,” he said. “What attracts you? Why are you here?”

Ballet student PJ Costandi, a senior at Walnut Hills High School, said there were people who would never fully accept his love for dance.

“There’s always this group of people who are going to laugh at you or do whatever it is,” Costandi said. “There are always the enemies.”

But Costandi said he was also receiving positive messages of support.

“Being able to dance and act helped me learn to get emotional and to be able to talk and not be nervous about it,” Costandi said.

There’s still time to sign up for fall classes at the Cincinnati Ballet Academy. The boys’ course takes place on Monday evenings.

“It’s the most rewarding and fulfilling thing I think you can do,” Costandi said.