Few ballet dancers, especially males, see the type of fame that has been bestowed on Mikhail Baryshnikov. From training in his homeland of Russia, where ballet goes back to the beginning, to his television role as Carrie Bradshaw’s love interest in the later seasons of Sex in the City, Baryshnikov has reached the type of fame most ballet performers do not.
So we are going to enlighten you on a few male dancers who have exemplified their talents in the ballet or have simply utilized its lessons to further themselves in another career.
Let us begin with a few famous male dancers that are not Mikhail Baryshnikov.
1. Roshon Fegan
This artist, also known as Ro Shon, has writes songs, acts, performs hip hop, and dances the ballet. Still, he is recognized more for his roles in films like Spider-Man 2, Drillbit Taylor, and Camp Rock.
Born in Los Angeles, California on October 6, 1991 Ro Shon is the son of Roy Fegan, an actor and producer of African-American descent who has worked on such titles as The Shield, Will & Grace, The Meteor Man, and Married with Children.
As well as attending high school Fegan trained at the BK Acting Studio and the USC 32nd Street Performing Arts School, where we assume he studied ballet. Before graduating Fegan began home-schooling so he could meet the schedule required by his acting career.
His silver screen debut was at the young age of twelve in Spider-Man 2, a feature film released in 2004. Two years later he has a small part on Monk, the hit TV series. In 2008 Fegan got a role in the comedy Drillbit Taylor and Baby, an independent production.
His big break for fame came in June later that same year when he landed the part of Sander Loyer in Camp Rock, an original film released by the Disney Channel. It reached number one for entertainment telecast on cable television in 2008. In this movie he worked alongside the Jonas Brothers.
Fegan sang tunes for the Camp Rock movie soundtrack. He also played Sander in the sequel Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam. Later he starred alongside Ty Blue in the Disney Channel series Shake It Up!
Still, Fegan could not deny his dance and ballet background. He was a contestant on Dancing with the Starts 14th season and reached the top six for that year.
2. Benjamin Millepied
Noted mostly for his work on the dark movie Black Swan, this male ballet last entry. Born in 1977 in Bordeaux, France the baby of a family with three boys this male dancer began to train in the art of ballet with his mother Catherine Flori, who once danced professionally, at the young age of eight. At the age of thirteen Millepied continued his education at the Conservatoire National in Lyon, France. He continued his studies there for three years.
At the age of fifteen Millepied spent the summer of 1992 at the School of American Ballet and the next year came back to New York to study there full-time. He was able to do so thanks to an allowance he was awarded from the French Ministry called the Lavoisier Scholarship. While there he had a mentor in Jerome Robbins and in 1994 Millepied originated a role in Robbins’ 2 and 3 Part Inventions.
In 1995 Millepied earned a position in the New York City Ballet’s corps de ballet. Three years later he was positioned as a soloist and in 2002 Millepied’s success as principal dancer came to be. Soon though, his focus would tighten on to choreography.
Millepied produced original ballets for the Paris Opera Ballet, the Metropolitan Opera, the School of American Ballet, the American Ballet Theater, and the City Ballet. He took on the role of house choreographer with the Baryshnikov Arts Center from 2006 through 2007.
Expected to only last a few years Millepied used a commission to found the L.A. Dance Project in 2011 with prominent composers and producers. The very next year the company became a full-time resident at the Los Angeles Theatre Center. They focus on production fresh and innovative works.
On September 22, 2012, at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the L.A. Dance Project held their first performance as a company. Although only slated to last for two years, this company is still performing today. They moved to their new home at the Theatre at Ace Hotel in January of 2014.
In 2013 the Paris Opera Ballet offered the position of director of dance to Millepied, coming in after Brigitte Lefèvre in 2014. He accepted and while there he collaborated with William Forsythe and raised over a million euros for the company at that season’s opening gala.
In 2015 a ballet documentary, titled Relève, opened in France in December. The focus of this film was Millepied and his attempt to put on his first show in the role as the Paris ballet director. It premiered in the United States at the Tribeca Film Festival under the title of Reset. Yet his tenure would not be long, Millepied left the Paris Opera Ballet in February of 2016.
3. Michael Smuin
This dancer, born in Missoula, Montana in 1938, would eventually become the director of his own ballet company aptly named the Smuin Ballet, which is located in San Francisco.
Before that Smuin was a primary performer with the San Francisco Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre from 1973 though 1985. He also served as co-artistic director while there. During this time Smuin found time to choreograph productions for the Milwaukee Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Washington Ballet, and the Dance Theatre of Harlem.
Besides ballet, Smuin dabbled in Broadway production as a dancer, director, and choreographer. Some of his works include Little Me, Anything Goes, Sophisticated Ladies, and Shogun: The Musical. Also choreographing a production of Mack and Mabel on London’s West End in 1995.
The movies were another genre in which Smuin dipped his ballet shoes into. He worked on Rumble Fish, A Walk in the Clouds, The Joy Luck Club, The Fantasticks, and The Cotton Club.
It stands to reason, with credits in all these different subcategories of entertainment, that Smuin wanted his company “to infuse ballet with the rhythm, speed, and syncopation of American popular culture.” It would seem that he did just that. Even after his death on April 23, 2007, Smuin Ballet in San Francisco continues to move in his direction.
4. David Gill
This male ballet dancer didn’t stay on the scene for long. Gill ultimately became a film historian in the UK. On June 9, 1928 Gill was born in Papua New Guinea so a missionary doctor father, who was the brother of Eric Gill, the sculptor. When his family relocated to England in 1933 Gill began studying at the Belmont Abbey School, in Hereford.
In 1946 Gill began his ballet training at Britain’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet. He danced in a production of The Sleeping Princess, whose opening show appeared in the Covent Garden that same year. He married ballerina Pauline Wadsworth who was an instructor at The Royal Ballet School.
This was where his influence and association with ballet ended, at least as a performer. From there, in 1955, Gill decided to try television. He produced The Way of the Cross for the BBC, which was his mime play. Later he became an editor with the Associated-Rediffusion.
Alterations in the business structure forced Gill’s movement to Thames Television in 1968. During this time, he focused his work on news programs and documentaries. It was while there he would first meet Kevin Brownlow, another film historian.
After working on a few projects together the two historians founded their own company titled Photoplay Productions in 1990. Some of the notable films they restored are The Phantom of the Opera, Ben Hur, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and The Thief of Bagdad.
While working on a project for the Royal Festival Hall in 1997 Gill died unexpectedly.
5. George de la Peña
Our next male ballet dancer hails from New York City. While studying at the High School for the Performing Arts de la Peña decided to focus on the dance and he eventually graduated from the School of American Ballet.
In the 1970’s de la Peña took a position with the American Ballet Theatre and became a soloist in no time. While there de la Peña has worked with Baryshnikov and many others including Agnes de Mille, Kenneth MacMillan, and Jerome Robbins.
In 1980 de la Peña played Vaslav Nijinsky in the film Nijinsky. Later he moved on to perform on Broadway. Some works he has danced on are The Red Shoes, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, Woman of the Year, and the revival of On Your Toes.
De la Peña has also appeared in television and film on works like L.A. Law, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Personal Best, The Flamingo Kid, Kuffs, Brain Donors, and Mighty Aphrodite.
While working on his own career de la Peña has taken time to teach at universities such as, CalArts, Connecticut College, and the University of Iowa. He holds the position of chair of the Department of Dance at the later.