There’s a reason choreographers can now highlight male dancers’ bodies in innovative ways. Many are acquiring the stretch and polish usually demonstrated by the female body in ballet, movement qualities customarily used to convey vulnerability and emotional depth.
Point work is a separate issue. Some men take it up just to strengthen their ankles and propel their arch. But today’s male dancers don’t want to go on point as a caricature of femininity, as has historically been the case with drag roles. As it stands, “they don’t have access to proper training,” Ms. Bouder said. “To get good — really good — at it, to be taken seriously, they would have to pay out of pocket for private lessons.”
Fear of injury can discourage dancers from training across genders. Without the usual apprenticeship, point work can be dangerous. And no amount of technical study can prepare women to try men’s jumps. Going for double the torque and lift needed for two turns in the air is a huge shift, and botched landings often result in twisted ankles.
Women are even more constrained when it comes to men’s partnering moves. “If I beefed up enough to be able to lift a woman above my head, or even just partner her properly when she’s balancing, I would not look good in a tutu,” Ms. Bouder said. Ms. Brandt too said that because most women have less upper-body strength, they “fake” lift, doing so for a few seconds as their partner jumps into it.
A dancer’s skill set is ultimately dictated by the job market. Girls do not learn boys’ jumps because “they’re not asked to do them in 99 percent of the repertoire,” Mr. Stafford said. He added that should this change, the curriculum will be adjusted.
As it probably will. In 2017, Justin Peck, City Ballet’s resident choreographer, made headlines when he included gender-neutral roles in “The Times Are Racing,” showing that male and female dancers could swap roles. For his “Principia,” debuting Jan. 31 as part of the company’s winter season (through March 3), Mr. Peck has incorporated a pas de deux, but without the usual romance. The new duet instead explores things like “teamwork, construction, opposition, physical tension and compromise,” he wrote in an email.