Top 10 Dudes of Dance

By Marcia Custer

So, we all have celebrity crushes.  And when I think about mine, many who come up fall in to the “have been, will be, or could be – a ballet boy” category.

As part of Ballet in Cleveland’s Guys Dance, Too! Campaign, I thought it might be fun to take a look at some of my favorite male performers and choreographers from the past 100 years and note just what it is about these guys that make them totally dreamy.

Sprinkled in this list are classic goodies as well as some surprise ballerinos you may not have known first as dancers. Tweet @balletincleve and @marcia_custer to let us know who your top dudes of dance are!

1. Vaslav Nijinsky

Nijinsky in Afternoon of a Faun, c1912.

Nijinsky paved the way for men in the 20th century dance scene. He has been hailed as one of the most talented male ballet dancers. His iconoclastic and groundbreaking choreography for the Rite of Spring (seen this past summer at Blossom, performed by the Joffrey Ballet with live accompaniment by the Cleveland Orchestra) and Afternoon of a Faun, it’s easy to see Nijinsky knew how to rile up a crowd (you know that little story about the 1913 riots at the Bolshoi? That was all Nijinsky… and maybe some Stravinsky too)

Whether touching on ritualistic sacrifice or lustful pining in a forest, he made dances that were emotionally moving and inventive. And totally rebellious. Also known for defying gravity with grand leaps and dancing along side Anna Pavlova, I’d say Nijinsky is the number one babe of ballet.

2. Rudolf Nureyev


We’ve seen Ronnie Underwood from the CW reality show Breaking Pointe called “the bad boy” of the Ballet West company, but without Rudolf Nureyev I’m not so sure that role would be possible. Nureyev was not only one of the most physically agile, strong and artistic forces in ballet of the 1960s and 1970s (before his untimely death in 1993) but he lived a jet-setting lifestyle that made boys and men envious. Nureyev was the first international bad boy of ballet. Always a rebel, the Russian-born dancer defected from the Soviet Union in 1961 and would routinely refuse to do things like wear certain costumes that were not flattering.

He may have been a diva, but when he danced with Margot Fonteyn- he partnered her like there was nothing else he could be doing in that moment. What a dreamboat!


Despite his reputation for romantic escapades aplenty, on stage Nureyev’s only got eyes for Fonteyn.

3. Mikhail Baryshnikov

Of course Baryshnikov. Seriously, have you seen this guy dance? Check out those jumps… Just a little morning ballet center work… Ah! There’s not much else to say except for if you haven’t already, check him out in  White Nights (a film with Gregory Hines!)  and also catch him being Carrie’s suave boyfriend in Sex & The City. Classic.

4. Macaulay Caulkin

I bet you didn’t see this one coming. You’re probably thinking, “Macaulay Caulkin, the kid from Home Alone? He studied ballet?” The answer is yes- many child stars, like Caulkin, study ballet while they try their hand at acting. You can catch Caulkin as the Nutcracker Prince in the New York City Ballet’s 1993 production. Without studying at the School of American Ballet do you think his hands in the classic after-shave scene of Home Alone would have become so iconic? You aren’t just born with that kind of poise!

Caulkin practices battling home invaders from both the 1890s and the 1990s... Talk about range!

Caulkin practices battling home invaders from both the 1890s and the 1990s… Talk about range!

Also, for the record, this crush is one from the vaults. My 8 year-old girl crush on 12 year-old Macaulay has not continued to present day. Even if Caulkin is now in some awesome Velvet Underground parody band. He’ll never be as cool as when he was the Nutcracker Prince!

5. Alejandro Cerrudo


An up and coming choreographer in the Hubbard Street Dance Company of Chicago, Cerrudo’s got style for miles. In 2008 Cerrudo was named Hubbard Street Choreographic Fellow and became the company’s first Resident Choreographer in 2009. Check out Lickety Split, a personal favorite, which is set to music by Devendra Banhardt. His creative energy and fast ascent in the ballet world are awe-inspiring!

6. Alexander Godunov

Ballet is not only for child film-stars! Godunov, an actor most known for his role in the classic action movie Die Hard, was initially a Soviet-based ballet dancer who defected to the U.S. in 1979.

from ballet boy to german terrorist- or at least acting like one in Die Hard! Gudonov keeps us on our toes!

From ballet boy to German terrorist- or at least acting like one in Die Hard! Gudonov is a multi-faceted man crush

7. Jerome Robbins

This guy knew how to walk the line between the worlds of dance and theater. A master of cross-over between ballet and Broadway, Robbins choreographed such classics as On The Town and West Side Story. There’s no way the Jets aren’t ballet-trained with those sky-high fouettes. Thanks to Robbins for making ballet synonymous with “playing it cool.” Officially, I have a crush on anyone who has ever danced any Jerome Robbins choreography.

Jerome Robbins- keeping it so real on the set of West Side Story.

Jerome Robbins- keeping it so real on the set of West Side Story.

8. Benjamin Millepied

Benjamin Millepied- the real reason everyone is jealous of Natalie Portman. Dang.

Benjamin Millepied- the real reason everyone is jealous of Natalie Portman. Dang.

Best known for his choreography in the 2010 Darren Aranofsky film Black Swan, and his subsequent marriage to Natalie Portman, Millepied collaborates often outside of ballet. His artistry and advocacy make him a top dude of dance.

9. Jaques D’amboise

The documentary Look Who’s Dancing Now showcases former NYCB principal dancer Jaques D’Amboise on his journey to bring dance into New York City public schools. His passion and fervor award him a solid place on this list.

Jack D'Amboise dances with his babies! Adorable.

Jack D’Amboise dances with his babies! Adorable.

10. Glenn Allen Sims

A star of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Glenn Allen Sims is athletic, gorgeous and a total sweetheart to boot. I had the pleasure of taking a master class with him and it was fun, full of fan kicks and lots of positive feedback. He is also fortunate enough to dance alongside his beautiful wife Linda Celeste Sims in pieces such as Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort which makes them a total dreamboat duo.

Glenn and his wife, Linda, rock it out in the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater together daily. Power couple!

Glenn and his wife, Linda, rock it out in the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater together daily. Power couple!

Of course, after writing all of this, my mind continues to stray to the innumerable dudes of dance I didn’t mention— there’s a whole laundry list which might include Jack Cole (jazz), Gene Kelly (tap), Les Twins (contemporary hip hop) Erick Hawkins (modern) and of course more ballet boys – Carlos Acosta, Edward Villela, Rex Tilton– who’s coming to Cleveland soon (be still, my heart) ! — and Nacho Duato. Oh boy, let’s keep this conversation going. Tweet me @marcia_custer and let me know who I’ve been missing all my life!


Marcia Custer is an international dream boat aficionado and ballet enthusiast. Since that one time she got kicked out of the Nutcracker for dancing in the aisle (age 4), she’s managed to blend her love for ballet with her disdain for convention. When she’s not idly dreaming about under-appreciated celebrities, Marcia can be found at Kent State University, where she is finishing up her B.A. in Dance Studies. 

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