A Father’s Guide to Ballet with Billy Jim – a redneck’s take on ballet and history

When a boy takes up ballet, it is a real challenge, one that benefits from a father's understanding of the art form.

When a boy takes up ballet, it is a real challenge, one that benefits from a father’s understanding of the art form. Photo credit: the Catcher Photography – Getty Images


“Ballet for Guys” – a father’s take on his son’s interest in ballet
by guest columnist Will Kern

I started the video series “Billy Jim’s Guide to the Ballet” as a way to promote my new novel “Ballet for Guys,” which is being published by Canopic Publishing in January. The web-series features the main character of the book, Billy Jim Hauck, talking his two current interests, ballet and history.

I got into this whole ballet thing because of my five-year-old son, who started taking ballet when he was three. I’ve always been a fan of the ballet, but when he started taking it, I got curious about it too and found myself drawn to its beauty and tragedy. I’m from Texas and have spent a lot of time there the past four years, especially among conservative rednecks, so my book is basically the two worlds colliding.

The videos series is fun to watch (I hope), as in this second episode:

Then there are important history lessons to be imparted, as in this video:

About my book, Ballet for Guys

Here is how I would describe it: “Billy Jim Hauck is a good ol’ boy from San Antonio who loves hunting, cars, and being from the Texas. When his wife of twenty years leaves him for another man, he deals with it the way he knows how, by sucking down beers, watching Fox News, and trolling leftist websites. His teenage daughter Jill, a gifted ballet student, is disgusted by him and his behavior and is desperate to move out of the house.

“Then one terrible evening his daughter is raped and in the aftermath she goes into a tailspin of depression, anxiety, and guilt. Billy Jim swears revenge, but as the frustrating weeks wear on, his need for vengeance is tempered by his longing to see his daughter well again. Though way out of his element, he devotes himself to bringing her through her PTSD, and finds solace and redemption in the unlikeliest of places: her world of classical ballet.”

It sounds all heavy and serious with its themes rape and PTSD, and obviously that part of the story is, but the book is also very funny. You can’t tackle serious issues without using humor. Without it, it’s just morose, or worse, preachy.

About Will Kern

Will Kern is the author of Hellcab, one of the longest-running shows in Chicago theater history. Originally produced in 1992 by Famous Door Theater, Hellcab was scheduled for twelve performances as a late show, but its success with audiences and critics kept it going. It eventually landed on the main stage in 1993, where it stayed, with many cast changes and at various theaters, until 2002. It is currently the annual Christmas show at Profiles Theater in Chicago. Some of Mr. Kern’s other theater credits include Kid Sister, which received its World premiere at Profiles Theatre in 2010 and was selected by the Chicago Tribune as one of the year’s best plays; Mothers and Tigers: True Stories of Korean Women at Chaimoo Theater, in Seoul, South Korea, in 2008; and Skeleton, produced at Shattered Globe Theater in Chicago, 1994. As a screenwriter, Mr. Kern wrote the film adaptation of Hellcab, which stars Harry Lennix, John Cusak, and Gillian Anderson, and the short films Pain Chain and Lost in Rome. His travel writing and non-fiction have been published in numerous magazines and newspapers around the world. Currently, Mr. Kern teaches debate and narrative communication strategies at Sungshin Women’s University in Seoul. He is married and has a five-year-old son.

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