Malibu Dad Breaking Barriers in Dance World

Husband and wife team Ethan and Nikki White, dance instructors, take a bow after the performance of The Nutcracker. The two have been dancing together for 16 years.

Ethan White never set out to be a ballet dancer; while attending Colorado State University he wanted to be a professional rock climber, and played rugby in his spare time.  

His rugby coach at the time recommended all the rugby players take ballet. White figured it would help improve his footwork. He and a friend signed up for “Ballet 101.”

The professor for the class had a small company outside of the college and often recruited men from the class to join them. 

“Come to this tonight,” the professor said, as White recalled in a phone interview with The Malibu Times. “You’ll get extra credit.” 

The audition was for a holiday classic “The Nutcracker.” 

The two committed to the play, stipulating that rock climbing came first over weekends.

“We quickly gave up other things and fell in love with ballet,” White said. “[My] friend changed his major to ballet and became a professional dancer.” 

White ended up finishing his degree in psychology and anatomy/neurobiology, but by his senior year of college he had decided to become a ballet dancer.

What started out as a way to improve footwork turned into a 20-something year career for White; he toured the world through ballet dancing and eventually met his now-wife, Nikki.

“I’m sensitive to that, in introducing boys and men to ballet,” White said, speaking of his past experience. “I have a little boy and wanted to create a context for him in which it was okay to dance.” 

The couple has their attention focused on their Malibu-centric ballet camps, designed for young dancers to get a feel for “basic forms of movement and ballet through imaginative games, songs, music and rhythmical patterns,” according to the Miss Nikki Ballet website.

This season’s camp, Nutcracker Camp & Ballet Training, featured camps for boys and girls.

White wanted to create a class for Jax, his four-year-old son; the class evolved into a place not only for boys, but also for their fathers. 

“It’s a great experience for kids and now their dads,” White said.

He expressed his admiration for Malibu dads and “being willing to go for it,” “it” including wearing white tights for the “The Nutcracker” performance.

“I don’t know if it’s unique to this time in Malibu,” he said. “[But] there’s an incredible parent population. They want to raise awesome kids in an awesome environment.” 

However, ballet has traditionally been considered a feminine activity, something White is cognizant of. 

“Even from people in the class … they still dismiss [ballet],” White said. “It’s sad to me. It takes time … before people really respect it.

“It’s a struggle for them to get over the hump,” he continued. “At the same time, that’s a liberating thing.”

Still, White talked with excitement at the participation from 10 dads in total so far. 

“It makes the moms really happy, who are usually always the ones engaging and doing things with the kids.” 

The camp is 12 weeks long, with hour-long classes. The boys and girls classes occasionally intermixed. White said the classes, while serving as traditional classes, are also meant to help “teach mutual respect across gender.” 

Beginning in early September, the classes met Saturdays to prepare for the final in-studio performance.

The camp’s “Nutcracker” rendition was held on Saturday, Dec. 11, with about 30 or so participants. The kids, aged anywhere from four to eight, followed their instructors throughout the performance.  

In the future, White said he aims to encourage more Malibu participation, with the eventual possibility of a family-centric performance.