In the first installment of this article, I relayed the sad stories, hardships and pressures the young male dancer faces. Here’s WHY it is important to stick it out despite the challenges…
Young male dancers have the opportunity to be leaders within their communities. They can stand out in a crowd and encourage other people to follow their dreams. Young male dancers are inspirational, hardworking, dedicated and sensitive individuals who can use their power to transform the lives of their peers and audiences.
And HOW to stick it out…
As soon as I embraced my unique qualities as a young male dancer, I began to acknowledge my own creative voice and use it in my dancing. Fellow male dancer Michael Meadows says, “Being a male dancer can be hard due to stereotypes, the best advice would be to stay true to who you are. Dance because you love it and never give up due to people who may not understand your art.” Ibn Snell echoes, “Stay true yourself, and don’t let anyone get to you. Whatever you want to do, you can do it. You have to portray an image of self confidence and not arrogance. And never get discouraged.” Although discouragement creeps in from time to time, remember to never give up on your dance dreams. Ibn and Michael never gave up on theirs. Ibn is now concluding his junior year as a dance major at the magnet performing arts high school of Philadelphia. Michael is the Public Relations Director at Nexx Level Dance and Theater in Toronto and also directs Step Up 2 the Nexx Level Summer Dance Intensive.
If you recall, Michael was the snowboarding team’s captain when he was encouraged to join the dance team at 18. He says that once competition came into play, the attitude of his snowboarding teammates changed. “Once we started winning competitions and bringing home hardware, people started to support my dance habit and realized that they could enjoy viewing it for what it was…entertainment.” Although it took Michael winning dance competitions for his friends to accept his dancing, they still supported him in the end. The point is not how people come to grips with your dancing, it is more important that they do it.
Remember Ibn’s story about hiding his dancing from his classmates? I promised I’d tell you the rest of this story. Ibn learned that honesty goes a long way. “Soon as my friends found out, they began to love my talent and appreciate me for being such an artist, so it wasn’t as bad as I thought!” Ibn had legitimate fears about exposing his love for dance, but his fears were not confirmed. People did not look down on him, rather they embraced him as a talented dance artist. It is shocking to discover that people can be much more open and accepting than we give them credit for. It is important for the young male dancer to keep an open mind and allow room for people to accept and admire his dance talent. Remember, not everyone will approve, nor does everyone have to. But there are many art supporters, family and friends who will accept your dance talent as a gift and encourage you to use it to the fullest.
Faith, Hard Work, and Respect
It was during that rough time as a beginning ballet student that I pulled from my faith. I prayed to God that I could get past this rough patch and learn to enjoy my dance environment. The harder I worked, the more people in the class began to accept me. The more respect I gained from my peers, the more confident I became. The confidence translated into stronger dancing and focus in class. I learned to embrace being the only male in the class. Sure, I felt pressured to be a strong lifter, a charismatic performer and a virtuosic technician because I was the only male dancer in my class, but the pressure helped give me the drive I needed to succeed during those hard beginning years of my dance training.
Michael notes that a male dancer must have tough skin to succeed as a dancer of any sort. “The industry can be cut throat so if you can’t handle the fire, get out of the building,” he warns. Nik Stasulli adds, “I think young male dancers should keep dancing if they really enjoy it because it becomes a part of your life and you can meet so many great people through dance.” Nik was so impacted by dance that he continued training and performing after college. As a graduate student he still finds time to dance. “There are so many avenues to keep dance in your life, and even if you don’t want to stay in a studio or join a company there are plenty of ways that you can stay involved.”Ibn Snell offers his words of encouragement to young male dancers worldwide. “Nothing is impossible, because impossible really spells I’m possible!”
As a young male dancer, there are so many amazing opportunities out there waiting for you. All you have to do is hold on, channel your faith and keep your eye on the prize. Your dance dream is attainable and closer than you believe. So to the young male dancers out there, hold on to you dance dreams and never let go. If you do, your dreams may one day grow beyond your wildest imagination.
What have been the rewards or positives for you as a male dancer?
How have you persevered? What has gotten you through the tough times?
Roger Lee is a professional dance writer, instructor, and studio consultant from Philadelphia, PA. His writing has been published nationally in Dance Magazine, Dance Magazine College Guide, Dance Studio Life Magazine, and The Dance Journal. Roger has taught hip-hop at The Rock School of Dance Education, Koresh School of Dance, Mid-Atlantic Ballet, Philadelphia Ballet School, and Drexel University Recreation Center. Roger also directs and choreographs Roger Lee Dance Company and provides dance studio marketing, communications, and publicity at www.rogerleedance.com