You’ll notice that Dance Advantage avoids the pink or popsicle color palette you’ll find on many websites about dance. As an editor who accepts writing from guests, I’ve turned down or encouraged changes when the writing is female-centric, assumes, or implies that all dancers are women or girls. I’ve even spent some time here and elsewhere writing about encouraging boys in studios, highlighting the careers of male dancers, and covering class curriculum for boys. There’s a reason for this.
As a teacher and a dancer, I like to think I’ve always brought to my work an awareness and sensitivity of the challenges boys and men face in the dance world. The moment I became a mom to a young son, however, I became more keenly aware of the many “rules” that surround both boyhood and the parenting of boys (at least in American culture and society).
These rules and expectations underlie daily life. They surface in minor, seemingly inconsequential ways. Like a couple of weeks ago when a fellow mom asked my son (the only boy in his preschool dance class) if he liked the class. Following his affirmative response (well, affirmative in a 3-year old, ‘who is this adult talking to me?’ way) the mom went on to explain to him that lots of football players take dance and asked if he was taking dance so he could be good at football someday. Innocent enough. I’m sure she meant well and even considered this supportive. What ran through my mind however was
- …football or sports is the only motivation a boy would have for taking dance?;
- Does he even know what football is? (no one in our household actually watches football).
Sometimes the rules surface in public outcry. Like the recent brouhaha about a J. Crew ad depicting a mom painting her son’s toenails pink. I’ll resist full commentary on this but let me just say that I’m currently pregnant with a daughter and I would be pretty indignant if someone were to tell her she couldn’t, shouldn’t, or shouldn’t want to do something because of her gender. You can assume I feel the same way about my son.
I digress only to share with you my passion and compassion for boys who dance and why I will continue to do my part to ensure that balance and equality exist in the content here.
Today, that content includes sharing the work of someone else. It’s the recently completed video series by DanceLifeTV called Male Voices which puts a spotlight on some of the young male dancers at the Rhee Gold school.
Though there is a brief yet frank discussion of a sometimes sticky subject (“feminine”-looking dancing by men), this is not a hard-hitting series that will turn your thoughts about male dancers upside-down. Rather it is a reflective, honest, and heartfelt look at some of the perceptions, struggles, and joys of being a young man in dance. I hope dance schools, parents, and boy dancers might be uplifted and encouraged through its content -- which I believe is its purpose.
Episode #1: Confessions
In this first episode, viewers meet the boys and discover what led them to dance. The glimpse into their reality begins with compelling discussions about bullying and teasing, how they coped with such negative behavior, and why they ended up stronger because of it.
Episode #2: Acceptance
Offers a look at how important a dad’s role can be in the life of his dancing son and insights into the struggles some fathers face when their sons choose dance over sports.
Episode #3: Tights and More
A look into the guys’ thoughts and opinions on everything from what it was like to wear that first pair of tights to the differences between male and female dancers.
The final three episodes of Male Voices are no longer available online. The Rhee Gold Company has made a DVD available for sale via Discount Dance Supply (for members of their Dance Teacher Program) and Amazon.
Episode #4: Opinions
The guys share their thoughts about male dancers who perform in a feminine way. It’s a topic that is not often discussed in the dance world, and the guys feelings range from confusion to wondering how others perceive them. They also discuss the male dancers they look up to and why, offering advice to boys who dance at schools where no strong male influence exists.
Episode #5: Brotherhood
In the first few episodes, we learned about the judgment and bullying that many male dancers deal with. In the last couple, we discover that the passion these young men have for dance is far stronger than the negativity that comes from those who judge them. In “Brotherhood,” the guys let us in on the unique bond they’ve developed. It’s about support, understanding, and-as they put it-being part of a special family.
Episode #6: Heart
In the final episode, the boys share their dreams for the future and the role they think dance will play in achieving them. In the moving conclusion to this frank and revealing series, they talk joyfully about what dance means to them.
I hope you’ve enjoyed watching! If for some reason you can’t see or play the embedded videos above, all can be viewed at the DanceLifeTV website.
I want to hear your voice, too!
- Did anything in the testimonies of these young men surprise you?
- How do your experiences relate to those depicted in the series?
- What questions or problems weren’t addressed in the videos?
- What are your experiences, opinions, and concerns as a boy/man/parent/dancer when it comes to gender and dance?
National Dance Week and International Dance Day!
How have you spent the week (or, how will you spend the coming days, weeks, months, or years) encouraging boys and young men in dance?
Nichelle Suzanne is a writer specializing in dance and online content. She is also a dance instructor with over 20 years experience teaching in dance studios, community programs, and colleges. She began Dance Advantage in 2008, equipped with a passion for movement education and an intuitive sense that a blog could bring dancers together. As a Houston-based dance writer, Nichelle covers dance performance for Dance Source Houston, Arts+Culture Texas, and other publications. She is a leader in social media within the dance community and has presented on blogging for dance organizations, including Dance/USA. Nichelle provides web consulting and writing services for dancers, dance schools and studios, and those beyond the dance world. Read Nichelle’s posts.