You may or may not have heard the uproar that’s been happening in the dance world right now, but we couldn’t let the opportunity to pass us by to weigh in. If you haven’t seen, last week a national television personality laughed about boys — specifically young boys — taking ballet, quipping, “We’ll see how long that lasts!” while the audience laughed along with her. But the context isn’t important. The fact that it happened is.
For all of us in the dance community, it was a shock to see something like that played out live. Perhaps it shouldn’t have been. Boys have long endured a stigma in ballet, and yet we thought we’d made progress past this level of nonsense. We thought we’d come so far in ballet, and yet this was a reminder that we still have miles to go — and not just with recognizing that dance is for boys AND girls, but for recognizing that dance is for all body types, all races, and all abilities.
Here in Frisco, and at SDC in particular, we have never had a big population of boy dancers. It’s tough to convince dads (and some moms) that dance is for everyone, that it’s a healthy, athletic activity that builds strength, coordination, flexibility, and confidence. To be fair, there are also a LOT of choices when it comes to childrens’ activities, and sports around here are a big priority.
And so we have often leaned in to the pink and the tutus. Perhaps we’re perpetuating the stereotypes of “girls’ activities” vs. “boys’ activities” and that’s something we must reevaluate. While our walls are neutral and our classes are open, those things may not be enough on their own. Boys often want to dance alongside other boys, or with a male instructor, creating a chicken-and-egg conundrum. Representation matters and it’s something we lack. It’s something we must wrestle with.
But back to the uproar. What’s been positive about it is the way it’s brought attention to male dancers, specifically in ballet, and the way the dance community has stood up to say, “Hey, just a reminder, folks: Ballet is for everyone.” Because it IS.
Sometimes ballet becomes a boy’s dream, and why shouldn’t he pursue it? Sometimes it makes for excellent cross-training, and why shouldn’t it be an option? Sometimes it leads to opportunities and open doors, and why shouldn’t it be followed? How many times do children of both genders NOT chase something they might love, because someone laughed and said, “We’ll see how long that lasts!”
Like most viral news, this will pass. Apologies will be made. It’s not the end of the world. But it is a chance for us to be reminded that we ALL have a chance, and a choice, to do better for our kids. To welcome them into dance — or whatever their passion is. To allow them to discover their gifts and talents, and to encourage them, hold them to high standards, and watch them bounce and soar. Whether it’s ballet or baking, baseball or biology, what they enjoy is what they enjoy. Let’s develop their skills, not laugh them away.
We have one young boy dancing at SDC so far this year, and if you look back at the photo at the top of this post, you’ll see him there. Working on skills in tap class, practicing with his classmates. Growing, learning, building confidence. Dancing and loving it. Just like everyone else.
I look forward to the day an uproar like this will be unheard of. But until then, we’ll keep supporting dance for all, one child at a time.
– Ms. Julie