Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Where the Boys Aren't

I generally don't enter the dance studio where Sylvia assistant teaches on Saturdays because the kids are younger, which means the lobby is full of parents and siblings. But on this day, I had to sign for her costumes, and so I went in. And I felt my heart sinking and my blood pressure rising all at once.

My heart sank as I watched the boy playing a video game while his sister got exercise. My heart sank for the boy crying from boredom, who might have had a blast in the studio, jumping and turning. My heart sank as the TV monitor showed all the dance classes currently in session, with only girls in attendance.

I was extremely frustrated with these parents, mothers and fathers, who seemed to think it was all perfectly fine for only their female offspring to participate in dance.

Having been in the theatre world since I was six, I can tell you with unqualified certainty that there is a place for boys in a dance studio. And not just in the hip-hop class. In tap, jazz, contemporary, and yes, ballet class, too.

Now I'm sure some will want to tell me that the boy probably participates in sports, and therefore, is fine. It's not the same thing.

In the sports world, there are winners and losers.

In the theatre world, everyone on that stage has worked together to make for a successful opening night.

In the sports world, the opportunities for players to thrive starts dwindling in high school, and only a select few actually get to make a living in their dream field.

In the theatre world, we are always looking for brilliant male dancers. No, you won't get every part, but you will at least get more opportunities.

I have tried to make this point to parents of sons, who claim that the dads wouldn't hear of it, or dismiss it in a way that sounds like they think I don't understand because I have daughters.  As a mother of daughters, I am supposed to tell my girls that they can do anything boys can do, but parents of sons don't have to do the same?

If we want things to be different, then it can't always simply be up to the mothers of daughters to take on the task. Parents of sons have a role in this as well.

Now, of course I know there are some male dancers out there. If you're a parent of such, then this doesn't apply to you. And there are some genres where males are more socially permissible than others, but dancers who are well-versed in ballet or contemporary have the advantage of stronger technique and to deny a dancer that is limiting their future.

And yes, I even know the stereotypes of male dancers, and many who fit that bill. But the only way to change that stereotype is to have more male dancers, period! I simply do not care what their preference is, but if you are stopping your son from dancing for that reason, then frankly, that says more about you than it does about your son or dance.

And I am not saying every boy has to dance, either. But if you are signing your daughter up for dance, and you have a son as well, then let them both dance. Or, if your son shows no interest in soccer, consider a dance class instead.

Now that I'm back in the theatre world, I can tell you as a producer, we would love to see your son at our next audition!

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