My father was no fan of ballet, or the notion of having a son taking ballet.
He would shout to the rooftops that his son played high school football (even though I was maybe a third-team defensive back and played mainly on special teams).
The notion of his 16-year-old son dancing in a row of seven or eight girls at a dance recital made him cringe.
His “no son of mine will take ballet” attitude kept me from taking ballet as early as I wanted to, around 11 or 12. And I’m pretty sure he was relieved when I gave up dancing after college.
The great irony is that it was partially because of him that I returned to ballet at the old age of 39. I may not have inherited his perspective on culture, but I did his body type, his eating habits and went into his profession.
He didn’t take care of himself. He was too work driven. He suffered his first massive heart attack at 41 and suffered through heart problems and dementia before passing away at 63.
My return to ballet was driven partially because I still loved it. But also because I wanted to live a healthier lifestyle, which ballet does for me in so many ways, from just keeping my body and mind active to helping me release stress from a pressure-filled job and being a single parent.
His physical ailments in part served as motivation for me to retake my position at the barre. I loved him, he was a good provider in so many ways, but he’s probably rolling in his grave with that very notion.
Tomorrow is Father’s Day for those of us in the U.S. and I can’t help but think about how important a father’s role is in the life of a dancer, especially a male dancer.
I’m reminded of a father on the tech crew of our productions who during dress rehearsal always shouted “that’s my daughter!” If my father were still around when I took the stage as Friar Lawrence in Romeo and Juliet, he would have probably wanted to be as far away as possible, with a strong alcoholic drink and watching a “manly” sporting event (don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge sports fanatic).
I won’t pretend I would have gone far had my father supported my ballet dreams long ago, but I’ve seen how important fathers can be in supporting that goal from the kids I’ve danced with the last few years.
Financially, it’s no cheap thing to pay for classes every day of the week, for summer intensives and auditions, and other expenses. And many fathers do that. I’ve seen fathers go out of their way to help build sets, and “embarrass themselves” by playing minor roles in productions if they’re needed. They’re a very important part of a support group in a pursuit that can be very emotional.
I respect the jobs many of them do for their kids. It’s vital. But sadly, it’s somewhat of a double standard, even today.
“I’ll be honest, it’s so much easier for me to do this for my daughter,” a dance dad once told me.
There are a couple of dads I really admire who have gone all out to support their sons who have danced at our school. One of them has played a huge role in his son landing a dance-theater scholarship at a school in Florida this year.
Talk to his son, and he’ll tell you his father’s support made a big difference.