Category Archives: male dancers

Here’s to the dance moms who support their sons

It couldn’t have been easy for her watching her son dance in a purple unitard that matched the girls he was dancing with on stage.

That was probably the worst costume ever for a teenage boy performing with his jazz class back in the 1980s, especially in the South, where boys play football.

They don’t dance.

But to be honest, I was in pure bliss dancing the choreography to the song “Shout” by Tears for Fears.

I don’t know if I truly believed my mother when she told me she liked the dance.

She was at best a reluctant dance mom. My sister dancing, that was no big deal.

But I think me asking to take dance classes, don’t think she was really all that thrilled.

I played baseball, and sucked at it. I also played high school football.

But the notion of her son asking to take ballet and jazz, well I know it through her.

My father wasn’t thrilled, that’s for sure.

But to her credit, she let me do it.

I know she was worried about what other people thought.

No one question’s a boy’s masculinity or sexual orientation when you play football.

But back then, taking ballet or any other form of dance. That’s another story.

My mom’s a great mom, don’t get me wrong.

When I returned to ballet as an adult, she seemed excited when I invited her to whatever performance I was in, whether it was the Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet or Billy the Kid.

 

I do wonder, though, what it would have been like to have had a mother who fully supported me earlier. But I’m not complaining.

I’ve know other guys whose mothers flat out did not let them dance.

That’s why I truly admire the moms of the few boys at the schools where I’ve taken class.

While I think its more culturally acceptable nowadays, the stigma still exists and is a reason parents don’t encourage their boys to dance.

It takes a truly courageous mother as well as son to embark on a dance journey.

I’ve heard some say they’ve had to put up with snide comments. Others fear, and legitimately so, that their sons will be bullied.

But still, I’ve observed mothers and parents in general, who have given their support through hours of classes, rehearsals and performances, with words, money and even put in hours helping with costumes, props and other things backstage throughout their career.

I am thankful with Mother’s Day tomorrow for the moms who have encouraged their sons when their sons have wanted to dance.

They play a vital role in the dance world.


Male ballet dancer etiquette 101

There was a new teenage-near beginner guy in class yesterday. I’ve seen him around the studio during our first two intensive weeks, so I take it he might become a regular when the season begins. There are some things about etiquette for the guys.

So if you are a guy and you follow my blog, here are a couple to be aware of, especially if you are just now starting classes.

1. Offer to help remove portable barres before center work. Despite the fact we do have them on the walls, a lot of our girls use them. Politely offer to help put them away (and if they are used during performance week at the theater, help bring them out and put away).

2. Go in the last group coming from the corner: As a gentleman, it’s ladies first. But there is also a second, practical reason. As a male dancer, you hope to some day fly through the air with your leaps, defy gravity and use a lot of space. It helps if no one is behind you, and you wait a few extra counts. Of course, this rule does not apply if your teacher has divided the class into groups based on experience.

I’ve already posted about these fashion faux pas before, but I’ll include them:

3. Wear a dance belt if you wear tights.

4. Think very opaque when it comes to tights.

If anyone has any more to add to the list, feel free to comment.


A father’s influence

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.