Boys and Dance
It is universally acknowledged that dance has benefits for us all, but look around any dance studio and you can see when it comes to young boys and dance, the uptake in numbers is still vastly below girls. Whilst society is moving towards diversity and expectance of all, people still hold on to negative perceptions and don’t encourage their sons to dance. If they do, they lean towards Street or more commercial forms, but steer clear of the more theatrical styles, and ballet.
Why do boys need to dance?
The benefits of dance lessons for our children today, (and their future adult selves), are numerous and well documented, irrespective of gender. However many of the benefits of dance are things boys typically struggle with, particularly as they reach puberty.
- Self confidence
- Physical fitness
- Gross motor skills
- Concentration and focus
- Self expression
- Creativity & imagination
- Balance and flexibility
- Improved coordination
- Personal fulfilment
In a society that promotes the idea that masculinity requires the repression of emotions, and with male suicide so high, self expression and creative thinking should be of huge interest to schools and other institutes that are involved with boys as they progress though adolescence. It is clear we should be highlighting why boys should be encouraged to take up dance. It is time for a big push for boys to dance, for both physical and mental health, but why hasn’t it happened yet?
Male inclusivity in dance schools
There are limited resources for dance in school. Although we welcome the introduction of it in the primary national curriculum the quality of teaching is patchy, the availability and acceptance diminishes in secondary school, and there’s lack of opportunity for boys to dance in school. Secondary Schools need to do more to promote the health side of dance for boys, to promote male dancers in a positive light, highlight the benefit dance can have on other sports and educate to eradicate bullying within dance.
Further more most dance schools and studios are highly dominated by females with female teachers & students heavily outnumber the boys. Additionally, studio decor, music used in class, and even the language sometimes used can be more feminine, and simply due to the fact that it has always been this way. But local ballet & dance teachers are changing. Boy only classes are appearing and teachers are making a conscious effort to be inclusive with music, themes and costume choices. This is not only positive for boys, but for our girls too, not to reinforce gender stereotypes and encourage the girls who don’t identify with the pink princess image. But for young boys it can still feel very isolating.
Times are changing and amongst the pink tutus and princess dance classes available for children, more boy positive classes, franchises & role models are coming to the forefront.
Male role models in dance
Huge progress in challenging stereotypes of boys who dance has been made with numerous TV shows and male dance celebrities. But there is still a lack of male role models available closer to home as most teachers are female. Perhaps more focus on dance for PE teachers would encourage boys to see it not just as a girls occupation. More knowledge of well regarded male dancers Matthew Bourne, Adam Garica, Ashly Banjo, Carlos Acosta, Sergei Polunin, Eric Underwood, would help to create positive role models for boys to emulate the way they do football players.
With the media onslaught after the comments about Prince George, there’s never been a better time to encourage young boys into dance. The “My Boy Can” campaign, male broadway stars doing ballet class in times square and boxing and MMA fighting stars going public about ballet classes are all steps in the right direction, but this needs shouting from the roof tops. Fingers crossed we’ll be seeing the back of derogatory comments and perceptions not too far in the future.
So the question is how do we encourage more boys to take up dance?
For some tips read my next blog post…