10 ways to encourage boys to dance at your studio
So we know the reasons why girls outnumber boys in dance classes, but, as teachers, how do we encourage boys to take up dance and retain them once they set foot in the Studio??
1. Arm yourself with knowledge – Be prepared for parents of boys to be a bit apprehensive, they know their Son will enjoy it, they’re happy to encourage them into a class they know will enhance their confidence, co-ordination and social skills, but perhaps they’ve come across negative comments from grandparents or friends. Arm your self with knowledge of boys classes, well regarded male dancers, maybe even introduce workshops form Male teachers. Don’t hesitate to highlight the advantage of dance for their sons mental and physical health. Remind them that dance is a very physical and athletic pursuit and that it will enhance other sporting activities and encourage him to be open and creative.
2. Marketing – Think about how you market to appeal to boys and the little girls who may not wish to be be pink princesses. Consider the images and the colours you use on flyers and branding. Share male success stories regularly on social media, images of dads dancing with their children, football and MMA starts taking ballet class. Perhaps introduce a Dancer of the Month that focuses on a well regarded professional dancer, and ensure that time is equally dedicated between male and female dancers.
3. Class evolvement -Do you ever theme you classes? Have you introduces more gender nutural themes like movement, weather etc. What props do you use? Are they all what we would call feminine? As much as we don’t want to reinforce gender stereotypes, a little boys may want to dance with a pink ribbon, but equally he may prefer not too. And equally a little girl may prefer a bight more unisex colour too. Balls, flags, beanbags are all great more gender neutral props. I used to offer both fairy wands and magian wands out to my preschool classes – invariably the boys would choose the fairy and the girls the magician, but the option was there.
4. Studio Environment – As a little girl (and if Im honest more so now with instagram and the like) I could look at images of amazing dancers all day long, I had notebooks, t.shirts, posters the lot. Think about your studio walls, do you have images of dancers on the walls, are they all female? What colours are your walls? Do you have a toilet or changing area for the boys?
5. Music – I think we’re probably all guilty of using a bit too much Disney. But it doesn’t have to be all princesses. Familiar music is great for children, but try to change it up. There are some fabulous super hero songs and theme tunes and Harry Potter musical is beautiful.
6. Role Models – Are all your teachers female? Do you have any older male students? Introduce male led workshops, look for local male teachers. Use social media, notice boards and discussion in class to draw attentions to some of the amazing professional male dancers out there. They’ll be an inspiration to all your students not just the boys. Give your male students some inspiration, a role model to emulate, a reason not to feel isolated, drive ambition, and perhaps a dream of a future career. If you have older male students in your dance school introduce a buddy system where they can talk to their older counterpart, not only would this be a great role model but could also be a life line if that child is experiencing bullying or pressure to do more ‘masculine’ pursuits.
7. Encourage partner work – However simple, from supporting the girls poses to a simple lift, in both ballet and contemporary classes. I recall my Son always asking when he was going to lift the girls in ballet. Be sure you know how to teach these safe and effectively.
8. Make it physical – Boys find standing still notoriously difficult. If you always begin your younger ballet classes standing on a spot in first position, maybe think about changing it up. Introduce a 5 minuet active warm up, jumping, running crawling. Make it as active as possible. Then return to the spot for more focused work. Remind boys of how physical, difficult and challenging dance is, however we strive to make it look effortless. Emphasis the physical strength required and the athletic quality of the allergo. “Wow look at how high that dancer can jump” or “ amazing how fast that tap dancer can move his feet” Show images of male sporting stars participating in dance and how it strengthens all other aspects of sport. Sing its praises, all the hidden befits of dance.
9. Boys classes – Choreographed Stage Combat, Capoeira, Hip-hop – Im not suggesting that these classes should be boys only, however they will certainly appeal to boys and most girls too.
10. Highlight all the other advantages to having dance in their life – Creative thinking, independence, an ability to work well with others, to feel comfortable with a largely female group, untold health benefits. How to get dressed in under 30 seconds – ok only joking, but its true! Not to mentions the future opportunities. The higher positions in the Arts are still dominated by men, choreographers, artistic directors, theatre directors, vocational training teachers, agents. Not to emotion the endless tech jobs available in the theatre, for which a knowledge of arts and performing would be a huge benefit.
Why all these jobs are still highly dominated by men, well that’s a subject for another blog post!