By Becky Streeter
We’ve all heard it: dance is for girls, not boys. But in our increasingly progressive culture, the norms are changing.
Dance is for everyone! Rita and Rachel Wrobel, owners and instructors at Infinity Dance Center of Eau Claire, say, “Dance is a sport that you can do for life. It is an incredible fitness program for any age. Dance practice, shows and competition teach children many life long skills including but not limited to focus, teamwork, confidence, trouble-shooting problems, time management, and social skills.”
Though the ratio of male to female students has increased every year since Infinity opened its doors, there are still challenges for boys wanting to dance. Teasing is the first thing that comes to mind, but the Wrobels say male dancers are never criticized at their studio. “They are very welcomed and wanted in our class rooms by female dancers and instructors. In the past there has been a stigma about male dancers, and they have a tendency to be teased in school, but I see this behavior lessening with today’s youth.” Infinity offers many opportunities for boys in their studio: all boy ballet technique, all boy hip hop, and an all boy lyrical class is coming soon. Also, girls love the opportunity to partner with a male for Pas de deux dance and both can bring a completely different dynamic to the performance.
The other challenge is gaining family support for a sport that is traditionally female-oriented. “Through my past experiences with dance,” Wrobel says, “I have seen both extreme support, to other families discouraging their son from dancing. Today, I witness families mostly supporting their son’s desire to dance. A positive sign of the changing times! The most effective way for a family to support a male dancer is to get involved in his dance education, attend all of his performances, give him a high-five or a hug when he reaches a personal goal. This support is the same for any child with any interest, whether it is dance, football, a musical instrument, choir, the math club, et cetera.”
Heather Schwahn, one of the primary teachers at En Avant School of Dance, echoes the sentiments of the Wrobels. She believes guys in dance often have self-confidence others don’t possess. “Boys in dance are always more popular in school with the girls. It’s pretty cool if a boy can dance, and the girls will notice…Look at a high school dance, or even as an adult in the club, the guys who can dance are out there in the middle of the floor and they are the popular ones, not the guys who are hanging out on the edge.”
Schwahn suggests current popular television shows, such as So You Think You Can Dance, America’s Got Talent, andDancing with the Starsare helping pave the way for boys in dance. “It’s the idea of wanting to be on So You Think You Dance… The shows are generating new enthusiasm for dance, making it more socially acceptable for boys, and showcasing male talent in the dance world.”
Some great dance role models for boys include: Derek Hough, Justin Timberlake, Travis Wall, Maksim Chmerkovskiy, Fred Astaire, Patrick Swayze, Zach Efron, and Hugh Jackman. “Although it may seem controversial to have boys in dance,” Schwahn says, “most often it turns out to be a positive experience and a confidence-boosting life skill… Any boy who has an interest in music, theater or performing arts would greatly benefit from dance lessons. And boys in anysport could benefit from improved flexibility and coordination.”