In this blog post we are going to take a look at the real-life experiences of boys who dance. In particular, do male dancers still face bullying? This is a subject that is close to our hearts, here at boysdancetooUK.
Sadly, it is a very relevant and important subject, and it does need to be discussed. So why bring it out now? Well, we came across a podcast called 'Movers Shakers Makers', which is run by the amazing Emma Lister. We found her recent episode entitled 'Ballet for the Twenty First Century - Boys Dance Too' incredibly inspiring and also very thought provoking. We therefore felt that now was the perfect time to share some of our findings from talking to boys who do ballet (and other styles of dance), and we will share the podcast with you at the end of this blog post.
We've been very lucky to have spoken to a number of different male dancers from a variety of dance-related careers across the UK. This blog post in no way covers the full range of experiences, and we really are just scratching the surface of a much bigger problem. However, for anyone going through a tough time we hope that you find support in hearing the stories of others, and knowing that you are not alone. We also hope that this demonstrates that not all male dancers are destined to be bullied!
Name: Ben Drew
Training: Local dance school then Millennium College age 16 to 19.
Career: Royal Caribbean cruises for 3 years, Holland-America Cruises for 2 years, then pantos, teaching, concerts, musicals and other freelance work.
Experiences: When Ben was training there were a small number of other boys around, but not many. Ben was very lucky that he never experienced any discrimination as a male dancer, and his friends always accepted him as a 'free spirit'. He also thinks that it may have helped that he had lots of girlfriends growing up, although he acknowledges that this shouldn't be a reason for lack of bullying, but sadly that's the way society is sometimes.
Name: Christiano La Bozetta
Training: Academie de Danse Princesse Grace Monte-Carlo
Career: Malandain Ballet Biarritz
: Christiano has always found it frustrating that male dancers are under-represented in the studio and in the industry on the whole. For example, why are dance stores 99% female? But he thinks that more boys are getting into dance now. He was always lucky to have a very supportive family, however he did struggle with bullies at school. In one particularly unpleasant memory, Christiano had his confidence destroyed by one of the popular boys at school just before a dance recital, causing him to miss the show all together. However, he emphasises that these experiences did NOT STOP HIM and who knows what that bully is doing now!? In his own words, "Don't be afraid of what people will say... they always will."
(You can read more about Christiano in this blog post
Name: Danny Becker
Training: Brit School age 16, then West End Kids
Career: Performed on cruises and in panto, now a West End performer (Aladdin, The Last Five Years, The Prince of Egypt)
Experiences: Danny has always found the musical theatre industry "incredibly open and loving - everything's accepted." He is very driven and headstrong, and he wonders if the bullies left him alone because he was successful. It also helped that there were lots of boys where he trained; out of 60 people at West End Kids, 20 were male, which is a high percentage compared to some other schools. In addition, his family were absolutely fascinated by his career choice and he was celebrated at home.
Name: Gabriel Curteis
Training: King Slocombe School of Dance
Experiences: During Gabriel's training there were a handful of older boys around but not many, so he did feel a bit shy about it originally, However, he says that over time he became used to being one of a small number of boys. This is quite common in most dance schools. He remembers that many of his friends didn't actually know that he was a dancer until around the age of 14, so keeping it 'secret' meant that he wasn't bullied. When his friends became aware about it, he thinks that they were sometimes a bit uncomfortable around him, but he doesn't ever remember being uncomfortable around them. Gabriel says that having a big personality really helped him to keep perspective and ignore any hurtful comments.
Name: Dan Baines
Training: Swindon Dance CAT, Rambert School
Career: Apprentice at BalletBoyz
Experiences: There were quite a lot of boys around when Dan was training, and he felt comfortable as he was concentrating on excelling in his technique. However, in secondary school his closest friends were the source of discrimination and bullying, particularly on social media. Luckily, around year 12 (6th form) they matured, and then later on he got respect for sticking to it and making something out of his hobby. Dan also found support from his mum and dad and dance teachers, and although he sometimes thought about stopping dance, as soon as he got home the pressure and stress was gone. "You shouldn’t let other people get you down."
Name: Chris Cumming
Training: Lorraine's School of Dance & Drama, later Central School of Speech & Drama, where he trained in Directing and Producing
Career: Chris is a professional director and choreographer of music theatre
Experiences: When Chris was younger luckily there were two older boys who he could look up too and sometimes other boys would periodically join for a bit and then leave. Once he was older there were plenty of boys around. Chris thinks that any discrimination or bullying probably went over his head, but that doesn't mean it wasn't happening... "I was a confident person who even though I was a podgy little ballet dancer was able to ignore any bullying if I did get any."
So, what does this mean? Well firstly, it means that if you're going through any bullying, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. We would also like to stress that anyone who experiences bullying will be effected in different ways, because we are all different people with our own emotions and experiences.
Secondly, it means that not every male dancer has bad experiences, so if you're thinking of sending your boy to dance class you we encourage you not to be concerned!
And finally, the fact that bullying still happens for some boys means that we are not as progressive as a society as we think. Why on earth is this still happening? Well, this is where we would like to share the podcast with you. It's just over an hour long so we suggest you stick the kettle on first, or perhaps have it on while you're doing your stretching, or preparing dinner. But we guarantee that it's well worth listening through to the end. We'd like to thank Emma for making this podcast and also for agreeing to us sharing it here on our blog.
Listen to Emma Lister's podcast here or search 'Movers Shakers Makers' on Spotify or Apple Podcasts.
The relevant episode is 'Ballet for the Twenty First Century - Boys Dance Too' ... but they're all great!
If you have any thoughts or stories that you'd like to share after reading this and/or listening to the podcast then please do comment below. The more we share, the sooner we can end bullying for good.