As my practitioner enquiry addresses methods to teach dance to boys, I feel it essential to write a post on the existing pressures boys have in dance.
- Dance demands strength, flexibility, agility and determination. I believe this is a perfect combination and at the core of boy’s physical activity. This made me question, why in my dance classes and those I have attended are not packed with boys.
- I recognise that talented girls fail to make it in the dance industry when boys with less talent have more opportunity. I acknowledge that perhaps it time to raise their skill level.
- Whilst some studios are fortunate and have enough boys of similar age and ability to establish a separate “boys class”, most boys interested in dance are placed in a class full of girls. I admire the bravery, courage, and determination it takes for that boy to walk into an all girls class. And as the dance instructor, I want to not only teach him, but also to encourage and inspire so they can be fully equipped to excel in dance training.
What pressures are met by males at different stages of their career?
At this age, self-esteem is key. I encourage strength, flexibility and coordination. I try use to terminology and imagery to describe positions/movement with a more masculine tone like saying “use dragon strength” instead of “like a butterfly”. I notice boys thrive on challenges and this provides a sense of accomplishment and pride in their dancing.
Peer pressure, wanting to fit in, and the fear of failure are a complication met by all students. This is most significant when teaching boys at this age. I challenge boys with the same sequences and combination as the girls, but I reduce the pace for their jumps and extensions. I include more turns or balances for boys. I provide additional attention for boys by assigning strengthening exercises or stretches to do at home. I noticed this on the Billy Elliot DVD and found this has worked in my classes. I am aware that just as in the DVD boys may be starting to get teased at this age. I remind them of the athleticism and strength it takes to be a dancer and focus on encouraging them in their study of dance.
Intermediate and Advanced Divisions
By this age, most male dancers are confident and competent enough to perform combinations by themselves. I notice the benefit of challenge is greatest in this group and they thrive on it. In my experience, praising their achievements is essential in igniting their enthusiasm. I use the internet to show them videos and pictures of accomplished male dancers who are similar in age and level. I feel it is essential to aid them in identifying a male role model in dance or choreography.