Male dancers break stereotypes at Progressions

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“Being the only guy in a dance class can be intimidating,” said senior Elijah Kofke. “But once you get used to it, it actually becomes very fun.”

Kofke was one out of only five male dancers among a primarily female group of performers at Progressions, which went up from May 10 to May 12 and featured a number of performances by various dance classes.

Traditionally, according to dance teacher Christien Polos, the number of male dancers enrolled in dance classes has rarely hit over seven.

According to Polos, despite efforts to recruit more male dancers for the dance curriculum, peer pressure and stereotypes that dance is a female-oriented activity have kept many boys from signing up for dance courses.

Kofke struggles to understand why dance is perceived as feminine.

“I actually don’t know why femininity is associated with dance, I think it’s only a Western culture thing because in many African and Asian societies, dance is seen as both a female and a male activity, and dance, in my opinion, has many masculine aspects,” said Kofke.

Junior Theo Smith, who has been dancing for eight years, also believes that dance is not exclusively a female art form.

“I’ve never thought of dance as a gender boundary,” said Smith. “I think a lot of aspects in dance are very masculine. It definitely takes strength, precision and skill. There are a lot of parts that you need guys for, like partnering, lifts and jumps. It’s just as physically intense as any team sport.”

Polos hopes that the dance curriculum will expand to help spark the interest of more boys towards dancing.

“I feel that if classes such as breakdancing are made available, we can get more boys to be interested to the dancing aspect,” said Polos. “Also, dancing wouldn’t be stereotyped as solely a female-based activity.”

Kofke believes this notion that dance is a female artform holds back many boys from taking dance courses.

“I definitely think that other people’s judgments hold back a lot of guys from joining dance, and some of my friends have teased me about doing dance,” said Kofke.

Having both male and female dancers gives a group certain unique advantages.

“I don’t usually dance with guys, so to get to work with them was definitely very fun and interesting,” said sophomore Aubrey Johnson, a dancer. “You have a lot more opportunities to do partner work, and because the guys and girls have so many different strengths it definitely gives off a stronger dynamic to the class and to the performances.”

Polos said that dance classes with a more even mix of genders are superior to those with primarily females.

“Diversity is the main reason we want more guys to enroll in dance,” said Polos. “They bring a lot of energy to the classes, and in my past experience, a mixed class of guys and girls works better because they help each other perform with more energy and give each other balance, especially in partner activities.”

However, the number of boys enrolled in dance classes continues to be small.

“Not taking dance just because of stereotypes is depriving themselves of an experience, because once you’re out of high school and have never danced, then you’re probably never going to,” said sophomore Holly Hall, a dancer. “It’s also a way to find something that you might really love. I do think that everyone who takes dance at BHS has an amazing experience.”

At Progressions, many audience members and even some dancers believed that the male dancers receive more of a spotlight on their performances, according to Polos.

However, he disagrees that it is a conscious decision for the dance teachers to try to give more attention to the boys.

“We try not to spotlight the guys, although it might seem like it because your eyes are drawn to the minority and to what is different,” said Polos. “As teachers, we generally try to give the guys and girls equal amounts of performance spotlight, and dance solos are usually based on talent and not on gender.”

Shanshan Guo and Andrea Kim can be contacted at [email protected]