Billy: I don’t want a childhood. I want to be a dancer.
We all remember that powerful quote from the 2000 film Billy Elliot. Billy’s story and journey portrayed some of the societal stereotypes and challenges male dancers may encounter. Obviously, these stereotypes stem from places of fear, ignorance, and misunderstanding about our industry. Male dancers are some of the strongest, most agile, and powerful artists AND athletes that exist. As leaders and instructors in the dance world, it is our responsibility to demolish these stereotypes and nurture strong, successful male performers and technicians. In building your boys’ programming, you will discover some of the most passionate, energetic, and eager students. Male dancers are ready for the opportunity, especially if you are willing to provide a environment that is tailored to their needs.
1. Offer Gateway Classes For Younger Age Levels. When the studio first opened, we were blessed to receive an influx of male dancers. To maintain a presence of male dancers at the studio, we offer two gateway classes for our younger male dancers: Beat Boyz Tumble & Tap (Ages 2-4) & Boys’ Power Hour (Ages 5-9). Each class is specifically tailored to the needs, interests, and skills of our male dancers. Boys love enrolling in these classes because they are able to socialize with the other males at the studio. Many times, the boys’ only classes prompt the students to enroll in other classes. This is also a great way to discover and identify students that may be interested in more intense training opportunities.
2. Choreograph & Costume Appropriately. When you have male dancers, it is important that you use care and caution in selecting their music, choreography, and costuming. Allow your male dancers to have a look and choreographic track that is specifically tailored to their strengths, image, and routine(s). Build a brand for your boys’ program.
3. Inspire. Inspire your male dancers. Evoke their passion at a pace that is suitable and comfortable to their learning needs. Bring in male guest artists, offer higher training opportunities, and make the boys feel at home in the midst of your female dancers.
4. Be a Resource. Share your knowledge. Many times, parents of male dancers are curious about the state of the dance industry. Let them know about varying companies, products, performances (Newsies, Bad Boys of Dance, So You Think You Can Dance, etc.), and opportunities. (as a side note, boysdancetoo is an amazing online store devoted specifically to the needs of the male dancer.)
5. Challenge Yourself. Constantly challenge yourself to improve, strengthen, and develop your boys’ programming. For example, are there new partnering skills and techniques you could learn and implement? Have you promoted your studio, programming, and classes in a way that is engaging and intriguing for prospective boys? Are you up-to-date on the resources and opportunities available to male dancers? What can you do to nurture and sustain a successful boys’ program?
Make your boys’ program a staple in your studio! It will undoubtedly enhance your brand, improve your programming, and strengthen your overall culture.