A couple of things happened to me recently that have made me realize how, at times, it can be difficult being an adult dancer. I’m not meaning professional dancers here, Ed covered some of those difficulties in his awesome guest post, I’m talking about us ‘recreational’ dancers.
The first thing happened when I was talking to the lovely lady who looks after the reception at the dance school I go to. This week was the last class before Christmas (*sadness*) and she was asking if I’d enjoyed the classes this term. Needless to say, I didn’t need to feign my enthusiasm for the class or teacher. She then told me how usually they don’t take people at such a high level (the intermediate class is the second highest one at the school) hinting, I think, as well that they don’t normally take adults either. But she added how glad they were they had “taken a chance” on me and how they loved having me at the school.
I was touched by these kind words but they also reminded me how lucky I was to have the opportunity. Finding a class can be the first stumbling block for adults wanting to take ballet, whether for the first time or as experienced dancers. Often there isn’t a local adult class, or at least one at an appropriate level. It may be that the only option is to join a ‘kids’ class, which can be seriously daunting. I was really nervous for my first class here and being surrounded by teenagers who are better than you does nothing for your ego!
The second stumbling block, and I feel this particularly applies to guys, is dance wear. First off, guys have to struggle with the idea of tights and a dance belt – who particularly wants to shove a thong up their butt?! As if that wasn’t enough, a guy might head to a dance store and be faced by this:
This is a dance store, which shall remain nameless, in London I walked past today and even as a guy who has been dancing for 18 months (and so used to a certain degree of ‘pinkness’) this terrified me. I did go into the store (finding not much in terms of guys stuff) but if I was new to ballet I think I would have run a mile!
The lack of choice of clothing for men is a big bone of contention for me. It seems whenever you go to a store to buy some ballet stuff for guys you’ve got a choice of white or black. And that’s it. You get a whole range of leotards, tights, leg-warmers and dance-bags for women in a choice of colours and styles. Why not a similar choice for the guys? Sure, the demand is probably a little less, but would it really take too much trouble to have grey tights or blue t-shirts?!
It’s not just the dance stores either; I picked up Dance Magazine a couple of times while in the States and both times there was a ‘fashion section’ – one time it was even specifically targeted at adult dancers. Great! Yet in the 10 or so outfits shown, not a single one was for a guy! Would it really have been so hard to pair some bike shorts and a cool v-neck tee for us guys?!
That’s not to say it’s all doom and gloom! There are some great things going on helping promote dance for adults. For example studios like Pineapple Dance Studios have loads and loads of adult classes on offer. For you readers in the US, think of Steps or Broadway Dance Center in New York. In fact, when I took class at Pineapple last week there was a reader of my blog, Toby, who was taking his first ever class there! Woo!
As for clothing – there are some options out there, mainly online. For example, BalletBoyz has this really cool tee that I’m planning on getting when I see them here in Bath next month. In the US there is the absolutely amazing BoysDanceToo. Seriously, these guys are AMAZING! They need to open a UK site and really soon. They have an extensive range of cool dancewear for guys, it really is perfect. And if they could open a physical store then all my problems would be solved! In fact, I wore one of their tees to class last night!
(Speaking of T-shirts, have you checked out my design I posted on my Facebook Page? I’d love to hear your thoughts on it. If all goes well I will start making them in the New Year – and there’ll even be a competition to win one!)
Then there’s the great image that dance is getting through social media and other outlets. It’s letting people see dancers as normal people (even post-Black Swan!). One of my primary aims when setting up this blog was to prove anyone can take a ballet class – I don’t know how successful I’ve been but there are definitely a range of sites out there that do exactly that (check out my blog roll for starters!). Then there are some awesome things appearing from ballet companies and individuals showing ballet as an athletic artform requiring strength, speed and agility.
I can’t think of a more perfect example than this video (which I’ve posted here before) by Royal Ballet’s first soloist Bennet Gartside: “The Royal Ballet. Not What You Think”
So if you’re someone thinking of starting dance or ballet then my message is this: don’t be discouraged if you can’t find a class immediately or if you find yourself surrounded by pink fluffiness! Persevere, I promise you that it’ll be worth it!
If you’re a dance store or website then I guess I want to urge you to think about us guys! Next time you’re putting stuff in your window stick a male mannequin in there. When you’re deciding your floor layout try not to ‘hide’ away the guys stuff in a corner or downstairs. And maybe think of expanding your menswear range – even just stocking plain coloured tees would be a start!
Finally, if you’re an adult dancer then keep up the good work! Every one of us is promoting dance as an awesome way to get fit and have fun at the same time.
I’d love to hear what you all think about this – are my comments fair or do you have a different view? As always, please share in the comments!
Until next time, keep dancing!