News

#BoysDanceToo

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I didn't realize how much the whole movement meant to me until I saw the mass of male dancers congregated in front of "Good Morning America" led by the likes of Travis Wall, Alex Wong and Robbie Fairchild. It was pre-7 am—I was all packed up and ready to begin my trek to work when I stumbled upon a livestream of the event. I had read an article the day prior, and heard some whispering about a meet-up outside "GMA." But I wasn't quite sure what type of turnout I could expect. And I certainly could not anticipate how it would make me feel.


Three hundred dancers, young and old, males and their female allies, taking ballet class in the middle of Times Square. It wasn't about Lara Spencer. It wasn't about "GMA." It was about boys - men who dance, our shared experiences: personal tales of resilience and passion for movement. It was about our collective voices finally being given the platform we deserved. It was a glorious, life-affirming moment.

I teared up.

As a young male dancer, I was fortunate enough to have devoted parents who drove me to and from the dance studio and sisters to share my passion for dance with. I felt supported. But I just as often felt the need to keep my dancer identity a secret in fear of retaliation.

I remember making speedy exits from a dance studio in my hometown adjacent to a popular teenager hangout spot. Making sure that I was dressed in regular, inconspicuous, "nondancer" attire. Hiding my face. Avoiding eye contact. Terrified that I'd be spotted and outed for having taken a ballet class.

I remember my classmates asking me how I spent my after-school hours, and how I'd evade the question, making every effort possible to conceal the countless hours I spent in a dance studio.

I remember watching my high school dance ensemble performing onstage, admiring their work, wanting to join in, but deciding that it would not be wise for me to do so. It was too close to home. I didn't want to take the spotlight, become the center of attention and assume all the baggage that came along with it. The judgmental stares, the snide comments, the condescending giggles, the bullies...

Lara Spencer, you may not be the problem, but you're a part of the problem. Being a dancer is tough. Being a male dancer is even tougher and for reasons it shouldn't be. Those who defy the odds and continue dancing have every reason to celebrate.

You can't change the world overnight, but you can prevent the world from changing you.

Dear Prince George, I hope that you hold your head up high, continue doing what you love and know that the rest of the dance world is dancing along with you. #BoysDanceToo

Music
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Securing the correct music licensing for your studio is an important step in creating a financially sound business. "Music licensing is something studio owners seem to either embrace or ignore completely," says Clint Salter, CEO and founder of the Dance Studio Owners Association. While it may seem like it's a situation in which it's easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission—that is, to wait until you're approached by a music-rights organization before purchasing a license—Salter disagrees, citing Peloton, the exercise company that produces streaming at-home workouts. In February, Peloton settled a music-licensing suit with the National Music Publishers' Association out-of-court for an undisclosed amount. Originally, NMPA had sought $300 million in damages from Peloton. "It can get extremely expensive," says Salter. "It's not worth it for a studio to get caught up in that."

As you continue to explore a hybrid online/in-person version of your class schedule, it's crucial that your music licenses include coverage for livestreamed instruction—which comes with its own particular requirements. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about music licensing—in both normal times and COVID times—as well as some safe music bets that won't pose any issues.

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Teaching Tips
A 2019 Dancewave training. Photo by Effy Grey, courtesy Dancewave

By now, most dance educators hopefully understand that they have a responsibility to address racism in the studio. But knowing that you need to be actively cultivating racial equity isn't the same thing as knowing how to do so.

Of course, there's no easy answer, and no perfect approach. As social justice advocate David King emphasized at a recent interactive webinar, "Cultivating Racial Equity in the Classroom," this work is never-ending. The event, hosted by Dancewave (which just launched a new racial-equity curriculum) was a good starting point, though, and offered some helpful takeaways for dance educators committed to racial justice.

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Higher Ed
The author, Robyn Watson. Photo courtesy Watson

Recently, I posted a thread of tweets elucidating the lack of respect for tap dance in college dance programs, and arguing that it should be a requirement for dance majors.

According to onstageblog.com, out of the 30 top-ranked college dance programs in the U.S., tap dance is offered at 19 of them, but only one school requires majors to take more than a beginner course—Oklahoma City University. Many prestigious dance programs, like the ones at NYU Tisch School of the Arts and SUNY Purchase, don't offer a single course in tap dance.

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