I'm a part of a popular group on Facebook called Dance Teacher Network which consists of dance teachers across the country discussing and sharing information on all things dance. Yesterday morning, I spotted a photo shared in the group of four smiling young boys in a dance studio. And I couldn't help but smile to myself and think, "Wow, I never had that...that's pretty damn amazing."
For all of my pre-college dance life, I was the only male in 90 percent of my classes. And on those rare occasions where I was not the only male, maybe there was only one other male by my side. Being the sole male dancer in the classroom has its perks. Teachers love to place you front and center. Offer you solos. Reward you with scholarships. Do whatever they can to encourage you to keep dancing. It's not a bad life...but it's a lonely life. People see and treat you differently in and out of the studio. You're never being evaluated on just your skills as a dancer. And you feel different...
In my first year at Hunter College, I was recruited to be a part of an all-male work, choreographed by one of my classmates. It consisted of overlapping solos and duets and lots of male-on-male partnering. Softness. Aggression. Different body types and textures of masculinity. I had been dancing for years prior to college, but it was only at the close of this piece that I felt empowered enough to share with the world my first dance-related photo on social media.
Paul Faber (center)Photo courtesy of the author
This particular photo featured me with two other male dancers on a stage in a triangle performing a short movement phrase that always felt especially great to perform. Soaring up in the air and then melting to the floor, I felt free and proud. Defiant. Lifted up by my male counterparts. I no longer felt like the odd one out. I had found a community. My community. Dancers. Specifically, male dancers. And, in that moment, nothing else mattered.
A photo is just a photo. But a photo can mean a lot to the underrepresented. When I see a photo of young boys smiling from ear to ear in a dance studio, my heart bubbles up with joy. I can only hope these young boys continue smiling and dancing. And never let anyone else in the world take the happiness and passion I see on their faces away from them.
You belong doing exactly what you're doing. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise. You will find your way. And you are not alone.