Breaking The Male Dancer Stigma
It’s great to dance to music and it should feel authentic and natural, but men feel restricted in society to let go and they repress themselves. And that’s why there are fewer male dancers.
When I say men dancing, what’s the first thing that comes to people’s mind? They’re probably thinking of Magic Mike or awkward wedding dance scenes and then they enter a rabbit hole of thoughts. There’s a societal expectation of a certain image as a man.
Go to a club, and look around. Do you notice that most men are head bobbing rather than actually moving their entire bodies as if they’d break them if they would? It’s great to dance to music and it should feel authentic and natural. Men feel restricted in society to let go and they repress themselves when it comes to dancing in general. Despite how common dance is, and despite how many dance challenges videos people upload on YouTube, in the mainstream culture a man dancing is still stereotyped.
To be honest, my experience with it wasn’t especially bad. But that’s only because the less self-esteem you have, the more you care about other people’s opinions and you’re acting on that. And I really didn’t care. At all. I used to play football and then I switched to dancesport. Of course, I got picked on in school, called a ‘ballerina’ and other ridiculous names. The truth is, that in most countries where there isn’t a rich dance history, people are fast to call names and make fun of dancers, or have different stereotypes about them.
What’s culture got to do with it?
The paradigm “the girl in dance and the boy in football” is still rooted in western cultures although it’s slowly starting to change due to the gender equality movement.
Stereotypes have a very important function for the socialization of the individual because accepting and identifying with the dominant stereotypes of a group is a way of feeling included. At the same time, that’s the tendency to act in the direction others expect us to. The real problem begins when people generalize, when the stereotypes don’t show the reality or when they are simply wrong.
The obsolete clichés remain present in the minds of a majority that ignores the fact that dance is for everybody. In the case of dancesport, the differences between the number of male dancers and female dancers in the classes continue to exist and I still know cases of boys who are mocked at school for dancing.
Tough and aggressive – The traditional image of a sportsman
Sport offers fertile ground for false myths. How many are still convinced that a traditionally male sport if practiced by a girl, would cancel her femininity or vice versa, a sport played largely by women must compromise a man’s virility and credibility? Many. There’s evidence that there are higher numbers of males in sports such as football, rugby, boxing, or swimming. Why is that? Institutionalized sport is associated with values traditionally considered as masculine – strength, power, success, competitiveness… Often words such as aggressive and tough are used to describe men in sports. The truth is that a lot of boys are influenced to pick a sport not according to their inclinations, but on the basis of social standards.
Kids should always listen to their parents, or should they?
The parents’ opinion directly affects children’s behavior. Parents have a great influence in the early years of childhood, to the point that, to a large extent, kids end up copying behaviors and attitudes of their parents.
Sometimes it is the parents themselves who educate their child to play sports considered by them as “masculine” and reject the child’s request to dance. Parents are responsible for educating children in all areas, including emotional, social and artistic. Therefore, if children want to find out what their talent is, it is very important not to pass on prejudices that limit their development.
Dance expresses the male dancer/female dancer dichotomy
Dance is still considered a feminine activity. That’s why men who practice dance can be stereotyped as effeminate. These conclusions are very superficial because you can be a great dancer and be very masculine.
In general, dance is associated with the feminine because it links to the ethereal figure of a dancer. At the dawn of the theatrical ballet, only men had access to the great court ballet. A while later, if the ladies danced, they would do it solo. And there were very few shows where dancers and dancers mixed. On the other hand, in ancient Greece, warriors used dance as part of their training, to the extent that the phrase attributed to the famous philosopher Socrates is “the best dancer is also the best warrior”.
The actions and characteristics that make up gender can be considered their own performances. Unlike other types of dances, the male stigma is not as harsh in dancesport. Why? Because it still stands on traditional gender stereotypes: the male as a leader and the woman as a follower. The leader controls direction and timing. But the fact that the male dancer also uses a lot of hip movements and needs to be very expressive can also make him a target. Dancing takes courage and audacity and it can be cathartic. It gives men a chance to be genuine and creative.
Dancesport is a mirror of our balanced relationship between man and women. It is a dance between two people and there must always be a connection between the leader and follower. The yin and yang energies are in full force on the dance floor.
How to dance against the male stigma and prejudice
In a society that claims to be in a masculinity crisis, dancers portray a powerful representation of force, an equilibrium of qualities, and not a fake, hyper-masculinized image. The same society often rejects vulnerability and encourages conformity. But a man can reach excellence and become confident when he finds himself in an environment he enjoys, where he can be himself. That’s a Dancer with a capital D. You lead the way, not the public opinion.
Surround yourself with positive, like-minded people, people who know what’s the meaning of hard-work, discipline, and art. Only a blind man could not realize the energy and the ambition it takes to be a dancer. And each time you get the chance, motivate and educate others on dancesport.
In the end, you just have to face the music. For all of the above, you must keep in mind what you want to do, your likes and dreams. Don’t let anyone bring you down. When you’re starting out, the laughs and stares of your mates may discourage you even if you truly like it. It is mainly in the stage of adolescence when we suffer from stereotypes. Many stereotypes relate to gender roles, based on prejudices that through the media became popular. Making people have a hostile attitude toward a person who belongs to a group is puerile and unjust.
Let’s make a deal, try dancing classes for one or two months and then make up your mind. Remember that it’s harder to live with regret than with a mistake.
Photography: Elena Anashina
Dancing has been my passion since I was 13 and since then I've been doing things in that direction. Writing, creating and putting together the biggest community for dancers around the world!