Doctor in Psychology Shatters The Male Dancer Stigma
A while ago, we interviewed Dr. Peter Lovatt. He is a Dance Psychologist and set up the Dance Psychology Lab at the University of Hertfordshire and is currently a lecturer on Performance (Dance) Psychology at the Royal Ballet School.
Why should you be interested in what he has to say? Because he is making us understand more about the taboo subjects of this industry such as self-esteem and the stigma that society sheds upon male dancers.
This article is based on my podcast interview with Dr. Peter Lovatt. If you want to listen to the whole interview you can follow this link.
Sexuality & Dancing
Ballroom (standard) dancing is known for being elegant and glamorous, whilst Latin dancing is a pure representation of sensuality and flirtatious attitude. This, in addition to the technique used in these types of dances, especially the hip action in Latin, made some people consider that if you are a dancer you must have a certain sexual orientation.
Today, as the LGBTQ community is fighting for their rights, people are being more educated in this sense. Consequently, the bullying of male dancers has decreased compared with let’s say the 70s.
Dr. Peter Lovatt shared with us that he received a lot of insults, especially in the 70s for being a dancer. People made assumptions that because he was engaged in dance, therefore he must’ve had a certain sexuality and people use that as a way of insulting him.
The sad thing is that, even if the situation is improving, this sort of bullying still exists: both if you are part of the LGBTQ community or/and if you are a dancer.
“The Manly Men”
Besides the sexual orientation preconception that people tend to have towards dancers, there is also the unfounded idea that dancers are not manly enough, compared with other men that do rugby or football.
Dr. Peter Lovatt shared with us a quite sad encounter (in my opinion) with a rugby coach in Manchester. He was trying to help the players, by using dancing as a tool, to become more agile, flexible, faster runners, and have more spatial awareness. The comment that Dr. Peter Lovatt received from the coach was that he expected dancers to be “lesser men”.
This idea comes from the fact that people tend to believe dancing does not require much physical preparation or that dancers’ bodies do not need to be strong. Or all of us know that this is completely untrue.
Dancers go through many physical preparations: workouts, stretching, building certain types of muscle, stamina practice and the list goes on.
Dr. Peter Lovatt remembers when he worked on Strictly Come Dancing, dancers and the sportsmen who were part of the show would compare their six-packs and do little competitions to see who can do more push-ups or sit-ups.
People need to be aware of the fact that besides being an art form, dancing is also a sport. If you want to use your body to do certain movements, you have to also prepare physically.
High Testosterone = Good Male Dancer
Especially in Western cultures, high testosterone is linked to hyper-masculinity. We have this image ingrained that sportsmen have a high level of testosterone, hence they’re powerful. And not only sportsmen, but also those men who are considered “alpha males” like Wall Street bankers.
But Dr. Peter Lovatt presents us with some studies showing that high testosterone men are amazing dancers, very good at grooving freestyle. So it seems that being a good dancer is also related to having high testosterone.
So this preconception on dancers not being masculine (not having enough testosterone) is completely false. On the contrary!
Now, we can point out one very obvious socio-cultural aspect that can influence people into thinking that dancing is only for girls.
Have you noticed when walking past a dance shop you only see little pink tutus and leotards meant for little girls and teenagers? You never see something for boys! This obviously reinforces this unhealthy idea that dancing is not meant for boys as well.
If you are a male dancer (a boy, a teen, or even a grown-up) don’t let the mean remarks and stigma get to you, whether you are or aren’t part of the LGBTQ community.
You keep on sharing your artistry through dancing!
I've started dancing when I was 9 years old and it has been a part of me ever since. I love to surround myself with everything dancesport related. Now I get to experience the world of dancing through a writer's lens.