Dance was once an activity reserved for the societal elite. Men dominated dance during this era, and would proudly demonstrate their abilities as a symbol of their social status. High-class gatherings were marked by the food, fashion, and the dancing. People would take weeks of lessons just to prepare for social events!
In the 1900s, sport became the ideal masculine leisure activity. Men began to withdraw from the dance world, and dance soon became an activity “only” for women. Since this shift, most men have refrained from dancing due to social stigma. Men are often ridiculed or labeled effeminate for pursuing dance, but dance needs men.
In many cultures, men are encouraged- even expected- to dance! In African, Latin, and Middle Eastern cultures, dancing is a skill of strength and pride and community involvement. It displays a cultural prowess, and is seen as an incredibly attractive quality. “Men dancing at a party, it’s a mating ritual,” says George Staib, senior dance lecturer at Emory University. “It’s almost like a peacock strutting.” Who doesn’t love a man who can move?
Western culture, on the other hand, has been slower to embrace male dancers. Recent years have seen a refreshing open-minded attitude about men dancing, thanks to popular shows like Dancing with the Stars and So You Think You Can Dance. But what about the average man who shows interest? The young boy?
The male deficit in the dance world is incredibly unfortunate. But the greatest tragedy of all is that there are many men who want to dance, and simply don’t. Adult men are usually hesitant to try new things, afraid of publicly making mistakes. But to all the men suffering from chorophobia (fear of dancing), remember that dance is what you make it. Express yourself!
To all those encouraging a man to dance, keep it up! New dancers need patience and positivity, so let’s do our part.
Things to Try:
§ Find male instructors!
§ Remind men that dance is a physically challenging and athletic activity
§ Create opportunities to bring male friends to class/events (special father dances, bring a friend day, sporting themes, etc.)
§ Include partnering in choreography
§ Include boys/men in marketing ads/articles
§ Offer special class rates for interested men
§ Stay positive and encouraging!