When I first began dancing in ballet based styles, I was never really told to “Dance Like A Man”. It might have been because I have a larger and more muscular build from my background playing football and running track. Yet, I’ve heard dancers, teachers, choreographers, and viewers alike yell “Dance Like A Man!” to male dancers, and I find it to be a very destructive phrase to aspiring male dancers.
My first question is what does a man dance like? Better yet, what does masculinity in dance look like (since that is the main insinuated factor)? What most people argue when saying this phrase or agreeing with the statement is that male dancers should move in a stronger and more percussive way than female dancers should, as well as eliminating certain stances like a hand on the hip or the oh so feminine hair flip; because men never stand with a hand on their hip or flips their hair out of their face in real life. And those characteristics solely for the purpose of femininity. Some could also argue that the intent behind a boy/man dancing should be masculine because if it is meant to be sassy or feminine it will read and men should try to be masculine. That’s such a complex thing to get male dancers to do because we can hardly differentiate between feminism and masculinity.
Some dancers strive to perform in the entertainment industry, and there is a clear divide between male and female dancers in that world. For example, male backup dancers normally do hip-hop or urban based dance styles, have a completely view-able six pack and a chiseled chest minus a shirt. While female dancers have whip their hair, wear tight fitting clothes and do lots of sultry hip focused movement that call on jazz and ballet dance a bit more than the choreography set for male dancers. So, because these roles in this community dancers I can see why this phrase would have a bit of validity from a teacher’s point of view so that he or she prepares their male dancers to succeed in this industry; yet I argue that we should change the worlds selected.
A lot of my current awareness of this phenomenon was sparked by this video trailer for the film The Mask You Live In
Instead of “Dance Like A Man” or insinuating to dance more masculine, try using world like “heavy”, “percussive/sharp”, show more physical “strength” in movement. In this way the young male dancers would have a better chance of understanding what it is that is asked of them as well as not making them feel bad for not being seen as masculine in your eyes. It’s already hard enough to be a male dancer in the eyes of many men, brothers, and fathers who wouldn’t dare put their sons in a ballet class, we should make it easier for them once they’ve stepped up to the barre.
This idea is just a start and a bit of a rant from a place of frustration with the term. When engaging in conversation about this with people who would normally say “Dance Like A Man” or agree with the term, I find it hard to have my viewpoint heard. Well I guess this is why I made a blog.