In recent weeks, Lara Spencer of Good Morning America received a slew of salty comments in response to her on-air reaction to Prince George taking (and loving) ballet classes as part of his new school curriculum.
On the show, the anchor laughs at the fact that the six-year-old prince is taking ballet classes and goes on to say, “We’ll see how long that lasts!”
In response, over 300 dancers from the Broadway community gathered in front of the Good Morning America studio to celebrate male dancers, and the #BoysDanceToo hashtag flooded social media channels, promoting the diversity of the dance community, and the importance of supporting - not slighting male dancers who have already been on the receiving end of ridicule.
On social media, celebrities addressed her comments as well.
Travis Wall, choreographer and past contestant on the hit show So You Think You Can Dance, took to Instagram to share his thoughts on her remarks by stating, “I found these comments to be very upsetting. Not only did you inspire your audience and colleagues to participate in your laughter, you have now added fuel to the fire of a massive problem in this country, which is bullying. As a dancer myself I was bullied all the time growing up, and I’m thankful that I was able to use that as motivation to be successful, but that’s not the case for every child.”
Star Trek’s George Takai took to Twitter to address Spencer’s controversial behaviour as well, stating, “Lara Spencer mocked a 6-year old Prince George of the UK for taking ballet class. It shows that “toxic masculinity” can be spread viciously by insensitive women, too. As a fellow “George” and a lover of dance, I am very troubled and disappointed by her actions.”
Spencer has since apologized, but the sting still lingers for many boys who face malice and mockery on a daily basis for choosing to dance.
Last year, I interviewed a dancer named Jack Henderson, a high school student and member of Arts Umbrella’s prestigious Dance Company for a story I wrote for WestCoast Families magazine on boys in ballet. In our chat, Henderson shares that as he grew older and his interest in dance grew, so did the pestering from his peers. “Grade 5-6 was a tough age for me, and I think it is for many boys in dance. It can be hard to stick with it and feel accepted at an age where your peers are making fun of you for dancing,” Jack explained on the challenges he faced as a dancer amongst his soccer and hockey focused friends.
And for boys who dance, the difficulties don’t stop at the door. In an article shared on Huffington Post titled Tights, Tutus, and Relentless Teasing: Inside Ballet’s Bullying Epidemic, the author shares, “The statistics on boys, ballet and bullying are staggering. According to a study by dance sociologist Doug Risner, 93 percent of boys involved in ballet reported “teasing and name calling,” and 68 percent experienced “verbal or physical harassment.” Eleven percent said they were victims of physical harm at the hands of people who targeted them because they are boys who study dance.”
We shouldn’t be poking fun at boys who are passionate about dance, we should be supporting them and celebrating their success.
“Ballet teaches you integrity, it teaches your discipline, it teaches you respect, and it teaches you bravery,” Travis Wall shares in the conclusion of his Instagram video post, “ and if there are any boys out there who want to dance, DO IT.”
Let’s encourage boys to do what they love, and as adults, set an example for our children by letting them know that boys can (and should) dance too.
Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, writer, editor, and marketing consultant. Find her on Twitter @biancabujan and Instagram @bitsofbee.