Look at the ratio of girls to boys. It seems ridiculous in this day and age that dance is still considered a 'girls sport' and that boys who might have an interest in joining a dance class will be put off, with the risk it could make them look girly or cause them to get bullied. That is if it's even recognised as a sport at all. First of all, let's set that record straight. Dance is a sport - FACT!
It teaches discipline, entails strength, requires cardiovascular endurance, flexibility and stamina. A lot of parents have said to me before that they've noticed a change in behaviour at home or school since their children started dance classes. I see it in children all of the time. They start the term, hardly lasting the lesson without complaining or playing up and by the end of term these habits have gone. Their attention span is longer and they become accustomed to the format of the class. Their behaviour has improved too, mostly because they no longer have time to mess about but also because they see an improvement in themselves and this is rewarding for them. I've noticed that this is particularly evident in boys who at a young age can be particularly boisterous but in dance can channel their energy in a positive way.
Dance also requires technique beyond belief and this technique changes depending on the genre that is being learnt. For example, in ballet we work in a turned out position which uses specific muscles and requires a totally different posture to tap and street dance. With the latter two, the weight comes forward, knees release and everything is once again turned in, bringing us back to normal human being feet. To get the body to work in these different ways requires practise and persistence, the same as any other sport. Whilst training I was pretty much in constant pain (good pain we would get told by our teachers) because we stretched our muscles, worked out (I'd beat my husband in a sit up competition any day) and generally exhausted our bodies. Alcohol was limited (another reason to sign them up) and our diets had to be healthy in order for our bodies to work at their peak.
We condition our bodies and brains just the same as an athlete, swimmer or tennis player would when they train and perform. And who says that an athlete, swimmer or tennis player has to be a boy or a girl? What is it with this stigma that dance is just for girls and why do young boys still feel like this?
There are lots of reality shows we now have such as Strictly and Britain's Got Talent, that showcase male dancers. It has now become more acceptable in the younger generation than when I was training, which is amazing. I also gave a talk to the Performing Arts department at Oaklands College recently and was surprised at the number of males in the room. It's common knowledge in the West End that there is much more opportunity for men to get jobs over women and this is due to the vast amount of women auditioning compared to men. So let’s make this an even playing field and eradicate the nonsense that dance is 'just for girls'. It is a universal sport that requires athleticism, determination and competitiveness, just like any other sport.