Student Blog: Let’s hear it for the boys (aka dudes who dance)

November 14, 2016

By Beau Foley

Often, dancers and non-dancers alike discount male dancers by claiming that they have it easy. In some respects we do, but the biggest misconception about male dancers is that being one is easy. I think it stems from several ideas, one being the common story of a male dancers starting very late in life, but still continuing into a full and successful career. For example, our professors William Forsythe, who began dancing in college, and Desmond Richardson, who began rigorously training in high school. Or even myself; I also began dancing in high school. It is also common knowledge that there aren’t nearly as many male dancers as there are female dancers, and this does help males to stand out more in a crowd. However, I don’t think we are held to any lower standard than the females–in some cases, we are pushed harder. Even though male dancers may have some things easy, we must work for what we get. The USC Kaufman program has taught me to not only take risks as a male dancer, but also to believe that I can do better and be greater than what I am.

When I first began dancing (and anyone who started late will tell you this) it was like being thrown into the deep end and not knowing how to swim. I was put in the advanced class and expected to match the caliber of all of the other students who had danced their whole lives. Not only that, I was also expected to jump higher, turn faster, be stronger than any of the girls. I think this way of entering into the dance world has really benefited me in particular, because I was able to gather as much information as I could and grow in dance at a very accelerated rate. I didn’t just start and automatically become a good dancer. I had to work at it, I had to obsess over it, and I constantly had to push myself for more. There has never been a day in my dance career where I haven’t tried to push harder and work toward each of my goals. Our faculty constantly insists that we be curious, constantly investigate things, and push ourselves further.

Male dancers also have a lot to live up to. Some of the greatest dancers of all time were male and have set a high standard. We are expected to do many pirouettes; to suspend in the air for as long as Baryshnikov, have the power and grace of Nijinsky, the flexibility of Desmond Richardson. Not to mention the partnering skills necessary to keep a girl on her leg lift her above your head and make it appear effortless. Every day I aspire to be like these men and more. I am constantly trying to emulate their qualities in my own style to become the best version of myself I can be.

Male dancers also combat societal pressures daily; by claiming dance as a profession, you run the risk of encountering some pushback. Because I dance, I have heard derogatory comments about my sexuality, I have heard that male dancers aren’t as good as female dancers, I have heard that my gender makes auditions easier for me. Now, at USC Kaufman, we are learning how to combat these problems and educate those people about the world of dance. We are cultivating a new era where dancers are respected, where they are taken care of and understood, and where the members of the dance community love and respect each other.

I guess what I’m trying to say is even though male dancers we are discounted, held to very high standards, and sometimes even ridiculed, Kaufman has taught us how to counter these difficulties and use obstacles to our advantage. In the immortal words of Desmond Richardson, “I just walk in the room and I kill it.”