Dance demands strength, flexibility, agility, and determination. That sounds like a perfect recipe for a boy’s physical activity so why are our dance studios not packed with boys? Some studios are fortunate to have enough boys of the same age and ability to establish a separate “boys class” for their male dancers. But more often than not, the few boys interested in dance are placed in a class full of girls.
I admire the bravery, courage, and determination it takes for that boy to walk into an all girls class. And as the dance instructor, I want to not only teach him, but also to encourage and inspire this boy so he can be fully equipped to excel in his training.
Here are some tips that I have found successful in teaching boys in a studio full of girls.
At this age, self-esteem is key so encourage the boy’s strength, flexibility, and coordination. Use different vocabulary to describe positions for the boys that have a more masculine tone like saying “make a dragon tail” instead of mermaid tail with their legs when describing a 5th position sousous. Be sure to incorporate challenges so they can feel accomplishment and be proud of their dancing.
Peer pressure, wanting to fit in, and the fear of failure are fore front on your students’ emotional psyche so teaching boys at this age has to be handled delicately. Challenge the boys with the same combination as the girls, but slow down the music for their jumps and extensions. Or change your combination slightly so your boys can do more turns or balances but try not to single them out too much. Give them special attention by assigning strengthening exercises or stretches to do at home. Your boys may be starting to get teased for studying dance so continue to remind them of the athleticism and strength it takes to be a dancer and encourage them in their study.
Intermediate and Advanced Divisions
By this age, most male dancers are confident and competent enough to perform combinations by themselves. Challenge your boys, they thrive on it. Show them videos and pictures of accomplished male dancers like Savion Glover, Ethan Stiefel, Desmond Richardson, and Travis Wall so they can begin to find a role model. And try to expose them to other very powerful male dance troupes like the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
What effective approaches have you used for teaching boys at your dance studio?
Until next time, teach, inspire, and grow.