Brave Boys of Ballet

Last week, Lara Spencer, a host on Good Morning America, made a snide comment about Prince George taking ballet. Her tone was mocking and dismissive of boys who dance. 

Here’s what has surprised my son, the dancer: Not that someone made jokes about boys who dance. What surprised him was the pushback that Lara Spencer got from her comments. The fact that so many people cared and spoke up delighted him.

The meanness didn’t surprise him; the kindness did. This breaks my heart.

My son has been part of a dance company since he was in the sixth grade. What this means is that he spends several days a week plus many Saturdays at the dance studio. He takes ballet, tap, hip-hop, jazz, musical theater, contemporary and lyrical. I have no idea how many hours he has trained as a dancer.

Being part of a dance company also means that he has grown accustomed to the eye-rolls and the snarky comments about boys who dance. 

I’m so used to the fact that this is who he is and how he spends his time that I had forgotten how brave he has to be to continue to dance. He has so fully embraced his passion for dance that he makes it look easy, but I know that it hasn’t been an easy path. This latest national discussion has reminded me of his courage and determination. 

It’s also made me incredibly grateful for the teachers and mentors who have encouraged him. As irresponsible and unkind as it is for a national journalist to mock boys who dance, those words don’t carry the same weight as the people in his life who build him up.

We don’t live in a city; we don’t even live in a very progressive county. Nonetheless, my son has found adults who have created the space for him to thrive and flourish. He has found a community at his local dance studio that has taught, encouraged and protected him. He has found a second home and a sanctuary. 

So, yes, we should call out people who belittle others. We should also continue to carve out safe spaces where all people can pursue their passion.

But what I have witnessed, as a mom of a boy who dances, is the power of encouragement. The sting of ridicule is harsh, but it’s not as strong as the gift of being fully seen and celebrated.

It seems to me that the anti-venom to naysayers are mentors who urge, “Don’t stop dancing.” 

For the rest of my life, I will be grateful to those people who have consistently stood beside my son and whispered, “Keep going.”

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  • Anna, I’m so damn proud of the young man that Caleb is! What I wouldn’t give to be able to dance! You and Bryan can be proud of the parenting you have done, not only for Caleb, but for all your children. What a gift it is to have them in my life! Please give Caleb a big hug for me.

  • Well written, wonderful positive article about my grandson. Handsome, talented, I’m proud of him! Popeye. 🤗

  • “The gift of being fully seen and celebrated”….YES!So glad I know you Anna.Much appreciation for the ways you share your gifts.

  • What they don’t realize is what an incredible athlete Caleb is to dance as he does. Good for him and good for you and all who have encouraged him over the years.

  • You must look up Edward Villella (if you don’t already know about him). Years ago he would come to Greenville for summer sessions in dance held on Furman’s campus for Governor’s School of the Arts. He also gave talks to interested citizens (me) about his career. He grew up in New York and told of going to dance classes with his sister when he was quite young and, through that exposure, knew that he just had to dance!! His mom allowed him to take lessons without his dad knowing (this was in the 1940″s). He told of putting on a baseball uniform when walking through the neighborhood to his dance classes so the other kids wouldn’t know. Eventually his dad found out and told him if he would go into the Merchant Marines (?) for two years then he would not stand in his way of becoming a dancer. So he did that for his dad. He became a member of NYC Ballet and went on to do great things in the world of ballet. I loved his courage and his passion. And I loved his story. So keep on dancing , Caleb!!