In a previous edition, Dance Informa explored why all boys should dance. It instills strength, coordination and agility; boys can experience teamwork and a sense of adventure; they learn creativity and self-expression; and they gain self-esteem, confidence and learn to be a leader.
New York City’s The School at Steps has always encouraged young boys to dance, despite the gender’s lower enrollment percentage in the school’s Young Dancers Program. In an effort to attract boys to the school and show them that dance is not only little girls in pink tutus, The School at Steps has introduced its For Boys Only (F.B.O.) program, a weekly class for boys ages four to five. The class kicked off on February 1 and runs for 18 weeks. Each Monday, from 3:15-4pm, boys are taught by two talented male artists, accompanied by a male percussionist, creating a “safe zone for boys”, says Kate Thomas, director of The School at Steps.
“Every dance program, dance company and Broadway show require male dancers,” Thomas encourages. “The shortage is advantageous to a male dancer’s success in an otherwise highly competitive profession. Training boys at a young age helps to dispel the negative and inaccurate gender stereotypes that accompany the image of a male dancer. Hopefully, this class will attract boys to our school so that we may introduce them to movement, music and creativity and, most importantly, a love of the art.”
Like the school’s other Young Dancers classes, the F.B.O. class is structured as a professional dance class: warm-up, then center work, followed by work across the floor. Boys begin with “floor and circle time”, focusing on limb identification and isolation, along with basic core muscle strengthening. They then move on to “center”, where they will stand in a formation and explore extension of limbs and body balance. Finally, the boys go “across the floor”, as they travel through space while developing rhythmic skills.
“This class is particularly suited to young boys in that the exercises are all created with action- and adventure-themed ideas,” explains Matt Williams, an experienced Broadway choreographer who co-teaches the F.B.O. class with Luke Muscat. “We will, for example, guide the boys through fantasy movement exercises relating to astronauts, treasure hunters, racecar drivers and firemen. The class will also focus on sport-related metaphors and images and how they can be integrated into dance exercises. We will also incorporate the use of props as another fun tool to encourage the boys to move.”
Both Thomas and Williams assure that there are numerous rewards in dance training from a young age. Boys can develop motor and creative thinking skills, build muscle, foster musicality, and become more physically and mentally aware, they explain.
“In my experience as Director and as a former teacher for very young dancers,” Thomas says, “I have seen generations of girls, as young as two years, taking advantage of creative movement classes, while boys of the same age are not. Too young to understand the physical mechanism necessary for competitive sports, they can become discouraged about their capabilities. In a movement class, a boy discovers how his body functions given specific kinetic objectives: a boy begins to appreciate the complexity of balancing on one foot, the difference in jumping from one foot to two and all its variations, the structure and timing of a ‘triplet’ and so much more.”
As with all of the Young Dancers classes at The School at Steps, the end of the semester of the F.B.O. class will see a Parents’ Observation Day, where parents are invited to witness their young dancer’s development.
Williams says he is excited to work with the boys throughout the semester, exposing these young dancers to the joy of dancing to live music and finding a passion for creative movement. Plus, he adds, “Why should girls have all the fun?”
The School at Steps will be offering a free trial class for For Boys Only during the month of March, beginning Monday, March 7.
For more information on the For Boys Only program at The School at Steps, or to enroll your boy, visit stepsnyc.com/the-school-at-steps.
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.
Photo (top): The School at Steps now offers a For Boys Only program. Photo by Eduardo Patino.