We ask kids, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Often, they want the jobs their parents have: “My mommy is a doctor, my daddy works in an office, my mommy is a writer, my daddy CAN FLY!”
My Daddy Can Fly is a new children’s book from American Ballet Theatre (ABT), written by board member, mom of three and former dancer Shari Siadat; and ABT Principal Dancer and dad Thomas Forster. It tells the tale of Forster’s five-year-old son, Ben, explaining to his classmates what his father does for work – as a professional ballet dancer, he flies!
Their book fills a void left by the plethora of ballet children’s books about girl and women dancers, but few about boys and men.
Siadat explains the vision behind the story she and Forster created. “We’re trying to disrupt the association of what is viewed as masculine and macho with this fresh generation.”
How we talk to kids about dance is vital to cultivate a lifelong love of the art, whether they go on to have a career in dance or become (hopefully) loyal audience members. Dance educators use songs, games and literature to help kids understand the many facets of dance, and ABT seeks to contribute to that with this book.
Both Siadat and Forster wish more boys would try ballet because of how much value they believe a dance education helps with general development.
Says Forster, “For any child, it’s a great discipline. It’s physical and tough, but there’s also artistry to it. There are so many great attributes you can get from ballet even if you don’t end up becoming a ballet dancer. If some of the stereotypes were broken down, more families would be willing to let their young boys take ballet.”
Siadat agrees. “Ballet is about using movement as a mechanism for self-discovery,” she says.
Ballet companies all over the world are taking steps to become more inclusive and to democratize ballet. Siadat and Forster worked with ABT’s RISE (Representation and Inclusion Sustain Excellence) Program to advance that through My Daddy Can Fly.
Siadat explains, “What was very important to me with this book is people understand that ballet is for anyone, as long as you have the drive and passion for it. It’s for anyone who wants to go on that journey. I want to strip away that sense of elitism in the ballet world. Using Tom as a muse may inspire people to think, if my son dances ballet, this may open up a whole other world.”
Indeed it can, and with books like this, hopefully it will.
To purchase your copy of My Daddy Can Fly, click here.
By Emily Sarkissian of Dance Informa.