Hello. My name is Mike Walker and I am going to be blogging about dance here for you guys. I am a journalist now, but have had a life-long passion for dance and music and remain involved in both. The situation of the young male dancer is unique in that male dancers are just as valued (honestly, often somewhat more-valued, as they are fewer in number and thus rare) as their female counterparts in the world of dance, especially in ballet, but far too often young male dancers find themselves alone, misunderstood by peers who view dance as a girls’ activity, and even bullied. I understand that this was how things were when I was growing up, but I have been dismayed to learn the situation has not changed all that much across the board for boys who dance. A close friend’s younger brother is a teenage dancer and he is encountering some of this bias despite living in a fairly open-minded college town. His experience and the inspirational stories of dancers like Patrick Frenette were much of the catalyst for me to write this column. I believe in what Boys Dance Too is doing, both in terms of their general support of the male dance community and also their store, which offers a much-needed resource for items male dancers require yet often cannot find at local stores.
My contribution here will be diverse, I hope, covering a variety of topics I feel will benefit young male dancers, their parents, and their instructors at all levels. Mostly, I will be writing about the experience of different dancers, interesting or unique studios, dancers, choreographers, or college programs the world over, and probably quite a bit on Russian ballet as that’s one of my areas of expertise (most of my work currently is on Slavic issues in general and I am a staff writer for InSerbia, which is Serbia’s leading English-language news site). Also, I review books and write about literature at my blog for Coal Hill Review, so I believe very strongly in the dynamic interplay between all of the arts: an interplay I feel we find most of all in dance and theatre. One of the things I am most excited to do and hope to have for you very soon is to provide interviews with three friends of mine: one is a dancer who just completed his BFA (at Wichita State University) and moved to New York City; one is a senior at City College of New York in New York currently; and one is a freshman just starting his BFA program (at the University of the Arts) in Philadelphia in dance. I hope to soon interview all three and present their views and experiences.
Even with the benefit of the internet, there is still an unfortunate disconnect in the dance world—surprisingly so, at times. By this I mean we often become focused on what is happening on the local level (as we should, firstly) and what is mainstream news in the dance world or the world in general. What we miss is at times though is the really cool stuff some small company or college is doing, and I hope to help remedy that by bringing forward news of foreign, academic, and smaller companies doing innovative work. I’ve met young dancers who have never heard of Laurie Anderson, in example. Is she a dancer? No, not really, at least that’s not her main deal, which is music and performance art. But she was one of the first key people to bring technology into live narrative performance. Every contemporary performing artist is to some extent in her debt. Or María Benítez, for that matter, the great flamenco choreographer. Although she’s possibly the most-accomplished person within flamenco working today, she’s not that well-known outside of flamenco. You never know: someone in his teens studying ballet in Florida or Kansas or Virginia might pick up on what María Benítez is doing and incorporate it into what he’s doing. Twyla Tharp's college degree was actually in art history, which she certainly drew from in a lot of her own work: all the arts are at some level interconnected. We have to appreciate that diversity around us, but in order to do that, we first need to be fully aware of that diversity.
I look forward to writing for you.