Weekend Inspiration: Take Me to Church

I love this song and I love this video – and I’m certainly not alone! As of this posting, it had racked up over 7 million views on YouTube.

If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it now and get ready to feel a painful longing to just quit your job, start over, and devote your life to being able to dance like this man. (Or was that just me?)

It features “ballet bad boy” Sergei Polunin dancing to Hozier’s hit song “Take Me to Church”. Polunin’s grace, strength, and precision combine powerfully with his emotional expression of the dance. It’s enthralling.

(Email subscribers: Click through to the blog post to see the embedded video.)

Dance Is for Boys Too

This is Billy Elliott, not my friend's kid. Billy doesn't look too happy here, but he LOVES to dance!

My friend posted an adorable picture on Facebook the other day.

It was her young son’s first day of dance class and he was at the barre in second position along with the rest of his classmates. He was in shorts and a T-shirt and the other students (all girls) were in leotards and tutus.

As a ballet lover myself, I was so excited to see the picture! Little kids at ballet! And better yet, a BOY getting the chance to experience the joys of ballet. He was adorable and according to his mom had a great time.

I commented on the photo supportively, as did many others. But there was one comment that really pissed me off:

“Aw man is he gonna hate this picture in a few years!”

My heart sank.

Here it was: It’s embarrassing for a boy to take ballet.

I don’t think a similar comment would have been posted if my friend had uploaded a picture of her young daughter playing baseball for the first time with all boys.

But for a boy to dance (especially ballet), to do a “girls” thing WITH all girls. Now that could prove embarrassing some day.

I think that’s bullshit.

Dance is for everyone. EVERYONE.

There is much to be learned, experienced and enjoyed from learning dance from an early age – whether it’s ballet, modern, jazz, or tap.

It’s a chance for kids to play and have fun. At the same time, they learn better connection and control over their bodies. It’s an opportunity to communicate through movement and music. And, again, it’s FUN.

It’s not as much fun when you feel embarrassed or self-conscious.

And a lot of that comes from the idea that what girls do is not cool – it’s not for boys. It’s pretty accepted (and even celebrated) for girls to be “tomboys” (a bullshit term in itself; girls who like to climb trees and play sports are just kids who like to climb trees and play sports, not a type of “boy”).

But, sadly, it takes a brave parent to introduce and encourage their boys to explore activities still disproportionately associated with girls – like dance. So many boys grow up thinking that dance is not for them – and they turn into men who don’t feel comfortable with dancing.

And why should they? I’ve been dancing since I was four, and I’ve not had one moment in my life where anyone has, either implicitly or explicitly, called into question my gender or my sexuality for doing so.

But that’s what happens to boys and men- at least in the U.S. In many other countries, it is not considered weird for boys and men to dance everything from ballet to salsa to ballroom!

I think this needs to stop. All kids deserve the chance to explore all aspects of the human experience, regardless of sex. Whether that’s dance, baseball, swimming, singing, tennis, running, playing music…you get my point.

Offhand comments like that of my friend’s friend on Facebook keep us back by perpetuating the idea that a boy enjoying dance is something to be embarrassed about. And those little comments add up when others have negative reactions or make jokes (“So do you wear a tutu, like the girls? haha”). It also contributes to the devaluing of girls.

If my friend’s kid winds up loving dance, I want him to love it without anyone telling him it’s weird or wrong. It’s a tragedy for anyone to feel bad about what they love to do, simply because of their sex or gender.

Dance is for everyone.

Am I a Ballet Snob? Or Just in Love?

Sometimes I feel like a snob when I talk about ballet.

I started dancing at around age four and ballet was the first class I took. I studied it for ten years more and have always felt that it forms the basis of any abilities I have in movement, balance and grace.

Basically, I can dance, because I’m a dancer. And I’m a dancer because of ballet.

So, of course, I’m a big proponent of dancers starting to learn with ballet. If I have a child, I hope to send him or her to ballet class as early as possible.

The technique you learn in ballet stays with you for the rest of your life. The mechanics of moving your body to be soft and strong, to leap, jump and land, to turn and spin, to move slow and move fast: ballet teaches it all. I believe that if you study ballet, you can more easily learn other dances because  you have already integrated an essential gracefulness and consciousness of movement.

But, see, this sounds kind of snobby.

I mean, not everyone can take ballet classes. Not everyone has access to them and not everyone can afford them. Plus, there are plenty of gorgeous dancers who dance from a foundation formed through many other techniques: modern , African, Latin, etc. I don’t want to fall into cultural snobbery – “THIS is the RIGHT way to dance” – because it’s far too easy to contribute to the denigration of other cultures’ own traditions. Every dance form has something to offer in terms of beauty, grace and strength – and cultural relevance (which is why I want to learn them all).

The thing is, I love ballet.

It’s not just that I believe that it is “the best”. Dancing ballet sparked something in me.

I was reminded of that when I watched this video. I was so mesmerized and so moved.

And I thought, ballet is the pure expression of beauty and grace. So, so perfect in every single movement. It wants nothing more than to be pure, perfect movement.

I imagine that as I continue with this project, to learn all of the world’s dances, that I will develop new ideas about ballet and discover new ways to experience dance through other forms.

For now, watch and tell me: How do you feel when you see this? Does it move you too?