My 11 -year-old son loves to dance and sing and for almost a year now has been learning ballet, tap and musical theatre. In the car on the way home he is buzzing- can't decide which of these arts he enjoys the most.
He's not the only boy at his school, Afonso School of Performing Arts in Berkhamsted in Hertfordshire- he has made new friends who he looks forward to seeing at his classes. That's my boy, front right dancing with his sister and his friend behind. They are looking towards their teacher who is showing them how to hold their arms correctly. See how absorbed they are?
Interestingly he has not been teased at school even though he has been very open about his dancing. I think because of shows like Billy Elliot, Strictly and Britain’s Got Talent featuring talented male dancers the myth that dancing is just for girls is well and truly being busted.
There are so many genres of dance that everyone, male or female, can find a form of dance which
speaks to their soul. My son's friend (pictured above) loves to street dance as well as study ballet and tap. He is one cool little dude.
You might have a son who is begging you to allow him to attend a dance class but you feel reluctant to let him in case other people judge or mock him (and you?)
It's worth knowing that ballet, tap, jazz, street- all of these and any other forms of dance will improve a child’s overall health, strength, co-ordination and confidence and none will change his sexual orientation.
Young actor Tom Holland started dancing at a hip-hop class. He was spotted by a choreographer as he performed at a dance festival.
Tom trained for two years learning ballet from scratch before debuting in the West End show in 2008.
He went onto take one of the lead roles in The Impossible alongside Euan McGregor and has just been cast as Spiderman for Sony and Marvel’s latest movies.
Still on the subject of superheroes, did you know Batman studied ballet as a child? (Well, actually actor Christian Bale who played him in Christopher Nolan’s movies did)
Action movie star Jamie Bell loved ballet as a child and said although he was sometimes teased it just made him determined to prove that ballet is not just for girls.
And one of the most macho actors you can imagine, Die Hard’s Alexander Godunov, was a professional ballet dancer.
Godunov danced with the legendary Bolshoi Ballet in the Soviet Union before defecting to the U.S. where he joined the American Ballet Theatre.
He was soon lured by the bright lights of Hollywood where he appeared in "Witness," "The Money Pit," and, of course, "Die Hard,"
Belgian martial artist and actor, Jean-Claude Van Damme, trained in ballet for five years. He says, "If you can survive a ballet workout, you can survive a workout in any other sport."
Of course the benefits of dance are not limited to boys – all children can benefit from lessons from qualified and experienced teachers.
They value dance for what it is: an accessible, adaptable and enjoyable form of physical activity, cultural and artistic expression; as well as for what it can do: it improves fitness, educational attainment, opens up new career opportunities and widens their artistic and cultural horizons.
Dance makes the body the instrument of expression, dance removes barriers between an individual and what they want to communicate. Its contribution to education is unique because it combines bodily movement with creativity and imagination.
No matter how the economic climate may change, investing in dance for our young people remains vital because it plays an essential role in the making of our future citizens, workforce, entrepreneurs and artists."
It’s interesting that YDE points out that learning to dance produces more than ”just” a dancer.
Children who are able to learn any form of dance from a trained and qualified teacher also learn discipline, have to show commitment and take on board new and complex skills, overriding nerves and self doubt.
These are all great assets transferable to school and home life and any future workplace. Your young ballet boy might pick up skills he can use in the boardroom in later life.
I have been delighted with the confidence and joy my son (and his sister) have gained from their sessions at Afonso School of PA (@afonoschool_PA). I have no illusions that either of them will become professional dancers but think they will look back and be glad that they had the opportunity to express themselves in this way.