Are Male Dancers Being "Dismissed"? This New Conference Thinks So
When Michael Vadacchino, co-founder of the online dancewear store Boys Dance Too, visited a competition to ask a customer if he would model for the site, he was able to find him easily. This boy was one of only three in the entire competition.
Small numbers like these are why Vadacchino and his business partner, Sarah Singer, have planned their next venture: The Male Dancer Conference.
This four-day event will bring together male and male-identifying dance students ages 8 and up from August 18 to 21 in New York City. Featuring ballet and contemporary dance classes along with sessions on special conditioning, anatomy and injury prevention, the conference will also include special workshops led by Sascha Radetsky of American Ballet Theatre and Alex Wong of "So You Think You Can Dance."
With so few male dancers in classes, a sense of alienation, as well as bullying and a lack of recognition are common experiences. "I allowed the boys we were approaching to tell us what they need, what is missing in their dance studios, what they're looking for," Vadacchino says about programming the conference. "There are little to no all-male large group settings in the dance world. With the exception of some major ballet competitions and large ballet conservatories, there is no event designed specifically for male dancers and their needs."
Vadacchino admits that, in a way, male dance students are cherished: "They are spoiled because they are rare. However, the majority of them are still being dismissed."
He points out the lack of facilities for boys in dance studios—often, male dancers have to change in bathroom stalls, janitors' closets or the backseat of their parents' car. When purchasing dancewear, they typically have to shop online because many stores sell little to no male clothing. Even then, they find pictures of girls modeling the clothing listed in the "men and boys" section. This disparity is also seen inside studios, which are frequently painted entirely in shades of pink.
"We want to be able show these boys that they are not alone," adds Singer. "We want them to feel like being a male dancer, in this present time, is really cool. We would like to see them start to feel an excitement about being a male dancer, that their future is a bright one."
Marquez Perry, photo via Boys Dance Too
The conference will also include a guided conversation led by Vadacchino giving parents the opportunity to talk with each other. "I want to be able to connect the moms with other moms who have no idea what's going on, so they don't feel alone," he says.
Singer and Vadacchino intend to hold the conference annually and organize leaders in the industry to help take action that will spread across the nation.
"Boys should be able to walk into any dance studio, any space, and not only are they accepted and not looked at weirdly, but immediately there are boys," Vadacchino says. "They're not intimidated by aesthetics of the place, with tutus and sparkles everywhere—even though that's totally fine, there's no balance. I think a utopia for me would be that we've created some sort of balance and it's inviting."
We knew that New York downtown dance darling Okwui Okpokwasili was a big deal. Critics and audiences have been raving about her dance-theater works for years, and the new documentary about her, Bronx Gothic, has attracted the attention of the larger arts community.
But never in our wildest dreams did we imagine she'd show up in a Jay Z video, along with flex dancer Storyboard P. Though we're slightly less surprised to see Storyboard in Jay Z's "4:44" video than we were to see Okpokwasili, we're jazzed that two of our favorites are featured on such a huge platform. (We're also feeling #blessed that we didn't have to subscribe to Tidal to watch this.)
Throughout the years, choreographer Seán Curran has worked with a diverse array of talented collaborators—from Kyrgyz music ensemble Ustatshakirt Plus to the the Grammy Award–winning King's Singers. But perhaps none are as meaningful as his most recent group of co-choreographers: At-risk teens from the after school program and nonprofit The Wooden Floor.
Curran has been in residence with The Wooden Floor since June, where he's worked with students to build choreography based on their lives and communities:
Their creation will be shown July 20-22 at The Wooden Floor Studio Theatre in Santa Ana, California.
"Besides the stage, baking is my other happy place," says New York City Ballet corps member Jenelle Manzi.
Four years ago, she thought her baking days were over when she was diagnosed with gluten intolerance. Manzi had been dealing with pain, frequent illness and joint inflammation for nearly 10 years. Once she cut out gluten, Manzi gradually started to feel better, noticing a transformation in how her body felt and functioned. She found her joints were less inflamed, and she got sick less often.
New York City Ballet soloist Unity Phelan and American Ballet Theatre soloist Cassandra Trenary spend every day making their hard work look effortless and graceful both in the studio and onstage. That's exactly what makes them the perfect spokesmodels for the dance-inspired activewear line, Belle Force.
To celebrate our 90th anniversary, we excavated some of our favorite hidden gems from the DM Archives—images that capture a few of the moments in time we've documented over the decades.
This image was captured during a 1978 New York City Ballet tour that took the company to Copenhagen—home turf for Adam Luders (right), who trained at the Royal Danish Ballet School and briefly danced with the company before joining NYCB as a principal dancer in 1975. Next to Luders is (of course) George Balanchine, in conversation with ballerina Suzanne Farrell. And looking on with a smile? NYCB's current ballet master in chief Peter Martins.
On March 8, 2016, Rami Shafi found himself inspired to film an impromptu dance video of his best friend, Aaron Moses Robin, improvising on Gay St. in New York City's Greenwich Village. Thus was born Pedestrian Wanderlust, a collection of dance videos that has grown to include a monthly improv jam.
Shafi works with anyone who wants to take part in the project, filming videos in locations chosen by the dancers and later adding music. The videos are shot on Shafi's iPhone in one take and, other than the starting and ending points, are entirely improvised. The editing afterwards—including the music choice—is minimal. "I don't like to edit too much. It's just what it is," says Shafi. "I usually can do the editing on the train ride home."
Many people see dance and choreography as separate pursuits, or view choreography as a dance career's second act. For some dancers, however, performing and choreographing inform one another. "That's just the kind of choreographer I am. I feel things so deeply in my physicality. I have to do it to know it," says Jodi Melnick, who is a prolific performer of her own work. She also maintains an active practice as a performer for other choreographers: Throughout her career, she's worked with Trisha Brown, Twyla Tharp, Tere O'Connor and Donna Uchizono, to name a few.
Though a dual career can be fulfilling, simultaneously inhabiting the roles of dancer and choreographer requires focus, organization and a great deal of energy.