"Good Morning America" Thinks It's Totally Acceptable to Laugh at a 6-Year-Old for Taking Ballet
When the news broke that Prince George, currently third in line for the British throne, would be continuing ballet classes as part of his school curriculum this year, we were as excited as anyone. (Okay, maybe more excited.)
This was not, it seems, a sentiment shared by "Good Morning America" host Lara Spencer.
On yesterday's episode, the conversation turned to what the 6-year-old has on the docket when he returns to school this fall. After joking about being glad that she didn't have to do homework anymore, Spencer said,
In addition to the usual first or second grade things, like math, science and history, the future King of England will be putting down the Play-Doh to take on religious studies, computer programming, poetry and ballet, among other things.
This could have been a joke about the young prince tackling subjects that seem way above grade level. (Which begs the question, why is advanced achievement considered a joke?) But things began to seriously sour when Spencer got to the word "ballet." The talk show host audibly held back a laugh as she said it, and followed it up with an expression that could kindly be called patronizing, provoking giggles and then full-on laughter from her co-hosts and the studio audience. And then it got worse.
As pictures of a smiling Prince George showed on screen, she sarcastically quipped, "I mean, he looks so happy about the ballet class!" She continued,
Prince William says Prince George absolutely loves ballet. I have news for you, Prince William: We'll see how long that lasts.
How, in the year 2019, is this considered even remotely acceptable?
I could extoll the numerous benefits that dance training has for any human being, not to mention one who is going to grow up to be a head of state. I could point to the physical upsides, the positive effects dancing has on mental and emotional health, the long-reaching benefits of the discipline and focus it requires, and, perhaps most significantly, the way dance training imparts the value of empathy.
But the thing is, I doubt that Spencer cares. What this is really about is bullying.
Because that's what we just watched: A grown woman bullying a 6-year-old child. On national television. To laughter and applause.
If that seems okay to you, I would recommend finding your nearest dance studio and enrolling in an open class, because your empathy could use a serious tune-up.
It is no secret that young boys who enroll in dance classes face bullying to an outstanding degree—according to the documentary DANSEUR, the number is 85% of male ballet students in the United States. We're all familiar with the hateful, illogical rhetoric that goes with it (ballet is effeminate, boys who do it are sissies, or worse, gasp!, gay), and one would like to think that if the adults in the room were aware of it, they would put a stop to it.
That's what makes this whole debacle so sickening. Sure, Prince George is largely going to be shielded from this, and is going to grow up with a thick skin from being the center of so much public scrutiny. But what message does this send to the young boys who enjoy dance classes, or maybe want to give it a shot, but don't want to be the subject of abuse? What does it say to the ones hurling the abuse? That the bullies, right or wrong, can get away with it, and even be praised for it. The woman on the television certainly seems to be doing well enough.
Spencer's remarks also reflect the unfortunately common attitude that dance (ballet in particular) is not something that anyone could or should take seriously, that it's something to be grown out of. It's not like public and governmental support of dance, and the arts in general, is in crisis, right?
If there's a bright spot in all of this, it's in watching the dance world's reaction. Ballet stars have flocked to social media to share their support for the young prince and their disgust at Spencer's comments—and to demand an apology. (There's even an online petition asking that "GMA" produce a segment about the benefits of ballet training for young men.) Just a handful of the many articulate responses, including from former New York City Ballet star Robbie Fairchild and The Washington Ballet, are below.
Because this isn't just about Prince George, and it isn't just about ballet classes. It's about the fact that no one should be bullied for what they enjoy doing. And we refuse to condone it.
Update: Lara Spencer took to Instagram to address the blowback, writing,
My sincere apologies for an insensitive comment I made in pop news yesterday. From ballet to anything one wants to explore in life, I say GO FOR IT. I fully believe we should all be free to pursue our passions. Go climb your mountain-and love every minute of it.
Comments on the post are calling for her to go a step further and apologize on "GMA."
In the middle of one of New York City Center's cavernous studios, Misty Copeland takes a measured step backwards. The suggestion of a swan arm ripples before she turns downstage, chest and shoulders unfurling as her legs stretch into an open lunge. She piqués onto pointe, arms echoing the sinuous curve of her back attitude, then walks out of it, pausing to warily look over her shoulder. As the droning of Ryuichi Sakamoto and Alva Noto's mysterious "Attack/Transition" grows more insistent, her feet start to fly with a rapidity that seems to almost startle her.
And then she stops mid-phrase. Copeland's hands fall to her hips as she apologizes. Choreographer Kyle Abraham slides to the sound system to pause the music, giving Copeland a moment to remind herself of a recent change to the sequence.
"It's different when the sound's on!" he reassures her. "And it's a lot of changes."
The day before was the first time Abraham had seen Copeland dance the solo in its entirety, and the first moment they were in the studio together in a month. This is their last rehearsal, save for tech, before the premiere of Ash exactly one week later, as part of the opening night of City Center's Fall for Dance festival.
Back in 2011 when Joe Lanteri first approached Katie Langan, chair of Marymount Manhattan College's dance department, about getting involved with New York City Dance Alliance, she was skeptical about the convention/competition world.
"But I was pleasantly surprised by the enormity of talent that was there," she says. "His goal was to start scholarship opportunities, and I said okay, I'm in."
Today, it's fair to say that Lanteri has far surpassed his goal of creating scholarship opportunities. But NYCDA has done so much more, bridging the gap between the convention world and the professional world by forging a wealth of partnerships with dance institutions from Marymount to The Ailey School to Complexions Contemporary Ballet and many more. There's a reason these companies and schools—some of whom otherwise may not see themselves as aligned with the convention/competition world—keep deepening their relationships with NYCDA.
Now, college scholarships are just one of many ways NYCDA has gone beyond the typical weekend-long convention experience and created life-changing opportunities for students. We rounded up some of the most notable ones:
Dancers are understandably obsessed with food. In both an aesthetic and athletic profession, you know you're judged on your body shape, but you need proper fuel to perform your best. Meanwhile, you're inundated with questionable diet advice.
"My 'favorite' was the ABC diet," says registered dietitian nutritionist Kristin Koskinen, who trained in dance seriously but was convinced her body type wouldn't allow her to pursue it professionally. "On the first day you eat only foods starting with the letter A, on the second day only B, and so on."
"The show must go on" may be a platitude we use to get through everything from costume malfunctions to stormy moods. But when it came to overcoming a literal hurricane, Houston Ballet was buoyed by this mantra to go from devastated to dancing in a matter of weeks—with the help of Harlequin Floors, Houston Ballet's longstanding partner who sprang into action to build new floors in record time.