Men in your dance workshop?

I think about teaching – you should behave differently, considerately. If you had kids a lot younger in your class you’d address them as a special case or someone older with physical limitations or folk with training only in ballet or only in break-dance and you were mixing them with an altogether different group.  dance feet 049

Men are different. They may not gel easily with your style or planned class. It doesn’t mean you should scrap everything you’ve planned [ though you might!] but that you should take special care bridging the gaps without making them feel self-conscious. One thing may be to say, without making a big fuss, that if anything you’re trying seems awkward for them or feels out of character they should be aware of it and log how they might change it to complement the rest of what’s happening.

A man will be more comfortable with larger moves than fussy ones, and usually with cooperating with gravity instead of defying it. Modern tends to be more that style inevitably. But the most obvious example would be to direct someone to cross the floor. With zero self-consciousness it would be natural for most men to take one step to every two of a woman’s. Most couples walk that way, and make it where they’re going ok. If a move feels satisfying that tends to be the key.

And most men don’t like to be the only one in a class. They like each other as reference points. At some points everyone will be doing the same moves, just with a different accent. At other times it’s nice to exploit contrast. I get very frustrated if there’s men in a workshop who wouldn’t normally be there, and then they have an unsatisfying experience, or if a performance has them just used as padding instead of having any interesting contribution to the whole.

~ Andy Raine “Men in Dance” Network Coordinator

2 thoughts on “Men in your dance workshop?

  1. Lucy Jarasius (@elkayapjay) says:

    Men “used as padding” was an image that certainly sparked my imagination, Andy!

    However, I do think I know what you mean. In terms of presence and type of energy, their contribution needs to be respected and appreciated, and hopefully through dialogue made possible via this kind of forum, I trust that more people will be made aware of and learn how to optimise men’s participation. Thank you for sharing some practical examples

    • icdfnetworks says:

      Thanks, Lucy! Some of us men have got almost as much padding as the Michelin man, but of course that wasn’t what I meant. I sometimes feel
      that it’s sad if you have men being used just as scenery, like they were random eunochs in a palace scene, when with a bit more imagination the whole dance-piece could have more texture by utilising the contrast in movement quality.

      Funnily enough if you have a group of all women dancing they can tend to go 2 or 3 directions: 1] the whole programme starts looking overly pretty or feminine and eventually irrelevant without that masculine energy as contrast, 2] they badly don’t want to go feminine and pretty so choose to go more bold or provocative or high energy instead – still all-woman, but in a reaction to anything too stereo-typed, 3] they develop a more unisex style, consciously avoiding costumes that accentuate them being female, and taking roles that explore universal themes, as if they are working harder to make up for having no men in the company.

      One year we did a two-week tour in the UK with all men dancers [ under the “Master, speak!” dance-teams umbrella] with some guys for the first
      week, a different set for the second week and the middle weekend where we overlapped with a total of 12 guys, I think. We noticed a few things.
      Predictably the vehicle behaved in a rather blokey way, slowing down appreciatively when passing attractive women, and having a homing instinct for pie-shops and pubs. The energy within the teams was warm, supportive, satisfying. The dance programmes were good, and there was no
      jealousy or competition, just a spurring of each other on to do better.
      But by the end of our time I began to recognise that we had to work harder to find contrasts within a whole street-set or evening programme, with solo, 2-man, group, fast, slow, styles, shapes, sorts of music, costume-changes etc. Whenever a local female dancer guested with us for one venue it immediately opened up the range of what we could accomplish, and enhanced every person’s contribution. Exclude half the orchestra or shut off one speaker on your stereo and what is left has to
      work much harder to stand alone.


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