By Ryan P. Casey
The sprawling hills and lush greenery of Morgantown, West Virginia, served as the backdrop for “Men in Dance: Bridging the Gap,” the first symposium sponsored by the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) to focus on male participation in dance.
Approximately 60 dance educators and aficionados converged at West Virginia University June 29 to July 1 to discuss practical remedies to the dearth of male dancers in schools, studios, and companies. The goal was to devise and share methods to recruit and retain male dancers; discussion topics included what kinds of teaching practices appeal to male dancers, what kinds of classes and programs prove successful with that population, and what kinds of support systems can be implemented for them at any age.
Symposium participants came from across the U.S. as well as from the U.K.; some had elementary, secondary, and higher education experience; some directed or worked for private studios or arts organizations. Even a male dancer’s parent and a researcher from the Harkness Center for Dance Injuries at New York University attended.
According to conference co-founder Barry Blumenfeld, a New York City-based teacher and choreographer, the event took shape over the past five years.
“It started because I wanted to hang out more with some of the guys who are part of NDEO, since there are so few of them,” he says. In 2011, he formed a Special Interest Group, an NDEO online forum that allows members to share issues and propose solutions around a particular topic. More than 550 members have since joined this group, called Men in Dance, to discuss the unique challenges facing males in dance.