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.
“If this were not the arts, it would be considered a child health crisis.”
We were so honored to open the the first NDEO Men in Dance Symposium at the University of West Virginia on June 29, 2017. The conference was filled with educators, dancers and arts administrators – all of whom came together to help address the issues that face the male dancer. The three day conference was filled with sessions and discussions about issues ranging from gender norms to harassment and bullying. Alongside award-winning dance researcher Doug Risner, we presented a early rough cut of the film to an eager and appreciative crowd. The conference was a wonderful opportunity for us to fine tune the points that really resonate with both professional dancers and educators alike.
We greatly appreciate and thank the NDEO for offering us this opportunity and we hope DANSEUR inspired everyone to work together to end bullying and harassment of men because they love to dance.
Men in Dance: Bridging the Gap – Symposium
Thursday, June 29 – Saturday, July 1, 2017
West Virginia University, College of Creative Arts
The producer/director of DANSEUR in conjunction with Doug Risner, Author of Stigma and Perseverance in the Lives of Boys Who Dance have been invited to host the keynote address at the Men in Dance Symposium. The conference addresses the significant lack of male dancers in the field, how and why it is such a challenge. From early childhood dance and movement classes through secondary education and beyond, the dance world is faced with the question of how to attract more boys and men to the field. This problem is not limited to one genre of dance, age group, or country; the dilemma is global. This symposium seeks pragmatic solutions to address the dearth of male dancers in our studios, schools, and companies as students, professionals, and educators.