Even as a dancer you are trained to display masculinity, but more barriers are being broken down about how men can express themselves through dance, because it isn’t something someone can own. It is for everyone to have and use as they wish. I feel empowered by being vulnerable to my emotions. Improvisation has helped me learn to be in the present moment. Not judging myself for softening my skin to feel and experience. Also, having a strong mother who is a natural leader has shown me that power is not gendered and judged by emotion.
I think in the way that I hear a lot of guys talk about masculinity, it’s such in a closed way. It’s “I’m not going to do this because it shows something about me that I don’t want somebody else to see. And with dance, you basically put yourself on the table. From a young age, we’re in these tights; we’re not wearing like football guard ready for battle. We’re pretty bare and everything is pretty honest.
That alone–just getting more in touch with my emotions–and learning from a lot of women, honestly, about how they are so expressive and free, has freed me up to be the best man that I can be. You can be as much of a man as you want, and that’s not dependent on how you shape your body or how you express yourself. It’s taught me so much (smiles).
It’s taught me that I really need to work hard to get what I want. One thing about dance is that it has never been easy. From a technical element, you’re always being judged, always being told how to fit into these molds, the perfect positions. But I take all of that in and I try to let it out in a new way. I take all of these limitations and turn them into something else.
During my early years of dancing, I struggled with not having the natural features dancers are praised for; I had stiff ankles, wasn’t ever very flexible. I was constantly teased even by those I looked up to. But I didn’t let those words discourage me, because I wasn’t dancing for them. I always felt like this is what I was meant to do. My love for movement and trials with technique have sparked imagination which influences much of my choreography.
Dance has superseded the constructs of life itself. It is the reminder that we are all larger than the space we occupy in our bodies. I want other young men to know that dance is something you possess in your soul. Experience and technique sharpen the details on that, but it is not something that can be taken from you.
I feel like I’ve been really lucky and really blessed just to live a life through the arts. I feel like it’s given me such a sense of freedom and really hasn’t closed me in as a person but opened me up and made me think of all the ways I could use art to say a bigger picture or use art to express myself or help others express themselves.