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Tulsa World Scene Writer
Photographs by JAMES GIBBARD
September 16, 2010


Joshua Bergner didn’t want to dance, he wanted to play football. He is, after all, a 12-year-old boy in a state where football is king.

His mom, Sherri, knew her home-schooled son needed a sport or PE class for his education – but football? Joshua was on the small side for his age, and Mom didn’t want to see him get squashed. So she got sneaky: All the best football players train by doing ballet, she told Joshua.

He was only 8 at the time, but he was still skeptical of this claim: “I was like, Mom, seriously, I just want to do football.”

Getting him to try ballet was “like pulling teeth,” his mother said.

Fast forward to the present, and Joshua is glad he fell for his mom’s bluff. This summer, he was named Junior Mister Dance of America 2011 by Dance Masters of America in a national competition.

Plenty of real men dance: Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Donald O’Connor.  Now Joshua Bergner. He takes more than 20 hours of lessons per week in tap, jazz, ballet and various styles. He tap dances in aisles at Target.

“I don’t really have a favorite style,” he said, on a recent rainy afternoon before dance class.

His goal is Broadway and perhaps maybe a victory on “So You Think You Can Dance,” which he views clips of on YouTube, because his family doesn’t watch television. He wants to be a dancer and a missionary, he said.

Jessica Childs, his teacher at The Calling Dance Academy, said Joshua started winning awards not long after he started lessons. “He works hard and takes every correction,” she said. “He’s just really ambitious and wants this.”

Now that he’s Junior Mister Dance of America, he’ll travel to dance for other schools and students. Next year, he’ll pass the title to another young dancer. But he will not be bugging his mother to play football anytime soon.

Who wants to play football when you can dance?


Copyright © 2010, World Publishing Co.

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