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New program helps change attitudes

By Barbara Woolsey
The Leader-Post
January 24, 2012

As a little kid, Richard Zimich went to soccer practice with not just his sneakers, but ballet slippers. After the game, he couldn’t hang out – he would always say he had to go “cut the grass.”

“I’m sure my teammates thought, ‘Wow, that guy is cutting the grass an awful lot,’ ” laughed Zimich, who is now the artistic director of Youth Ballet & Contemporary Dance of Saskatchewan (YBCDS). “But it’s because I was actually on my way to dance class.”

Sometimes young male dancers are shy about their passion, said Zimich. But that is something YBCDS is trying to change. The studio now employs four male dance teachers – Zimich, Glen Curtis, Chancz Perry and William Siguenz – which is the most it’s ever had. When Zimich came to Regina four years ago, there hadn’t been one in two decades.

A growing number of boys are also taking lessons – right now there are about 15 of 400 total students, he said. In bigger cities, a better ratio of guys to girls is more commonplace, which makes it easier.

So in September, Zimich had the idea of starting a program just for the boys. It’s been a huge hit. “It’s not easy being in a class sometimes when you’re the only guy,” he said. “When the girls are getting instruction, sometimes the guys can feel like they are an aside. They’re role (in dance) is totally different. So this program brings them to grow and train together.”

“I was definitely the Billy Elliot of Saskatoon,” laughed Curtis, YBCDS’ newest male teacher. “I really liked dancing, I was just the only boy in the school. If there was a boys program, I wouldn’t have kept my mouth shut.”

In class, the guys do all types of movement from hiphop and jazz to martial arts. It is great exercise and builds endurance, balance and physical strength.

“The parents are so happy to see their kids going to dancing and getting pumped before they even go,” he said. “The boys are so motivated to come. They’re giving me high-fives in the hallway and I can see they’re really proud of what they’re doing.”

Lessons are twice a week, but Zimich said that may expand this year. A lot of boys are bringing their friends to come check out the class – and the friends end up staying.

“They have that support. If you get bugged or teased at school, it doesn’t even really matter because you’re around people that know better,” said Zimich. “There’s still a pressure, but it’s starting to get better.”\

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