Long time [Columbus Dance Theatre] student Spencer Stevenson offers these thoughts on boys dancing from a very personal perspective. Spencer wrote this essay for school, and his Mother shared it with me. With permission of Spencer and his family I share this essay with you today as an affirmation of the deep power of the arts to shape the lives of young people for the better. Spencer has been my student for some six years. It is a privilege to work with him and all of the amazing young people in the CDT School each and every day.
Columbus Dance Theatre
An essay by Spencer Stevenson
Reblogged from Columbus Dance Theatre
I was always jumping off the walls, running around. My mom was constantly trying new ways to deal with my ADHD self. She tried to find ways to calm me down, for me to use up my energy. One day she enrolled me in a ballet class because it was free. I didn’t know it then, but my life would change forever.
Most boys my age play soccer, football, basketball. Me? I dance ballet. I know ballet is considered feminine, but let me ask you this. Who lifts the girls? Yes, us guys. We call partnering “pas de deux” (pa-dah-du). It takes years to learn how to do it. We do lots and lots of pushups to strengthen our arms for the lifts. Ballet is not always about “pas de deux”; it`s also about bar and center and tours and pirouettes and leaps and so much more. It’s about commitment. Just the feeling of achievement, of reaching my goals and setting new ones thrills me.
I feel comfortable on the stage as if I belong somewhere just like Jackie Robinson must have felt on the baseball field. But ballet isn’t just about dancing on the stage. I feel good in the moment, but when I step off stage, I get broken down for being different, just like Jackie Robinson when he stepped off the baseball field.
The first time I told someone about being in ballet, they laughed at me and said, “What are you, a girl?” I was stunned because my friend had just called me a girl. I tried to say words, but words couldn’t explain what I felt. I ran fast, I tried to hide my tears. My throat felt like it was swelling around my Adam’s apple. What could I do? That was the moment when I realized maybe the world wasn’t ready to accept me as a ballet dancer just like Jackie Robinson must have felt the first time he stepped foot on the field surrounded by jeering voices.
It mocks me to be teased for something I enjoy, something I couldn’t live without. Jackie Robinson dealt with hatred because he was different. People treated him like he would never belong in the world of baseball because of his color. I am treated like I don’t belong in the world of ballet because of my gender. Jackie Robinson was determined to be seen as a major league baseball player not as a skin color. I am determined to be on the stage without people thinking I don’t belong there. I want them to see the dance not the boy.
I cry, but still I dance. All I do is hope I will make it out there. Make it in the dance world. When people at school do tease me, I just want to dance more so one day I can prove myself worthy of existence.
Jackie Robinson proved himself in baseball and I am going to prove myself in ballet. Jackie Robinson courageously broke the color barrier in baseball. I want to break the gender barrier in ballet. When Jackie Robinson played baseball alongside white people, he not only changed a sport, but also changed America’s ideas about race. I want to change people’s perspectives about boys dancing ballet.
In the end, Jackie Robinson taught me that it isn’t what others say about you or how they see you; it’s about how you see yourself. How you see yourself determines who you are and what you become. I am determined to finish what I started all those years ago. I look back at Jackie Robinson and he still has a place in my heart. The place where courage comes from.