My friend proudly posted a picture on Facebook. It was her young son's first day of dance class and he was at the barre in second position along with the rest of his classmates. He was in shorts and a T-shirt and the other students (all girls) were in leotards and tutus.
As a ballet lover myself, I was so excited to see the picture! Little kids at ballet! And better yet, a BOY getting the chance to experience the joys of ballet. He was so adorable and according to his mom had a great time.
I commented on the photo supportively, as did many others. But there was one comment that really bothered me: "Aw man is he gonna hate this picture in a few years!"
My heart sank.
Here it was: It's embarrassing for a boy to take ballet.
I don't think a similar comment would have been posted if my friend had uploaded a picture of her young daughter playing baseball for the first time with all boys.
But for a boy to dance (especially ballet), to do a "girls" thing WITH all girls. Now that could prove embarrassing some day.
And that's just wrong.
Dance is for everyone. EVERYONE.
There is much to be learned, experienced and enjoyed from learning dance from an early age - whether it's ballet, modern, jazz, or tap.
It's a chance for kids to play and have fun. At the same time, they learn better connection and control over their bodies. It's an opportunity to communicate through movement and music. And, again, it's FUN.
It's not as much fun when you feel embarrassed or self-conscious.
And a lot of that comes from the idea that what girls do is not cool - it's not for boys. It's pretty accepted (and even celebrated) for girls to be "tomboys" (a b.s. term in itself; girls who like to climb trees and play sports are just kids who like to climb trees and play sports, not a type of "boy").
But, sadly, it takes a brave parent to introduce and encourage their boys to explore activities still disproportionately associated with girls - like dance. So many boys grow up thinking that dance is not for them - and they turn into men who don't feel comfortable with dancing.
And why should they? I've been dancing since I was four, and I've not had one moment in my life where anyone has, either implicitly or explicitly, called into question my gender or my sexuality for doing so.
But that's what happens to boys and men- at least in the U.S. In many other countries, it is not considered weird for boys and men to dance everything from ballet to salsa to ballroom!
I think this needs to stop. All kids deserve the chance to explore all aspects of the human experience, regardless of sex or gender. Whether that's dance, baseball, swimming, singing, tennis, running, playing music...you get my point.
Offhand comments like that of my friend's friend on Facebook keep us back by perpetuating the idea that a boy enjoying dance is something to be embarrassed about. And those little comments add up when others have negative reactions or make jokes ("So do you wear a tutu, like the girls? haha"). It also contributes to the devaluing of girls.
If my friend's kid winds up loving dance, I want him to love it without anyone telling him it's weird or wrong. It's a tragedy for anyone to feel bad about what they love to do, simply because of their sex or gender.
Dance is for everyone.
An earlier version of this post originally appeared on Follow-My-Lead.com on September 4, 2012.