Updated: Jan 23
I'm late, I'm late,
For a very important hate.
No tyme to run a spell-chick-er
I'm late, I'm late, I'm late!
I totally missed it, you guys!
Lara Spencer's contemptuous comments regarding boys who dance and her ardent apology about said comments have already run their course. I was just too busy winning "Best Dance Show" at the 2019 IndyFringe Festival with my fellow TMP Dance Co. members to write a blog. The bandwagon has already left the station. But, there is one thing that I found odd about the whole debacle, one thing that I feel is the entire reason for the outrage of boys vs. ballet. But what is it?
Is it because ballet is easy? Jumping, lifting, cardio, flexibility... the amount of stamina you need to dance any form of dance, especially ballet, is apparent to all.
Is it because ballet is stupid or not intellectual? In order to perform ballet competently, one must memorize great lengths of choreography, have a good sense of musicality, above-average pattern recognition and a general sense of the history of the art form.
Body image? You COULD argue that a deterrent to engage in ballet is its rigorous and provocative standards of aestheticsm, but damn if it isn't a good way to stay in shape at a recreational level. Have you seen Fabrice Calmels? Moving on.
The three dancers who appeared in the Good Morning America apology segment all agreed that bullying is a problem, but there is still no mention of WHAT stigmatizes ballet for boys and men. I haven't seen anyone say what it is in Facebook posts, Dance Magazine articles or crow-eating television segments. But it is this:
You think it's gay.
Not you in particular, dear reader, but also...maybe you!
"I'll never forget being in middle school and some of the guys found out that the dance studio is pretty close to school, and they said 'Oh, I want to see this cute girl that I have a crush on dancing.' So, they come to the studio one day after school and they see me in a ballet class with them, and it wasn't about the girls. It was about them pointing and laughing through the window. I can't tell you how much that hurts."
- Robbie Fairchild, former principal dancer of the New York City Ballet on Good Morning America, 8/26/2019
He paints the picture very well, but, aside from the pointing and laughing, what he doesn't mention is what those boys were probably SAYING through the window of that dance studio, on the bus and at school. Let me guess: "Fag," "Gay," "Homo." At least, that's what I remember them calling me growing up. Well, not those same kids, but you get the idea.
If you saw a boy or man surrounded by women in what is considered to be a male activity, such as being in the audience of WWE's SummerSlam, or in a neutral setting, such as a concert featuring the Dave Mathews Band, a hetero-male/female might think, "That dude must be pretty popular with the ladies! I bet he works out/has money/must be famous/is maaaaaaybe a good person." But, to see a man participating in what is considered to be a female activity, a hetero-male/female might think, "Dude, you know that's gay, right? If you are doing that, then you are probably gay, or if you are not it totes looks like you are gay, bro. Just so you know."
That is what I heard during Spencer and Co.'s laughter in response to mocking ballet while showing pictures of a young boy on national television. I didn't hear it in her voice, though, or the voice of her cohorts. No, I heard the voices of the Lake Park High School's hockey team; I heard the voices of the older brothers of dancers from other studios at dance competitions; I heard the voices of other kids when I said that I couldn't make an outing and forgot that I was supposed to lie about why I couldn't go. On Good Morning America, when Spencer says, "And... Bahll-AY," it was the same phonetic tone I had heard a hundred times growing up. The exact. Same. Motherfucking. Tone.
I don't think that Lara Spencer or the rest of the Insane Clown Posse that make up the talking-head, Bieber-reporting Good Morning America program are anti-gay. Hell, I bet even the vast majority of people in the world aren't anti-gay! But you know what they are? They're anti-straight-people-looking-gay. In fact, I bet we all are to some degree.
This is the subtle, nuanced homophobia of 2019. Gay people = good. Straight people = good. Gay people who "look straight" = "I had no idea," but good. Straight people who "look gay" = not good. "I've got news for you Prince William... we'll see how long that lasts," said Spencer to end her segment. She should have just finished her thought, "...when your son finds out that he looks gay." Because that's what she meant.
Straight people hate looking gay. Straight people hate other straight people looking gay. We love gay people looking gay, though. "We're going to Pride! Look at my rainbow shorts (that go down past my knees)," exclaim the Straights. "Look at them," we gleefully squeal from the sidewalk a good distance away. "It's so nice that they get to be themselves and celebrate with their own kind. We're progressive because the sight of two men or two women touching butts doesn't repulse us, but they better not touch mine...if my friends are watching."
Growing up I liked ballet class well enough, but I hated wearing the tights because I thought that they made me look gay, even though I didn't really know what "gay" was. I was 10 years old and my friends and popular culture confirmed and supported this opinion. I begrudgingly wore them, but only because it was mandatory and I was consoled by adults with these gems of wisdom, "Who cares," "It's no big deal," "No one else will see you," "It's like a uniform," "Football players have to wear tights."
Maybe it would have been better to hear the truth,
"The fact that you think you look "gay" in tights is due to hundreds of years of unjustified discrimination propagated by a select few 'social-influencers' who don't actually give a shit about those whom they are influencing. Their thoughts and opinions have no real basis in science or psychology. One day, you will learn that this, and many other things that you think are true about human nature, social norms and sexuality, are complete made-up bullshit and you can avoid expensive therapy and failed marriages by letting go of these manufactured hangups and just do what you know is right and makes you happy. If they mess with you again, I will fight their Dad.
-Made up cool authority/role model figure that doesn't exist in real life.
Tristan Bruns is a Chicago Hoofer, founding member of Chicago Human Rhythm Project's BAM!/Stone Soup Rhythms, professional company member of M.A.D.D. Rhythms and director of Tapman Productions.