Breaking down the dance barrier for boys

My son is now a dancer.

Here’s how we got there:

My girls started at a new dance studio this year since their former teacher retired. When I was signing them up in August, my son D announced he wanted to take “breakdancing”.

As if fate was smiling down on him, I learned that this studio was testing out a new class: Hip Hop for Boys, ages 5-7.

Looking around the waiting room at all the class photos on the wall, it is clear that, at least in our part of the state, dance classes are almost exclusively filled with girls. Only one boy smiles out from those photos, year after year.

And back in August, the studio’s owner told me she needed five boys to run this new Hip Hop class, and so far had only two committed students. It didn’t look good.

Not knowing if D would even do a dance class, I agreed to let him test out the first class. He was one of eight little boys who showed up that day.

Today,there are about 14 boys in that class. Word of mouth has spread fast and there is now talk that there may be enough boys interested to do two classes next year.

How did this class go from zero to 14 so quickly? It’s the teacher of course. Mr. D is a big man with amazing moves and a Drill-Sergeant’s voice. A Drill Sergeant who smiles often, never yells in anger and seems to genuinely like all the kids who line up in front of him for an hour a week.

I have never, ever seen 14 little boys listen and watch so quietly and politely, especially at the end of day on a Friday, when most of them are probably dying to just run around and scream like banshees.

On the first day, there were probably as many fathers as mothers in the waiting room. I have no doubt this was because the dads were thinking my son wants to do what? and had to see this for themselves. Many of these dads come back, week after week, because the class is too much fun to watch from behind the one-way glass.

Along with stretching and practicing specific moves, each boy is called to the middle of the room, alone, to do his own freestyle. At that very first class, every single boy got out there and danced, alone in front of strangers, for about thirty seconds.

D’s “freestyle” looks like a cross between self-flagellation, the Worm and 1980’s hair-band thrashing. I’ve never seen hip-hop like it, and yet I’ve never heard Mr. D tell the boys to change what they are doing in their freestyle. There is no “right” or “wrong”, and so there is no chance to fail or be ridiculed.

But, this is only one class. In all the other classes, I’ve only seen a couple of male faces. My son pronounced the other day, Ballet is for girls, hip-hop is for boys so he is by no means gender-neutral now that he is taking a dance class.

But, maybe this kind of class will help make people more comfortable with letting boys express themselves in a way outside of traditional sports. After all, I’m pretty sure Justin Timberlake and Usher didn’t learn their moves playing soccer or hockey.


  1. solsticemom says

    My son loves to dance. Although I've found classes for hip hop, I'm still searching for tap classes. Dancing is a great exercise while being fun!

  2. I'm cheering for you and for your son. This is awesome. Besides, football players take dance, too. And don't boxers take ballet?

    Which is not to say that it's only acceptable because there's a macho sports angle to it. It's great because he's willing to try new things and he has a family that encourages it.

  3. Life As I Know It says

    That's great!

    My son has been doing gymnastics for the past few years. He loves it, but I see his face drop when we get the occasional 'boys don't do gymnastics' comment from kids (and sometimes parents).

  4. Little Miss Sunshine State says

    My daughter had a dance partner who was the only male in their dance studio. He and Alli did really well at competitions as a duo and he ended up getting a degree in dance at NYU.

    Has your son seen some of the great guy dancers on So You Think You Can Dance?

  5. Love it. When my little guy got the chance to take this class with D, it was awesome. Unlike other sports focused on being fast and winning, it's wonderful to see the boys using their bodies and moving freely to the music.

  6. Issas Crazy World says

    I love this. Love it.

    There is a hip-hop boys class at my daughters dance studio. They have I'd say about 20 boys. Ages range from 5-9. I love watching them.

  7. There is a hip hop class at one of our local dance studios, too. I wish my boy had any desire. He, unfortunately, inherited his mother's sense of rhythm.

  8. That's pretty cool.

    I'm a fan of a book about boys & ballet; I read it to my daughter's class in both kindergarten and first grade. The book is The Only Boy in Ballet Class. Ballet is damned hard work; Marinka is right that there have been athletes who've danced because it is great for coordination, agility and strength.

  9. My 4 year old is taking his second year of ballet. I am still shocked by how many men I know are so very uncomfortable with the idea of their sons taking dance. My son has not yet ever suggested that ballet (or dancing) is for girls and not boys, but I know he'll soon start realizing many people feel that way and I hate that thought. If you're looking for a good book about boys and dancing I recommend "Ballerino Nate" by Kimberly Bradley. It was a great reaffirmation for my little boy that dancing was something that he can and should enjoy, like many men before him.

  10. Good for him and good for you. My son (8) was just sitting with me at his sister's dance class this morning and I thought he was going to die from uncomfortableness just being in the dance studio.
    And he likes to dance – oh well.
    If it makes a person happy go for it- sounds like a great class.

  11. Making It Work Mom says

    Sorry hit the publish button inadvertently on the previous comment

  12. Josette at Halushki says

    My daughter figure skates, the realm of pre/teen girls. However, there are four or five boys who skate at the rink. These kids – boys and girls – are performing extremely athletic and dangerous skills every day, skating 45 minutes straight, three to four sessions a day. This is X-games type stuff.

    But because people think of little girls in sequin dresses, the boys don't talk too, too loudly about their part in the sport. And that just stinks.

    On the other hand, with a ratio of 10 teen girls to every one teen guy, it's not a bad deal for a guy who is looking for a date on prom night. I honestly don't know why more boys don't take dance or figure skating or gymnastics. 😉

  13. I signed up my 3.5 year old daughter for ballet for the first time in September. Her twin brother was with us when I dropped her off for the first class. He didn't get why she got to go do something fun without him so the teacher let him go in for the first class. The only reason I hadn't signed him up too was for financial reasons. When I told my mom what happened that day and how much he loved it she said she'd pay for his tuition. He was so happy that he would get to go back.
    I didn't even bother telling my husband because I KNEW he would have a fit. Of course it eventually came out since I wrote about it on my blog. His entire family is horrified that he is in the class. All they do is make comments about how ballet is for girls. It drives me insane!!!
    How did I end up with this neanderthal family??

  14. Gymnastics for Toddlers says

    Maybe you should also encourage your kids to try gymnastics classes. I'm sure they will also love it.

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