The Men Who Dance Project
My name is Liz Brent, and I am an artist, writer, dancer, and professional in the business of dance production and costumes.
I started my own dance training at a small dance studio in the eighth grade. I started with jazz and musical theater, and went on to study ballet, lyrical, and tap throughout high school. Looking back now, I don’t recall sharing dance classes with any boys. College was the first time I had dance classes with dancers of the opposite gender. In fact, when I first entered the dance program, the head of our department was a wonderful man, incredible dancer and choreographer by the name of David Capps.
So I danced alongside men in college and after, but honestly, never gave it much thought. Everyone loves to dance, right? But the same conversations would bubble up every now and then – like how it was different for men to dance, outside of partner dancing. How it was assumed that most men who danced were gay. And generally, men might have easier careers in dance because they were sought after, while women were a dime a dozen.
Beyond the generalizations, I honestly didn’t know what it was like for men in dance. I never asked. I assumed that it wasn’t that different from my own experiences.
Recently, an incident occurred with a fellow dancer that made an impact. It finally hit me just how different, and just how hard, the experiences can be for men who dance. Since then, I’ve thought a lot about what it would feel like to have people question, or outright assume, my sexual orientation because I’m a dancer. Or have family and friends ostracize me because I want to be a professional dancer. Or feel alone in a dance class because I’m the only one of my gender present.
I’ve asked myself over and over – what must that be like? How would you not become alienated? How would you find strength in that experience? How would you stick with dancing? How would you find your way into a professional dance career? What stories would you carry with you?
I want to know, I want to respond, and I want to share the answers to these questions with others. So I started reaching out to male dancers who I am privileged to know. The response I got was overwhelming. Many more than I expected wanted to be interviewed and share their experiences.
I’m so grateful to Stance on Dance for hosting this series of interviews for the month of May! I don’t know how long I will continue this project, but I know there are many more dancers doing many more types of dance that I want to interview. I want all dancers, not just men, to have a voice. But let’s start with men, as they have this unique experience in our culture.