Thursday, January 9, 2003
My editor suggested that I defend -- from personal experience -- the honor of male dancing and male cheerleading for my column, as a tie-in to the Steamboat Springs High School Dance Team story in this issue of 4-Points.
I think he was joking, but I'll have him know that, indeed, I once was a dancer.
I had to quit because I couldn't tie my shoes.
It's true. I must have been about 4 years old and, as my mother tells me, I really wanted to be a dancer. She couldn't figure out why, except that maybe I saw some dancers on television. So to appease her son, she signed me up for dance class.
Roughly 200 girls were taking dance classes at the studio where she enrolled me. I was the youngest of a paltry six boys.
We did jazz, contemporary, tap and ballet forms of dance. Yes, I was a 4-year-old in ballet shoes, but I don't think I wore tights.
The funniest part of the whole thing was the annual recital. For the contemporary dance, our teacher had us dress up like the Village People and dance to "Macho Man." I was the cowboy. (I loved that album. I still remember its splendid brown cover with all the guys dressed like macho men.)
It's so embarrassing to think about now. I mean, do you think the teacher knew who she was dressing up these kids as? Probably not, considering it was the late '70s and the dance classes were in Council Bluffs, Iowa. To put it in an even stranger perspective, my family lived in an apartment on top of a truck stop and cafe, which my parents owned, south of Council Bluffs on I-29.
It was rural, conservative and blue collar, but there was my parents' son dressed like a Village Person, complete with makeup. I wonder what my dad was thinking at the time.
When I quit, it was because we always had to change shoes and I couldn't tie mine. My teacher got annoyed that she had to tie them all the time, she said something mean to me about it, so I quit.
Two years later, we would move to Colorado and I would pretend it never happened.
Well, not really; it is a funny story to tell, after all. But let's just say I wasn't telling it to my high school football buddies.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with boys dancing. The men that do dance seriously have a great opportunity to make it big, mainly because there are so few male dancers. But it does make you wonder why there is a stigma attached to being a male dancer.
In the end, I didn't quit dancing because of any stigma. I quit because I couldn't tie my shoes.