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Dancers respond to GMA anchor’s criticism

Adam McKinney, an assistant professor of dance at TCU. Photo courtesy of Adam McKinney.

With only seven men in the dance program, comments made by a Good Morning America (GMA) co-anchor regarding Prince George’s participation in dance classes reminded some of long time stereotypes.

Junior ballet major Liam Evans said Lara Spencer’s comments furthered an issue many male dancers face everyday.

“I mean, I was kind of shocked, not just at the fact that she thought it would be okay to humiliate men in the dance world but also just the fact that she was making fun of this little boy that is pursuing a passion,” Evans said.

Spencer’s comments also riled Adam McKinney, an assistant professor in TCU’s dance department. McKinney said when he was younger he was “taunted and made fun of” for being male and pursuing ballet.

Adam McKinney, an assistant professor of dance at TCU. Photo courtesy of Adam McKinney.

“I think that it hinders people and particularly boys from participating in a beautiful, athletic, difficult art form,” McKinney said. “For men to participate in a form that is understood as being female, there is the possibility of men being understood as gay.”

There are seven men who dance at TCU in both modern and ballet dance programs, McKinney said, meaning that roughly one in 10 dancers at TCU is male. There are two male faculty members.

Spencer has apologized for her comments on air Monday and in an Instagram post Friday.

Senior modern dance major Terrance Carson said Spencer’s apology seemed “truthful,” but he wants her to use her platform to preach a message to children that they “are able to do whatever they want.”

“I think the response from the dance community is appropriate,” Carson said. “With that being said, I think it is still appropriate to continue uplifting each other in the dance community and everyone taking dance classes around the world.”

Carson, who has been dancing for eight years, knew he wanted to be a dancer ever since his first performance in middle school.

“Prince William says George absolutely loves ballet,” Spencer said last week. “I have news for you Prince William, we’ll see how long that lasts.”

If he was in George’s shoes, Carson said he might begin to doubt himself after hearing Spencer’s comments.

“It really depends on the type of circle you have and the type of support you’re around, but as long as he knows or other children his age know that whatever they do is fine as long as they’re working hard, then they should just keep doing it,” Carson said.  

To help change people’s perceptions of male dancers, McKinney’s classes focus on having conversations about gender roles in classical ballet. Carson said he tells people when he’s performing so they can come and see how hard he works.

“Most people are cool with [me being a dance major]. They don’t say it to your face that it’s weird or that they don’t agree with it,” he said. “Overall, people have a lot of respect for what I do, especially when I tell them how many hours a day that I dance.”

The dance program also offers observation hours for people to view a dance class, Evans said.

“I think dance is such an important thing for people to be exposed to,” Evans said. “All people of all genders and gender identities and from all parts of the world and not just classical western dance, I know it focused on ballet but all dance forms, it’s such an important way.”

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