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What Lara Spencer’s Comments about Ballet have done to the Dance World

Male ballet dancer
Source: KCBalletMedia | flickr

The news program Good Morning America has been waking up homes across the country for generations, but one host has completely shifted the tides and turned this media giant from family-room-fixture to big-time-bully.

GMA’s Pop News segment for August 22nd, hosted by Lara Spencer, featured the daily lesson plans of young Prince George. These lessons include ballet classes which, according to his father Prince William, the six-year-old boy loves.

Unfortunately for the Royal Family, the TV hosts openly mocked the boy for taking ballet, and between all the laughter, Spencer commented, “I have news for you, Prince William, we’ll see how long that lasts.”

It took no time at all for the dance world to defend the young prince, condemning Spencer’s comments as an act of bullying. But the series of events that followed and continue to unfold makes the biggest statement about the way ballet dancers are treated in a gendered world.

The immediate backlash from professional male dancers flooded social media. Ranging from the diplomacy of World of Dance judge Derek Hough to the sassy real-talk of Tony Award winner Jerry Mitchell, dancers voiced how damaging Spencer’s comments and the accompanying laughter of her colleagues had been.

Dancer and Emmy winning choreographer, Travis Wall, shared his own video about how this kind of bullying affected his own youth, as countless other boys in dance classes have always had to struggle through ridicule and stigmas.

“Darling, you’re not on Saturday Night Live,” said legendary Fame dancer and actress Debbie Allen on Twitter, scolding the GMA host for spurning her journalistic integrity.

Naturally, Spencer issued a public apology on her Instagram page, but the result was a weak cluster of canned sentences that barely covered the bases and only vaguely hinted at remorse. Moreover, the one person who actually suffered the brunt of her actions — the six-year-old Prince — received no mention, much less an apology.

Lara Spencer
Source: Bender Media/Cristopher Lapp

Spencer’s attempt to put a band-aid on a bullet hole only added fuel to the fire. It didn’t take long for the hashtag #BoysDanceToo to go viral. Videos of incredible male dancers and statements of support flooded social media, even earning a shout-out on the hit TV show So You Think You Can Dance.

Mere days after the initial incident — and the avalanche that followed — Spencer reportedly issued private apologies to many dance icons, including Travis Wall, and eventually went back on the air with a new apology, one which she attributes to her conversations with Wall and fellow dancers, Robbie Fairchild and Fabrice Calmels.

Meanwhile, 300 male dancers of all shapes and sizes gathered outside the Good Morning America studio to hold a ballet class on the streets of New York. Wall and Fairchild participated in leading the group, accompanied by elite dancers, Alex Wong, Sam Quinn, Charlie Williams, and many others.

With Spencer showing a genuine understanding of what she’d done wrong and the dance community willing to forgive the insensitivity after just a matter of days, things seemed to be looking up. The incident had been painful, but a successful public statement by ballet dancers was bridging the gap, remedying the situation, and forging ahead into a more accepting society.

Or so we thought, until Wednesday, August 28th, when Fox News ripped the wound wide open again.

The Fox program “The Ingraham Angle” covered the story of Spencer’s comments and dancers’ responses, but did so by allowing host, Laura Ingraham, and guest contributor, Raymond Arroyo, to mercilessly belittle and shame male dancers all over again in the last 15 minutes of their air time.

Ingraham and Arroyo’s meager attempts to establish their superiority included claims that they had both taken ballet classes before, with Ingraham adding that she was kicked out after only one class.

“I hope [Spencer] offends a mechanic next so the boys learn how to change the oil in a car,” concluded Arroyo.

This unnecessary slander, though sickening, actually brought to light a very important topic in the dance community: there are those who will never understand.

Ballet serves as the foundation for virtually all dance training and as such has shaped almost every professional dancer in the industry. Ballet is one of the most elegant art forms in the world and yet requires enormous amounts of strength on a daily basis. Ballet teaches discipline, commitment, work ethic, collaboration, determination, and infinitely more invaluable life tools.

Despite all that, there will always be those who will never stop mocking boys who wear tights. Today’s society has taken colossal steps toward equality based on gender, race, and sexuality, but somehow, men in dance were left behind.

Male privilege has done nothing to protect those secure enough in themselves to take up the strenuous, demanding, incredibly rewarding work of ballet training.

It seems the work of Billy Elliot is never done.

By: Jordan Curiel




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