Those boys can dance

Run. Throw. Catch. Tap? That’s right. Boys should now consider dance a valid athletic option. Despite its reputation as a"girl’s activity,” dance classes are a healthy extracurricular activity, offering numerous benefits to boys, including improved athletic skills.

Dancenter North in Libertyville has offered boys-only dance classes for the past year as a way to encourage male participation in the art of dance."We’ve always looked for ways to encourage boys and to get them to not think of dance as just a girl thing,” explains Cheri Lindell, the studio’s director.

Understanding that boys and girls learn and behave differently in a class setting, she developed these classes as a way to cater to boys’ unique style."For one thing, boys tend to be more athletic and have shorter attention spans, especially in the early years. Boys run, jump and march really well. These are all important parts of dance.” But instead of bar exercises and stretches, boys are dancing as cowboys and soldiers.

Oak Park’s Danza Viva studio points to its 50 percent male enrollment rate in kids classes as proof that dance is an all gender activity."Boys are definitely interested in hip hop, breakdance and even Latin dance,” according to Rebecca Huntman, the studio’s owner. These are the kinds of dance kids see in popular culture. So, as boys master those moves, they feel culturally cool, develop athleticism and heighten music appreciation.

Both studios have found that once boys get started, they come back. Huntman credits her dynamic male teachers, who serve as role models to these young men. One teacher, Sidney McNeal III, knows how to keep the boys engaged throughout class, she says."His high energy transcends dance and includes motivation to live life right, with passion.”

Building self-esteem, so important for young boys, is a natural by-product of dance classes. Children learn to understand their bodies and express themselves creatively. And, with practice comes success.

Boys who have stuck with Dancenter North and joined its tap company were invited to perform in China this year. Not bad for 12-year-olds.

Move over Little League World Series, boys dance is here to stay.

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