Breaking Stereotypes: The Life of Male Dancers

“Dance has helped me get through a lot of tough times. Dance is something that I owe my life to. Without it, I don’t know where I would be. It makes me see things in a whole different perspective… Honestly, if it wasn’t for dancing I don’t know where I would be right now,” said Gabe Paulin ‘19.

Gabe Paulin ’19

In a society that often expects boys to be stoic, bottling up their emotions, many male dancers find tremendous relief in dance as a vehicle for expressing their feelings, but participating in an activity that many people see as feminine can have its own challenges. People often refer to dancing as an activity only meant for girls, partially because it involves “feminine” qualities, such as grace, poise, and beauty. However, most forms of dance also require more stereotypically “masculine” skills, such as power, agility, and strength.

Gabe admires street dancers that perform in the city and other hip-hop dancers that he watches on tv shows. Shows like So You Think You Can Dance (SYTYCD) and World of Dance (WOD) shine a light on male dancers and the great things they can do. Gabe really admires the works of male hip-hop crews on WOD and takes inspiration from them and uses them in his own work.

Many male dancers on these shows explain their stories of how they were bullied when they were younger and how they’re so happy with where they are now. These men are role models for other young boys who want to dance. It can be scary to begin dance because these kids have this idea that people are going to be cruel and criticize them for expressing themselves. But with these men dancing on tv shows, it makes the kids watching them see that it is possible, and that males can be just as good at dance as females.

Dance Company’s Male Dancers

Seniors Gabe Paulin and Dominic Dadiego have both been members of the Thornton Academy Dance Company for a few years now. Dance Company consists of twenty-seven girls and four boys.

“Dance is a very female dominated sport and art and there are a lot of male dancers, just not in Maine. So you’ll have a class of like twenty girls and like four or five guys. It’s pretty cool though to experience what it’s like to learn in that kind of environment,” said Paulin.

Most female dancers begin dancing around the age of two. But males usually start later around the age of six or seven. Starting at an older age can make it difficult to catch up.

“It’s not the most difficult thing to pick up, like the motions and everything. But, to be able to have the proper technique and to learn how to do all the moves correctly and to the best of what it’s supposed to look like, that definitely takes a lot of work and time. So starting at an older age, is definitely a large part of the difficulty,” said Dadiego.

Dominic Dadiego ’19

High school is when boys really start to grow into their bodies. They’re gaining muscle and figuring out who they are as a person. Even though they may not be as technically advanced as some of the other females at this age, they are physically stronger and very capable of succeeding in dance.

“I feel like I’m most athletically capable at doing dance at this age. I feel like because of high school, sometimes the environment of high school can frown upon guys dancing but really it’s not as big of a deal as people make it out to be. But, it’s always been that thing where dancing seemed like more of a feminine thing,” said Dominic.

The stereotypical male in high school is only “popular” if involved in sports and only hangs out with other male jocks. However, dance can be a great way to make a lot of friends because everyone is equally as passionate as you are.

“I think it’s improved my social life because it’s become a part of who I am.  It always has been and now I’m actually taking a class for it. I’m able to dance with the same people I know and get to make friends with new people. It’s a good environment to be in,” said Dominic.

Gabe Paulin in the Thornton Academy  2018 Winter Dance Concert

Gabe agreed adding, “Honestly, for my social life, it’s made it better because if I didn’t have dance I wouldn’t have the friendships that I have. I feel like the reason I have so many friends that I’m grateful for is because of all the partnering I’ve done and all the people I’ve danced with.”

High school can be really tough for a lot of students. It’s easy to get involved in things like drugs and alcohol and it’s easy to make mistakes that can haunt you forever. An activity can help teens stay out of trouble by giving them something to do in their spare time.

Gabe explains how dance has been that “thing” for him that keeps him active and healthy, makes him want to be stronger, and has motivated him to start going to the gym. Dance requires an athletic body to be able to move fast and have control over your movements. It is especially important for men who have to lift other dancers over their heads.

Gabe Paulin performing at the WGME Food Challenge Pep Rally

For Gabe, styles like ballet or contemporary aren’t where he feels most comfortable. Gabe is known for his amazing hip hop and animation. You may see Gabe dancing down the sidewalk with his headphones in, or maybe you’ve seen him perform at national competitions or local fundraisers. Gabe is never afraid to start a dance battle in the middle of the school dance or put himself in the middle of the gym floor to perform at pep-rallies for the whole school.

“I feel like people respect what I do,” said Gabe.

Dance is a great way to express your ideas. Sometimes it’s hard for people to say what’s on their mind, but they need to get it out. Dance allows people to tell stories and to play a character that’s completely different from their normal self.

“Dance is a way of expressing your emotions through body movement when you can’t do it verbally. It’s just a feeling, with all your emotions going through your body…you just feel like you’re flying,” said Gabe.

Dancers have often been called the greatest storytellers because of how well they can convey a story. It takes a special mind to come up with a story and to be able to show it through dance.

“Someone would see something and look at it one way, and when I see it, I look at it in a thousand different ways. I put together a concept and I want to make the concept meaningful and to tell a story, not just put out something for everyone to see. But, I want to show people what a creative mind can do with a piece,” said Gabe.

Gabe Paulin ’19

Gabe is often told that when he’s older, he should audition for SYTYCD or WOD because of his unique style that not many people can do. Gabe explains that he is currently a “big fish in a small pond” and that places like Los Angeles are filled with great dancers. He thinks it would be great to be out there with other dancers like himself.

“I feel like for a hip-hop dancer [moving to LA] would be perfect because people street perform all the time on the strip. They have tons of people doing what you do and you can take what you see and try and do it for yourself. It’s awesome to just learn from each other,” said Gabe.

Gabe is hoping to attend University of Southern Maine and minor in Dance. Gabe explains how difficult the dance world is and how he thinks it would be best to establish a solid career first to provide him money so he can continue dance. He hopes that dance will be a part of his life forever because of how much it has impacted him. Gabe hopes to do as many dance events as possible and his future goal is to be dancing on tour as a backup dancer for a famous singer such as Beyoncé, Justin Bieber or Ed Sheeran. Gabe is a role model for young male dancers who have seen him in performance. He was courageous enough to break stereotypes and show men that dance isn’t just for females.

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