Male dancers are still facing backlash in Essex

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Spotlight reporter Lois Barker talks with a male dancer about his career and the struggles he has gone through to achieve his dreams.

IN THE year 2019 we are still finding ourselves drowned in stereotypes. Women are subjected to creative roles and men are pushed into more hands-on careers like business and engineering. From the early 1900’s we have made giant leaps, we have more women in power and more men developing careers in the arts. However, it isn’t enough.

As a society we need to be changing our negative views. Many people are scared to be ‘different’. For example, women who want to be engineers are seen as “crazy” or “bossy” and men who want to dance are seen as “soft” or “effeminate”. Why is being bossy a bad thing? What’s wrong with being feminine? There needs to be a change of thinking, because no one should be made to feel like an outcast because they’re different

Male dancers are just one of the many groups of people stigmatised within the UK. Dance is seen to be a ‘female dominated’ area, but this is not the case. Men within the industry are just as successful and appreciated as women are; what holds them back is the negativity they face from others who may not agree with their aspirations.

There are an estimated 200 dance companies within the UK and around 1,000 dancers graduate from vocational training each year. The number of students taking dance as a GSCE increased from 7,003 in 2001 to 18,866 in 2007, and the figures get higher every year. A third of those who took dance were boys.

In the year 2019, being a dancer is the third most popular profession choice for boys behind being a doctor or a footballer.

Recently, some of the most successful celebrities have achieved a degree in dance; for example, Tom Holland is known for his role in Spiderman: Far from Home, but he also played Billy Elliot in the West End. He is a ballet trained dancer and gymnast. Diversity is one of the most famous dance groups in Britain after their appearance on Britain’s Got Talent. Their cast is made up entirely of young boys and men such as Ashley Banjo who works closely with the BBC show, The Full Monty.

Why do people still stigmatise male dancers as feminine? It is a male and female profession and men are needed in dance; they can bring another form of expression, which is what dance is all about.

Gay men are the most discriminated in this field. Sean Bugden, a male student at Tiffany’s Theatre College, moved from Kent to Southend-On-Sea at the age of 16, to pursue his career as a dancer. Sean said, “It’s [the move] hit me hard and continues to get harder but that’s why I love it because it’s challenging.

Sean Bugden’s head shot.

“I am a gay man, it made coming out easier for me but I faced a lot of bullying by my peers in school but dance was a break. Bullying got so much I did want to quit but I didn’t give up.”

Sean also said that he is positive that stereotypes will change if people allow boys to follow their dreams and not be dragged down by society because of their chosen career.

He said: “We’re “supposed” to be strong masculine men. So, to do a sport that isn’t masculine society looks at it wrong. But why should history determine what’s masculine or feminine. I’m also a makeup artist and that’s feminine but people love it. Dance is becoming more popular with boys but most people are scared what society is going to say.”

Sean Bugden’s transformation using his makeup skills.

In today’s social climate, there are some who are too quick to judge. This is one of the issues that could stop many from pursuing dreams that they believe they will be judged for. Young people are impressionable and can be swayed into following different careers that are more suited to society’s expectations.

Sean says, “You have one life and it’s too short to hide away and not be able to show your talent or personality, because that is you and you change the way you feel to dance. Go and enjoy the music, if you get knocked down get back up and show them why you dance.”

With the support of his family, Sean continues to dance and has a promising future as a performer.

With any career, there will be a struggle and each individual has a passion. So, why do some feel the need to criticise others who are brave enough to chase their dreams? Many believe it is to do with jealousy, the envy that someone else is doing something they love and are succeeding. Wouldn’t it be great if we could be happy for each other and not let personal grudges get in the way?





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