22nd April 2021

Toxic Masculinity and Bullying Boys Who Dance

toxic masculinity
Mo Brady & Angela Tricarico

The theater community is just that: a community, a group of tight-knit people with similar careers, goals, and experiences, who are massively supportive of one another. Nothing proves that more than when performers come together to make a point, especially when that point involves defending the very basis of their career.

Most recently, members of the community have taken to social media and beyond to speak out against Lara Spencer, a host of Good Morning America on ABC, for insensitive comments about Prince George of Britain she made on Thursday, August 22 during the PopNews segment of the show.

“Prince William said Prince George absolutely loves ballet. I have news for you Prince William: we’ll see how long that lasts,” Spencer remarked, laughing casually at the thought of the six-year-old Prince taking ballet classes.

The remark was not just insensitive, but as actress Alysha Umphress stated in a Tweet directed at Spencer, “Contributing to toxic masculinity.”

Alexandra Silber pointed out that in addition to publicly shaming a child, Spencer “diminished the value of the arts.”

Daniel Quadrino, who has multiple Broadway and National Tour ensemble credits, posted a photo of him and a group of Newsies on Instagram with a caption directed at Spencer: “Without ballet I wouldn’t have been able to dance on Broadway with a bunch of other BOYS who took ballet.”

This dismissal of men in ballet is especially unacceptable given that Spencer made the comment sitting in a television studio in the theater district, where, in the last six Broadway seasons, 1003 men danced in Broadway ensembles.

Today, 255 men will dance on a Broadway stage. These include young boys, older men, black and white men, gay men, straight men and fathers.

Some male dancers on Broadway had their dancing beginnings in ballet, and some still make a career of it today. Ephraim Sykes got his start dancing in Broadway ensembles, and this year, he earned a Tony nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for Ain’t Too Proud.

Additionally, musicals like 1975’s A Chorus Line, 1957’s West Side Story, and 2015’s Hamilton all have ballet as fundamental basics of their choreography. All three of those musicals were nominated for Best Musical at the Tonys; two took home the award. A Chorus Line and Hamilton were both awarded the Pulitzer Prize for drama. What would these great works be without ballet? Billy Elliot, which won the 2009 Tony for Best Musical, is about a young British boy who takes ballet lessons. That story ends on a hopeful note, even when Billy’s dreams of ballet are threatened by the culture around him.

The biggest lesson from this, however, should be that a person in a position of power, such as Spencer, shouldn’t abuse that power by bullying anyone, no matter their gender or age, no matter if they play sports or take ballet lessons, no matter if they’re a normal citizen or someone in a position of nobility. In the political climate we’re currently living in, kindness has to win.

A day after the initial comment was made, Spencer issued a “sincere apology” on Instagram, writing, “From ballet to anything one wants to explore in life, I say GO FOR IT. I fully believe we should all be free to pursue our passions. Go climb your mountain – and love every minute of it.”

An apology online can not and does not change the fact that there were countless little boys and girls who watched Good Morning America with their parents or guardians on Thursday morning and heard Spencer’s remarks.

As a community, we need to expect more from our media professionals.

As someone who is expected to share news with the American masses, Spencer should have been able to make levelheaded judgements about fact or fiction in a split-second; once live on air, whatever is said can’t be taken back or even amended easily.

And in that moment, Spencer proved that she is not able to make that judgement.


Also by The Ensemblist:

Make Way for Moulin Rouge! on Broadway

The International Cast on Broadway: Oneika Phillips

Published in collaboration with The Ensemblist

Listen to the Ensemblist Podcast

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THE ENSEMBLIST IS AN ONLINE ADVOCATE FOR THE TALENTED ARTISTS WHO WORK IN BROADWAY ENSEMBLES. What started as an audio podcast for those curious about how Broadway really works turned into an avenue for young and aspiring professional artists to learn more about theatre from in the inside out. In addition to more than 150 podcast episodes, available on Apple podcasts, Stitcher, TuneIn and Podbean, The Ensemblist’s blog features daily posts from artists about their work and lives. The Ensemblist is also active on both Instagram and Twitter, with more than 10,000 followers on each platform. Through our posts, podcasts and features, we are changing the conversation about what it means to be a successful theatre artist.

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