StEPS: Inclusivity in Dance | Tony d’Alelio

StEPS: Inclusivity in Dance | Tony d’Alelio

Inclusivity in Dance: Creating Gender-Neutral Spaces for Growth

Welcome to Beyond the StEPS

The pursuit of artistic expression should know no bounds. However, traditional norms and expectations can sometimes hinder the creative spirit of dancers, particularly when it comes to gender roles in the dance studio. In this article, we delve into the importance of fostering gender-neutral performance and learning spaces, drawing inspiration from a recent conversation with Broadway dancer Tony d’Alelio on the "Beyond the Steps" podcast.

Breaking Free from Gender Stereotypes:

Growing up in the dance world, Tony d’Alelio shared his experience of being told to "dance like a boy," a phrase that many dancers, especially males, encounter in their training. This directive often limits the scope of movement and expression, reinforcing stereotypes about how individuals should dance based on their gender. It's time to break free from these constraints and create a more inclusive environment for all dancers.

Understanding Gender Neutrality in Dance:

Gender-neutral dance spaces aim to speak to the human experience rather than conforming to traditional gender roles. It encourages dancers to explore movement without limitations, allowing them to express themselves authentically. This approach embraces the soul, mind, and heart of the dancer, focusing on their unique experience rather than adhering to preconceived notions of how a person should move based on gender.

Challenging Traditional Norms:

One of the key challenges in fostering gender-neutral spaces is the resistance to change from traditional norms. This resistance may manifest as pushback from educators, studio owners, or even parents who are accustomed to the conventional separation of dance styles based on gender. However, as d’Alelio emphasizes, the proof is in the pudding — actions speak louder than words. By showcasing the positive impact of gender-neutral approaches, we can gradually challenge and transform these norms.

The Impact on Dancers:

The negative impacts of not establishing gender-neutral spaces in dance are far-reaching. Public shaming, a practice that has persisted in many dance studios, can stifle creativity and self-expression. For young dancers, particularly those in their formative years, this can lead to a shrinking of one's authentic self. Moreover, the repercussions extend beyond the dance studio, affecting mental health, confidence, and the ability to navigate the world with authenticity.

Benefits of Gender-Neutral Spaces:

On the flip side, gender-neutral spaces offer a plethora of benefits. They allow for greater creativity, individuality, and authenticity in movement. By fostering inclusivity, these spaces contribute to a positive dance culture that celebrates diversity and rejects harmful stereotypes. The skills learned in a gender-neutral dance environment are transferable to various aspects of life, promoting growth, collaboration, and a healthy mindset.

Taking Action: Homework for Positive Change:

As a call to action, educators, students, and dance enthusiasts can start by publicly complimenting and uplifting one another. Recognizing and celebrating the strengths and uniqueness of individuals in the dance community fosters a positive atmosphere that encourages growth and self-expression. Actions like these can set the stage for a more inclusive dance culture.

In the quest for artistic expression, the dance world must embrace gender-neutral spaces that celebrate the diversity of human experience. By challenging traditional norms, understanding the impact on dancers, and actively promoting inclusivity, we can pave the way for a more vibrant, authentic, and enriching dance environment. Let us continue our journey beyond the steps, breaking free from limitations, and creating spaces where everyone can dance authentically.

Continue your Education for yourself and your students with the StEPS Initiative Course!

About the StEPS Initiative Course

This course started in part with our charity event we created to save dance studios. Then we decided to keep it a free resource for the dance community. You can learn all about it below.

As part of our commitment to education and creating a safe space for all dancers, we are excited to introduce the StEPS Initiative Course. This has been curated by Apolla and donated from experts and professionals in each topic. 

Our goal in creating this course is to give dance teachers continuing education/professional development, give dancers the power of education, and provide parents the knowledge to see red flags. Each section has actionable items that can unite dance studios focused on equity and creating a safe space for every dancer. This course gives evidence-based information, some perspective & qualitative information, dance history, and further resources that can help you learn something new that helps progress and strengthen your studio OR solidify what you already have in place. There is something for everyone! 

This course is free for EVERYONE (Apolla has covered the cost and the presenters have donated the course content). These are meant to be introductions and actionable items for you. We know this is not a silver bullet to fix every issue or topic that needs to be addressed in dance. Each topic is deep and broad on its own. However, we aim for this to be the first step for some of us in these topics and even serves as a small catalyst for change in our industry. You will see there are also many resources that can allow you to expand your journey further in any of the subjects. With all that 2020 has thrown at all of us, we are determined to heal through listening, grow from adversity through action, and rise up by bringing everyone together. In the end, we will create a space open wide for the new generation of artists and athletes to ring in the new decade stronger and safer than ever!

Watch the Full Episode with Tony* Here!

*Tony d’Alelio (He/Him) is a Queer performance & visual artist, choreographer, & member of the Verdon-Fosse Legacy. Broadway: This Ain’t No Disco (Atlantic). US Tours: Andy Blankenbuehler’s Cats Revival (Mungojerrie), Matilda (Michael Wormwood), Kinky Boots (Angel), Beauty & the Beast (LeFou). Regional: The Old Globe (Dancin’), The Kennedy Center (Cats, Matilda), The Maltz Jupiter Theatre (South Pacific), The Wick (La Cage Aux Folles), Harbor Lights Theatre Company (Gypsy). Film: Cyberlesque (Director), Mishandled Dir. by Sameya (Choreographer). Web Series: Daydream Dir. by Joey the Alchemist (Creator), PENNYWILD Wednesdays. Follow original work @tonydalelio 

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