Every year Neuqua Valley Orchesis (NVHS’ dance company) holds a competition called Neuqua Knows It Can Dance where non-dancers ‘perform’ dance numbers, generally very funny numbers, in order to raise funds for their annual show.
The NVHS hockey team has competed for the past several years and has even won a few of these fun competitions. Click HERE to check out last year’s dance on YouTube.
This year some of the funds were donated to a local cause. Gregory Long, the father of a young male dancer on a local dance company was at the show discussing his initiative called #DanceOn.
HOW THE #DANCEON INITIATIVE WAS BORN
The day my wife and I dreaded but knew would come, happened. This story, I think, ends well, my friends, which is a good thing. So stay with me.
At a local place of learning, during their year end celebration, my sons dance team performed one of their award-winning routines to the assembly as part of the festivities. Somewhat surprisingly, the group was greeted with some elementary school mockery and ridicule by a select group of students.
And then it happened.
A mix of girls and boys from the audience elected to sling a homophobic slur at the three boys in the dance group. My son was one of them. We are not naive: male dancers can be like unicorns in their community just because of the gender disparity in that field. It opens them up for potential negative feedback since their pursuit doesn’t have a helmet or a bat. My guess is that this is an unfortunate common occurrence to many of the male dancers out there. My guess is that they just dance on.
We just figured it would occur in High School where the Petri dish of Neanderthal behavior can be more prominent. Have to say, I did not expect it in the elementary school level.
Needless to say, the seven dancers I picked up from the event (including two of the boys) were crushed. A life lesson was being taught in real time in the back of the family Honda Pilot. We took the moment seriously and just will hope to keep our son (and the other dancers!) focused on the good and see the positives of his and their commitment to dance. And to dance on.
And here is the good:
The studio and teachers where these kids dance was awesome in its support. They were on this like a missile: talking with the team and addressing it with the school. The instructors took time to address the dancers during classes and spoke on staying strong and not letting the experience keep them from their passion. Specifically for the boys, the support has been genuine and heartfelt: dance teammates, friends, family.
We were lamenting that even the hint or shadow of doubt might have seeped into my son’s (or the other children’s) brain: that they are doing something silly or worthy of ridicule. Our belief is this (with all the support they have above) will only make them more resilient. I know that he will dance on.
I even made my usual dance themed t shirt to show my son and the other dancers a bit of support. The reaction I got from it by my FB family was overwhelming and the requests for the shirt was unexpected! So…..
Mary and I have decided to take this positive spin on what was an unfortunate reality check and create an opportunity that will help fund the basic fees for a boy to attend this supportive studio, a child who hopefully is looking to take the “not so traveled” extracurricular road and be one more light in helping socialize the message that dance is for everyone, no matter the gender.
If you would like to forward this onto your social media family, we welcome the opportunity to broaden the message! Thank you in advance for your support!
Click HERE to Visit the #DanceOn GoFundMe Page.
Several NVHS hockey players knew the Long family, and many of the team members and their families had already had already donated to #DanceOn by purchasing T-Shirt to support the cause. The Long family was at one of the NVHS games recently and asked Head Coach Dan Granato if the team would be interested in having a few of the hockey players do a photo shoot to spread the word. Coach Granato was fully on board to help this anti-bullying campaign in support of young male dancers. Tim Guagliardo, Wildcats team captain, encouraged his teammates to buy t-shirts and participate in this great cause and spread the word via their social media.
Gregory Long sums it up best – “The team came out strong for the cause and it was emotional watching the team bang their sticks for the boys as they came onto the ice for this amazing photo op. Much thanks to Captain Tim Guagliardo for rallying the team and Lisa Bonanno Guagliardo and Michelle Raimondi for their efforts. I’ll leave you with the words of Coach Dan Granato when we were discussing this opportunity, who is one of the finest leaders of young men it has been my pleasure to meet and work with – ‘You can have all the ice time you need. This is important. My players need to know what this is all about. This is life!’”