This year for the first time ever, Dance In Common is proud to hold its first boys-only dance class.
Owner and operator of the dance studio, Corinne Stromsten, has long wished to be able to offer and run this class in the lakecity. Due to traditionally low engagement numbers, in the past, she’s mostly had interested boys dance with the girls, until now.
Designed to expose boys to the dance world, the class covers a wide variety of genres and styles of dance from jazz, ballet and hip hop, to choreography where they’ll learn how to create their own dance routines.
“Even though some of them are quite young, they all are very creative and they all have something to offer. It’s not just me telling them what to do, it’s a really good group of kids,” Stromsten said. “We currently have 11 males in the studio and in the boys’ program we have seven to eight. The girls sometimes come early to watch the boys in the back window and are a little bit envious of their program.”
Teaching dance to boys requires a different, more physical and direct approach, Stromsten said. Boys need to be shown clearly what to do, according to Stromsten, and strict guidelines so they don’t run around and goof off the entire lesson.
Having a male mentor helped the boys, Stromsten has found, is key to teaching them, as is using music with heavier beats and deeper sounds.
“One time I made the mistake off putting on a very fairy sounding type of music and they just didn’t respond the same way than when we have deep, heavy sounding music,” Stromsten said, chuckling.
Changing the language she uses to teach has also been beneficial, Stromsten said, and allows her to connect and teach them more effectively. She’s used the Transformers franchise as a way to explain how to ‘transform’ their bodies into the poses and movements required for the various dance disciplines.
“I think creative dance style and classical dance style is beneficial to their brain development,” Stromsten said. “It teaches them discipline, self-control and that boys have just as much to offer in dance as girls.”
One of the main things boys offer, Stromsten has found, is an infectious energy and passion that she loves working with as much as she can.
Infectious energy is one thing the mentor for the boys class, Liam Gilroy, possesses. A passionate dancer, this young lakecity youth is currently in Grade 7 and originally from Kamloops.
Gilroy’s interest in dance began at the young age of five when his older sister started dancing in ballet and hip hop.
He remembers thinking “this is awesome” and was particularly impressed by the “crazy jumps” they were doing and decided to give it a try for himself. First starting in Kamloops, Gilroy went on to try a whole bunch of different styles starting with ballet.
What started as a couple of classes grew into a burning passion to the point where he now spends close to two hours a day at Dance In Commons dancing in some form or another.
“I like ballet, it’s very fun and it helps me improve my style. I like jazz as well. It’s awesome and contemporary. Those are my three (favourite) styles,” Gilroy said. “Dance, it’s an art right? It’s something you can learn. I get to get out, I stay fit, I get to do what I love and I get to hang out with some of my friends.”
While he no longer plays sports like football and hockey, Gilroy said when he did there was a surprising amount of bleed over from dance to sports and vice versa. His flexibility, he said, was challenged by the demands of football and jazz class simultaneously. While he said he hadn’t been very flexible before the experience now has left him pretty flexible a year later, much to his delight.
While he doesn’t feel there is a spiritual angle to dance for him, he said he likes being the person who does something different. Rather than just play hockey, as many Canadian youth do, he likes to try new and different things, with dance simply being one he’s gotten the most into.
“I find that it’s usually stereotyped: ‘Oh, dancing is for girls.’ But it’s really not,” Gilroy observed. “I watched the Nutcracker which is one of the more famous dances and those guys are amazing. They do spins, flips and everything. Everyone’s like ‘Ha, ha, you dance,’ and everything and I’m like: ‘Yeah. I love it!’”
Dancing, Gilroy feels, is something everyone should take a risk and try, as he reasons you never know, you might even like it.
Every Friday, Gilroy now helps mentor five to six younger boys during their dance class, which he said is a pretty good number for their first year offering the class, as he was expecting far less. Gilroy’s composure and example help settle the loud ‘bouncing off the walls’ energy many of the boys bring to the class and the time he takes to help them each learn is clear.
In the future, Gilroy intends to continue to dance throughout high school and beyond, though he is unsure if it will be in a professional or recreational way. The enjoyment and fulfilment he continues to get from it, however, will doubtlessly be a big factor in this decision.
“Mom can’t believe that I can dance two hours straight and then come home smiling, so I probably will keep dancing,” Gilroy observed.
When it comes to Gilroy, Stromsten said he was visibly excited when boys started signing up for this class and others within the studio. She believes it was hard for him being the only boy in a studio of girls like he was for a time.
As a mentor, Stromsten describes him as patient and willing to take the time to help build the boys up. He does this, she said, by maintaining a friendship with each of the boys and by leading by example. Gilroy is very passionate about what he does and Stromsten said the other boys can see that and admire it.
On Feb. 18 Stromsten will be holding registration once more for the boys’ class. She encourages the community to visit and discover what the studio is all about.