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Monday, October 19, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Pivoting to positive: Spokane dance community responds to ‘Good Morning America’ comments

UPDATED: Tue., Aug. 27, 2019

Christopher Lamb, left, with Vytal Movement Dance is reflected in one of the Professional Performing Arts Institute’s many mirrors with dancer Harris Kahler on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, at the Professional Performing Arts Institute in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Christopher Lamb, left, with Vytal Movement Dance is reflected in one of the Professional Performing Arts Institute’s many mirrors with dancer Harris Kahler on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, at the Professional Performing Arts Institute in Spokane, Wash. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Second. Behind. Behind. Second. Fourth. Parallel. First. Coupe. Assemble. Step back. Step back. Coupe. Fourth. Fourth. Pivot. Chug.

Vincas Greene led the group of nearly 20 in this routine, but some were more familiar than others.

The Spokesman-Review contacted Greene, founding director of Vytal Movement Dance, Monday midafternoon to ask his opinion about the belittling comments “Good Morning America” co-anchor Lara Spencer made about 6-year-old Prince George taking ballet lessons.

By 7 p.m., Greene gathered the dance community at the Professional Performing Arts Institute to provide a fitting response: Whether modern or classical ballet, dancers from studios across Spokane practiced in unison.

Greene acknowledged they couldn’t quite pull off the 300-person dance that went on in Times Square on Monday morning, but make no mistake, the Spokane dance community was strong, he said, and gaining momentum.

Greene realized he wanted to dance at 12, when he was attending Expo ’74 and saw dancers accompanying a steel drum band. There were no dancing opportunities in Cheney at the time, so Greene didn’t take his first dance class until college. Even still, he experienced the stigma of being a male dancer.

“It was hard enough to walk into a store to buy a pair of tights for a ballet class,” Greene said. “You could feel people looking at you like, ‘What? You’re doing what?’ ”

The Washington Post described Spencer’s comments on national TV as “lending credence to two toxic fallacies: that ballet is unmanly and that any boy who likes it deserves to be shamed.”

The Post noted that co-anchor George Stephanopoulos and the studio audience laughed along with Spencer.

One of the youngest dancers at the special practice in Spokane was 10-year-old Maggie Daley, who takes lessons at the Spokane Ballet Studio downtown. Nicole Daley, Maggie’s mother, said Maggie is sensitive to this situation because her female classmates pick on her for doing ballet, claiming ballet is not a sport.

“Maggie and I had been talking about it since last week when it happened,” Nicole said. “I was explaining to her that generally we talk about how girls have to break the glass ceiling and how girls can’t get into things, and we forget sometimes that boys have the same struggle in different areas.”

Nicole added that last year Maggie had to a bring a friend to class day at her studio, and Maggie brought one of the boys from her class.

“She picked a boy at her school who’s super supportive,” Nicole said. “He took the class with her and then he registered and took the class the whole rest of the year because he loved it so much.”

After meeting with three prominent male members of the dance community in the United States, Spencer apologized on-air Monday.

She called her comments “insensitive and stupid” and said “I am deeply sorry.”

“I have learned about the bravery it takes for a young man to pursue a career in dance,” she said.

Harris Kahler, a Spokane ballet dancer who begins school at Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan on Wednesday, said Spencer’s comments have been an opportunity for conversation. Kahler was supposed to be packing for school Monday evening, but he dropped everything to join the special practice.

“At first I just kind of thought it was funny because she was uneducated on what it actually takes to be a male dancer,” Kahler said during a phone interview. “ … Because of this, we got to spread the word of how cool it is to be a guy in dance.”

Christopher Lamb, a dancer for Vytal Movement Dance, said he did not experience much backlash as a male dancer, though he said his experience is atypical. Lamb began ballet at 9, more than 20 years ago, but the request wasn’t unusual for his parents, who were both dancers. Additionally, he was home-schooled, and “wasn’t in that bin of bullying that public school systems can so often be.”

Lamb said the comment exposed Spencer’s ignorance, especially considering the proliferation of television dance programs.

“We see enough men dancing now in easily accessible media that the mindset of men not wanting to dance or giving up dance quickly really just doesn’t apply anymore,” Lamb said.

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