Dancers in the Boys Take On Ballet Event (Photo by Kaytlin Bush)
This article was first published on The Chicago Academy for the Arts website.
Boys Take On Ballet allows male dancers to express their love for dance on the stage, with their voices
Jackson Bradford always said it was a struggle to share his love of dance with the world.
“It’s something I had to hide from other kids at school,” said Bradford, an 18-year-old Barrington resident and senior at The Chicago Academy for the Arts. “I just would never bring it up because I didn’t want to be judged.”
Bradford and about 10 other Academy male dancers recently shared their stories – and danced – at the school’s Boys Take on Ballet event, which was organized by the school’s Ballet Instructor, Patrick Simoniello.
The event was an in-studio performance with just the men of the Academy’s Dance Department showing that they can dance, too, and it was also in response to Lara Spencer’s comments on Good Morning America earlier this year. Spencer joked about Prince William’s son George loving ballet, and she later issued an apology after international outrage.
Isaiah Day (’20) and Jackson Bradford (’20) Prepare for the Boys Take on Ballet Performance (Photo by Kaytlin Bush)
During the performance the dancers discussed some of the ridicule they had growing up for choosing that path over things like sports and other activities.
“It was more for us telling our stories, just our family, just getting our stories out there,” Bradford. “Everyone else I know played sports, and everyone else got to talk about it with their friends. I was never able to have conversations like that with other boys.”
Bradford and senior dancer Isaiah Day also will be performing and choreographing pieces at January’s Senior-Choreographed Dance Concert.
“The upcoming performance is very unique in that all seniors are able to produce a dance as director including casting, choreography, costuming, lighting, etc.,” Simoniello said. “It’s exceptional in that the seniors work with their peers in a professional like atmosphere and process.”
The Boys of the Chicago Academy for the Arts Dance Department (Photo by Kaytlin Bush)
Simoniello, a West Ridge resident, said the male dancers in November “really opened up about the state of being a young dancer and what they face daily or have faced before coming to The Chicago Academy for the Arts.”
“I learned so much more than I knew and really began to see a bigger picture that has evolved in the dancescape in general,” Simoniello added. “The event became more important as we progressed because I didn’t realize that not much progress, as far as acceptance of males who dance, has been made since my adolescent years [30 years prior]. The other evident theme that was present was the fact that these young men and obvious generations before them have had to justify dance as something masculine, or a sports equivalent instead of just allowing the art to stand on its own. I found myself constantly questioning the origin of this bully culture in our country. I want to know how we can change this mind set and support these young men.”
Bradford has loved dance since he was 3 years old, when he would cry if he wasn’t in the dance studio where his older sister practiced. He transferred from Barrington High School to The Academy – even though he liked public school – after his freshman year because he believed he could have a career in dance.
Bradford endures a two-hour-plus roundtrip commute six days a week – he practices at The Academy on Saturdays – to attend the River West neighborhood private school. But he said the trip is well worth it.
“Dance is what I choose,” he said. “It’s just something in my life that I feel that challenges me in a way nothing else can, and it’s something that will challenge me the rest of my life.”
Article Courtesy: The Chicago Academy for the Arts