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Bullying in dance makes boys tap out

Local dancer Caylon Hull to appear in film featuring the struggles of boys in the female-dominated world of dance

Even Prince George, third in line to be the king of England, isn’t immune to bullying for his interest in dance. Lara Spencer, a host on Good Morning America, recently made a laughing comment on the national morning show about 6-year-old George’s ballet class. She has since apologized on Instagram and on the show for her insensitivity.

When Zac Gates heard about the comment, he decided to do something about it. Gates wanted to be a dancer when he was young, but his parents told him that wasn’t something boys did and then enrolled him in the stereotypically appropriate sports for his gender.

Gates never lost his interest in dance, leading him to producing shows instead of dancing in them.

Gates said, two years ago when he was working on producing a stage show, he had a lot of trouble getting boys to fill the roles.

“There was one boy for every hundred girls,” he said.

Nearly 90% of boys in dance experience bullying, Gates said.

“Boys who do start dancing often drop out after a year or so from bullying or the lack of support at home and ... outside pressures,” he said.

Unfortunately, this bullying often begins at home, as it did for Gates. Parents, often fathers, either won’t allow their sons to participate in dance or make fun of them for doing so.

“Parents need to take a look at their child and need to let their child figure out what they want to be and support that child ... give them tools,” Gates said.

Another barrier for boys in dance comes from the dance world itself. Because there are so few boys, dance competitions often do not have separate changing rooms and facilities for the boys, forcing them to change in public bathrooms.

Gates’ answer to the bullying and lack of resources for boys in the dance world was to create a documentary featuring the struggles of boys across the United States who have participated in dance.

Local dancer Caylon Hull came to Gates’ attention through a dance company in Chicago, leading him to contact Hull’s family and Spotlight School of Dance where he recently filmed Hull dancing and interviewed him about navigating the female-dominated world of dance.

Hull’s experience, along with the stories of other boys in dance, will form the basis of Gates documentary. Gates has interviewed boys in prominent dance roles such as Parker Fullmore who played the title role in “Billy Elliot the Musical.” Fullmore has since taken a break from the pressures of dancing. Clark Furlong, a dancer and actor who has appeared in previous films by Gates and the HBO series “Euphoria” has also been filmed for the upcoming documentary.

Gates intends to distribute his as-of-yet-unnamed film free of charge to dance studios and parents of boys interested in dancing. He hopes it will help boys who are in dance to continue to follow their passion and attract other boys who might not have had the chance otherwise.

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