10 Male Dance Figures - International Men’s Day
From an American footballer to Principal dancers, we’re showcasing some of the best male dancer role models!
International Men’s Day is 19th November 2017. Taking on the theme of their campaign, we also want to highlight influential male role models internationally. What better way to do so than to look at male figures in the dance industry? In no particular order, here are 10 that we think are inspirational...
1) Eric Underwood
Eric Underwood is an American-English ballet dancer who pursued the performing arts from his teen years. He auditioned to a performing arts school as a teenager and was unsuccessful, but that rejection is precisely what started his renowned dance career. After his rejection, he auditioned for a dance school and says:
“I was the only boy so she gave me a chance”.
It was actually because of Underwood’s figure and gender that secured him a spot, which he professes he wouldn’t have secured as easily otherwise. Underwood left The Royal Ballet earlier this year after 11 years as a soloist. He’s now pursuing a modelling career, which shows the transferrable skills and attributes that you learn in dance. Underwood is an advocate for male dancers, but also for racial differences within the dance industry. He pioneered for the creation of pointe shoes that actually match the colour of his skin tone, as opposed to having to pancake the shoe with darker foundation.
2) Sergei Polunin
If you haven’t discovered Polunin yet, you may recognise him from Hozier’s Take Me To Church music video.
Polunin started dancing at 3 years old in Ukraine and went on to become the youngest Principal dancer at age 19, but left his position at The Royal Ballet in 2012. He’s a versatile dancer, training in gymnastics as a child, yet hoped to break into film and gain more freedom by leaving The Royal Ballet. Polunin as a dancer is surrounded by a lot of controversy - he’s the bad boy of ballet. But his elevation, elegance, and technicality position him firmly as a male dancer role model to look up to for his sheer skill and achievements. Dancer is a film made about Polunin’s life and career if you’d like to learn more about him.
3) Alex Collins
Running back for the Baltimore Ravens, Alex Collins, is an advocate for how dance can be an invaluable part of your life even if you’re not just a dancer. Collins does Irish Dancing and has since noticed an improvement in his physique, which in turn has propelled him in his American Football career. Collins is encouraging other members of his team to try Irish Dancing to improve their footwork on the field, but other Irish Dancers aren’t as confident as he is. He met with a young boy, Carl Tubbs, who was being bullied because of doing Irish Dancing. Collins helps to dispel the old fashioned myth that boys can’t/shan’t dance, and the bullying that comes with it.
4) Yanis Marshall
Yanis Marshall, Arnaud and Mehdi were Britain’s Got Talent finalists in 2014. Since then, Marshall has returned to being a soloist, teaching, and choreographing. Marshall is an icon in the dance world for male and female dancers alike, but he certainly put men (not just women) dancing in heels on the map. He’s too hot to stay in one place, but you can often find him dancing at Millennium Dance Complex in LA. Check out his latest video showcasing his commercial dancing. Be sure to get parental consent if you’re a younger reader before watching the video as his dancing style is very evocative.
5) Akram Khan
Akram Khan’s choreography creates masterpieces that stem from his own contemporary and kathak training. Khan’s company describes itself as “respect[ing] and challeng[ing] Indian kathak form and contemporary dance”. Khan has received innumerable awards for his innovation in the dance industry globally. Giselle is Khan’s latest show, which has now moved from the UK to New Zealand on its international tour. His body of work is a fantastic example of successful men in the dance industry, and the positive impact he’s made.
6) Matthew Bourne
Matthew Bourne is known as the UK’s most successful choreographer and director. His company and shows have won numerous awards, which is a testament to his popularity. Visit the New Adventures website to learn more about Bourne. Cinderella is Bourne’s current production, and it’s showing in London this season. Read our “10 UK dance shows to see this season” blog post to find out more.
7) Perri Luc Kiely
Perri Luc Kiely is known as a member of the all-male street dance troupe, Diversity. We’ve loved watching him grow and develop as a dancer from his first performances on the TV competition series Britian’s Got Talent, to seeing his technical ability advance in his adulthood.
Kiely is a prime example of a younger male role model who proved to us back in 2009 that, even if you’re a 13 year old who has school and a heavy dance rehearsal schedule, you can still go on to win the show. Diversity as a group speak widely of how many hours of rehearsal and the level of commitment required to make it in the dance industry.
8) Adam Garcia
Garcia is famous for his tap dancing and singing. He’s featured in West End productions such as Wicked and Grease, and many stage shows, but later transitioned to becoming a film and television actor. He received Laurence Olivier Award nominations for his incredible performances. Garcia has become somewhat of a male authority figure in the dance industry and judged on the British TV series of the dance competition Got to Dance. Like all of the dancers who’ve made it to our list, Garcia proves how a commitment to dance will lead to success.
James Anthony Cunliffe set up the all boys dance school in 2014. They follow the RAD syllabus for boys ballet, but are pioneers in offering dance classes in street, tap, jazz, modern, and other styles just for boys! They even won the award for Dance School of the Year in 2016. Particularly in ballet, male students speak of how having the gender-specific class means that boys can learn strength-training and moves that are specific for lifting female ballerinas. They’re planning on opening up another exclusively boys school in Manchester, which is exciting to us here at Move Dancewear HQ, and other branches in Swansea and Edinburgh! Click here to learn more about Cunliffe and his dancing career - he only started ballet at the age of 28 and qualified as a RAD dance teacher soon after! His story and his school are fantastic examples of positive male role models for budding boy dancers who need the encouragement to shine through.
If you’re interested in other male-centric shows, check-out the group BalletBoyz who have up-and-coming shows in the UK, such as Fourteen Days. They do offer inclusive dance classes of all genders, but the company started out in 2000 by Michael Nunn and William Trevitt as all-male. They’ve won awards for their 2015 original film Young Men, and Nunn and Trevitt have made many other ballet-centred documentaries and video shorts for television. The pair are inspirational and danced as Principal dancers for 12 years at The Royal Ballet, and made OBEs in 2012 for their services to dance.
*Our feature image is Nahum McLean. Visit his Instagram account to view more amazing snaps of him in action. We just couldn't help but mention this dancer, who's career has progressed into international productions. He's currently touring in a Centennial production of West Side Story. So McLean really is our perfect international man!
At Move Dancewear, we have the apparel to support you from your first dance steps right through to professional dancing. Check out our men’s ballet shoes in particular.