Encouraging boys and young men into dance is something many organisations are currently working hard at, none more so than The Point, Eastleigh, writes Miranda Johnson. Situated between Southampton and Winchester, Eastleigh is a borough of 117,000 people, thousands of whom get involved in The Point?s summer dance spectacular ?Jump?. The Point?s reach also extends beyond the borough, attracting audiences and young dancers from across the southern region.
One young male dancer helped by The Point to a career in dance is 18-year-old Thom Rackett, who will take up a place at the London School of Contemporary Dance this autumn. Thom, a reluctant dancer just five years ago, has been supported and encouraged by The Point through workshops, projects and showcases like the ?Headstart Boys Dance Platform?, which took place earlier this year and in which 86 young male dancers from across the Southern Region performed to a sell-out audience at The Point.
Thom believes that Street dance and new circus are often what attracts boys to dance. However, as he says, ?You need to get off the whole stereotypical dancer thing to get boys interested in dance. They have to become familiar with all aspects of dance. Street dance gets boys in, but it?s getting them to move on from that which is important. Street culture has its own agenda, like dressing cool, speaking a language? contemporary dance isn?t like that.?
Nowadays there?s less reason for the region?s youngsters to wait as long as Thom did before discovering dance. The Point has a considerable outreach programme in local primary schools, in which boys aged as young as 4 and 5 have access to teaching from professional dancers. (In fact, The Point even has a parent and toddler dance class for children as young as three months.) Many of the primary school workshops are in a style particularly appealing to boys, including Street dance and Capoeira. The ladder of opportunity continues as young dancers are encouraged first to join Kickstart, a creative dance group for 8 to 12 year olds and then progress to Feet First, The Point?s resident youth company for 12 to 18 year olds. Feet First currently includes five young men preparing to study dance professionally at the age of 18.
Another current project is the ?Man Jumping? partnership between The Point and Hampshire Dance. This initiative has seen the co-commissioning of a new piece of male dance and the bringing together of professional male dancers to form a company, Full Force. Full Force is currently in production with two apprentices from The Point-based Hampshire Youth Dance Company. The work ?Headcase? will première this month and tour in October. ?Man Jumping? also includes workshops in schools, pre-show talks, lecture demonstrations and a Safe Practice session hosted at The Point ? necessary due to the very physical nature of boys? dance.
Thom again: ?I got bullied at school for dance. I kind of expected it, so I didn?t let it bother me. But if you ask: ?Are things changing for boys who want to dance??, I?d say, ?Yes, but very slowly?. That?s where places like The Point are so important.?
Miranda Johnson is a partner of RM Communications. t: 01962 890208;