I’m a lifelong fan of dance, and am privileged to know some incredible male dancers. So when there was a recent brouhaha over Good Morning America host Lara Spencer giggling at the idea of Britain’s Prince George lacing up his ballet slippers, it seemed like the perfect time to introduce y’all to three amazing male dancers right here in Birmingham.
They’ve got a message for all the young guys out there, too (and the rest of us). So, if you love dance too, read on.
But first, Lara Spencer opened up an important conversation about male dancers
After she giggled at the idea of Prince George slipping on the ballet slippers, she ended up listening to a lot of male dancers who set her straight on why it wasn’t cool to make fun of guys who dance.
Then she invited 300 people to come to do a male-led dance class in front of the Good Morning America Studios. Judging from Instagram, it was gorgeous. And moving.
Now, meet three Birmingham-based male dancers
Of course, the first thing I have to say is that there are a LOT of amazing male dancers in Birmingham, in bunch of different styles. There are hip hop dancers, South African and West African dancers, Latin dancers and other ballet and contemporary / modern dancers as well.
I picked these three male dancers because I know two of them personally and kept hearing about the third from a friend who’s been in the dance community for decades.
1—Germaul Barnes is the new Intructor of Modern and Contemporary Dance at ASFA, Artist in Residence at The Dance Foundation, and one of three male dancers in Birmingham we’re featuring
While he’s recently started his position at ASFA, Germaul Barnes has been coming to Birmingham for years. His students are SO lucky. He has literally danced all over the world, and he’s still going strong, both in his own performances and in his choreography and teaching.
How did you get into dance?
I’ve always been dancing. My Mom said I was dancing as a fetus. I grew up watching a lot of dance TV like Soul Train. I started very young with street dance and disco. Mom put me into community classes at age 10, and I’ve been training ever since.
Dance was the only thing that I felt could help with my extreme amount of energy, my focus and my physical body. It was also the place I was the most comfortable to express myself, find myself and discover a voice of my own.
What is cool about being a guy in the dance world?
To really be a character and to be able to be expressive at the same time. As a dancer, you are an athlete with a goal and a destination, and to be able to articulate that in front of sometimes 3000 people is amazing. Also, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable, because vulnerability is strength.
What would you say to a young guy who wants to try what you are doing?
Just do it!
And to his parents?
Be as supportive as you can—of his creativity, his challenges and all the new discoveries that he will receive by dancing.
Where can people see you or your work?
- Stay tuned for a solo project—an autobiographical dance biopic that will tour sometime in 2020.
- November 8-10, ASFA Fall Repertory. Friday and Saturday performances 7-9PM, Sunday performance 2:30-4:30PM at the Dorothy Jemison Day Theater. Tickets $10.
- Follow @thedancefoundation on Instagram to find out about open classes, improv jams, and works-in-progress for his upcoming show.
2—Jamorris Rivers is a first-year Instructor of Ballet and Jazz at the University of Alabama, Resident Choreographer and Artistic Director of AROVA Contemporary Ballet in Birmingham, and the second male dancer we’re featuring
Dance has also taken Jamorris Rivers around the world, and we are so lucky to have him back in his home state of Alabama infusing the local dance scene with his vision and talent.
How’d you get into dance?
My Mom introduced me to dance. She organized the kids in our neighborhood and at church to dance—she was incredibly inspiring!
I’m from Dadeville, a small town where everybody knows everybody. My earliest memories of dancing were of my Mom and Dad, my two sisters and three brothers and I piled in the car heading to take tap dance in Auburn at Lynn Curtis Academy of Dance.
We also took Ballet and Jazz, but Tap was my favorite. It was just so musical. I tore up my mother’s linoleum floors tapping in the house. Plus the movie Tap starring Gregory Hines and Sammy Davis Jr. was a big hit in our house.
My brothers one by one stopped taking dance classes. They probably felt that it wasn’t cool anymore while deciding to focus on sports. I did too, though many of my friends never knew that I took dance. I resolved to keep dance a secret out of fear of being bullied.
When I was 10, I stopped dancing when my Dad suddenly passed.
Later, I reluctantly came back to the studio and continued ever since. Reflecting back now I think my longing to be with him created a kind of entanglement that fueled my desire to dance.
You know, all those trips in the car going to classes, recitals, and competitions with my Dad—knowing he was right there—and then later with my Mom cultivated a sort of sacred place for me within dance. It always feels like home.
What is awesome about being a man in the dance world?
I think my younger self would probably say something like “Dance is exciting, physically rewarding, requires great strength, and stamina.”
While those things are healthy and true, the reality is that dance transforms thoughts. Dance has the capacity to heal the soul. It instills joy.
As a catharsis, dance can be gritty, dark, ugly and just straight up painful, you know; but sometimes we need these moments to purge these emotions so that they might be “brought to the altar” where that deeper healing can begin.
What would you say to a young kid who wants to do what you’re doing?
Let’s go. It’s your turn!
Where can people see you and your work?
October 8-11, a tango-inspired project will e part of UA’s Repertory Dance Theatre performances at Morgan Auditorium. Tuesday-Thursday, 7:30PM, Friday 5:30PM. Tickets from $10-20.
3—Jack Miller is a dancer with the Alabama Ballet and the third male dancer in Birmingham we’re featuring
Jack Miller is a young dancer with the Alabama Ballet who has a bright future ahead of him. You might recognize him from these posters that were pretty much everywhere last December. My kids and I had fun spotting his visage at Saturn Birmingham and Railroad Park.
How’d you get into dance?
When I was young I tried several sports. Both my parents were athletes and always told me I had to do something athletic. I tried gymnastics and played soccer for a few years.
I enjoyed playing sports but nothing really held my interest like dancing. My first class was a hip-hop class that somehow led me to getting involved in my studio’s Nutcracker performance and the rest is history.
What is cool about being a guy who does ballet?
Birmingham dance with Mady Ryan. Drone video by Chris White
It’s cool that in the ballet world there is a strong sense of competition and camaraderie, especially for the guys. There is a competitive nature to ballet that pushes us to be our best every day and I truly enjoy that.
At the same time, we all know how much work it took both mentally and physically to get to where we are. My colleagues inspire me every single day.
For the guys, we also know that we chose a path that is less common for boys and that creates a strong feeling of community.
What message would you give to a young guy who sees what you are doing and wants to try it?
Try a class! Many dance studios will offer discounts to male dancers and they would be thrilled to have you.
If you decide to stick with it, you won’t be the only guy forever. You might be the only guy at the school where you start dancing but in a few years you could be at a school where there are 25 boys in your class.
There are a ton of scholarships and opportunities for guys who dance. It can be very rewarding if you put in the work and stick with it.
Where can people see you dance?
At the Alabama Ballet’s performances this year. Our next performance is Blue Suede Shoes at the BJCC concert hall the weekend of October 4th. Find information here.