Shane's Blog

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Dance and my life

I was asked to help a friends friend by answering some questions about my career as a dancer - I wanted to share them somewhere so here it is!!

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- What is your physical involvement in dance?

Currently none (short of clubs) I did Ballet for 14 years, Tap for 5 or so, and a plethora of other styles since I started (Jazz, Ballroom etc)

- When did you first get involved?

I was first involved in dance when I was 4 or 5 doing classical ballet at Paula Hunts Dance Academy in Wellington. 

- Why did you first start to dance?

Tricky one. I went with my mother to watch my sisters dance classes because I was a young child, and just wanted to do it as well. As you will see my mother is and has been a major figure in my dancing, being so young I have no distinct memory/memories of this but I must have shown some passionate interest to get my mum to buy my first pair of several hundred slippers.

- What challenges, if any did you face, because you are a boy?

I faced harrasment and bullying for the first 10 or so years of my school career, it’s a bit beyond the mind of a year four boy to see the beauty of dance and understand people following their passion so they decided it was “wrong” and took it out on me. I gave up dance for a a term or two once when I was just so far over it. I practically wanted to walk into assembly and scream that I no longer danced, I was therefore obviously not gay (it says something about our society that year 5’s understand the concept of gay stigmatism but not a thing about sexuality yet) I discovered that either I was an unpleasant person to be around, or year 5’s don’t forget an entertaining and pleasing subject to tease so easily so learnt the first lesson in life about giving up – don’t. I moved to another school in year 7 due to a house move and they were more friendly about it. Going to Wellington College was a huge shock to the system. I had a friend who hid his dance from everybody and refused to openly admit any involvement with ballet. This wasn’t a problem for me, If questioned I told people I did because I had developed an attitude of pride about it – do the crime do the time or something. Half of the boys were jealous of my involvement with girls in leotards, half of them had to justify there own masculinity by bullying me for dancing, luckily again, I had hugely supportive teachers and some amazing friends who even on chance reported some terrible behavior for me. By year 11 only the stubborn continued to try and punish me for being gay, wearing tights and being different. I’d also managed to control my anger better which was always a huge problem for me – I tried to fight back a fair bit and also developed a snappy defensive attitude to being asked about dance which alienated me from some potential friends. In year 12 I was a leader for Stage Challenge which helped me become even more secure – especially when we won the National Title. That year I really managed to balance out personally, the idea that my involvement in dance being a positive part of my life. I think overall, I really owe tribute to a set of amazing school and dance teachers that I managed to stumble upon to support me and stand by me without that, well I don’t know.  Also the friends who just accepted it as part of me and didn’t question it, or praise me lavishly for being different. I think a lot of people don’t understand how amazing it is to just be accepted for who you are, not what you do. Those friends who just didn’t care were amazing – it was just another thing that I did to them. Of course they asked about it but it wasn’t the only thing they talked about. 

- Did your family offer you support?

Yes, my family offered a huge amount of support. My Mother in particular and my sister both helped me out tremendously in helping guide me and keep me going to dance.

- When you were younger, which parent took you to practise? and why?

Both parents took me to practice when I was older – my Mum took me more because she worked from home and was also generally the one who was in favour of my continued dancing career. 

- Was there anyone who particularly influenced your view on dance?

I don’t know to be honest. Obviously my Mother, Father and Sister but also one teacher at Wellington College who supported me even when I was difficult. She had understood the difficulties being a Male dancer at an all boys school, and encouraged me persistently to keep it up even when I was on the verge of giving it all away. She helped me understand the connection I had with dance, how it affected my mood and everything. Unfortunately she never had the opportunity to watch me dance because of my slackness, but she is definitely the first figure that comes to mind. The other figures who didn’t so much influence my view on dance, but definitely influenced me is two of my dance teachers who never gave up on me despite my flaws and believed in my talent which I found hard too. The constant almost harrasment to dance at times to work harder because they believed in me kept me in dance at times and will always be the largest factor in my continued involvement in dance.

- Was there anything physical or mental that held you back?

Physically and Mentally I lacked determination to continue to improve outside of class, even though I could see the benefits clearly. My dance partners and teachers struggled with me on that and sometimes later on just even getting me to class when I had other commitments. I think if I hadn’t had the peculiar and amazing mix of dancing colleagues and friends who I will love forever I might have given up far far earlier as well. 

- Were there differences between the support provided by your mother and the support provided from your father?

I think it was difficult for my father at times, but he was always supportive of whatever I wanted to do which I will be eternally grateful for and has provided amazing guidance at points when I was particularly down. My Mother provided similar support but more constant, I think she found the idea of having a son who danced easier to grasp.

- Key moments that you will cherish forever?

I think standing on stage with my Partner at the end of the last Ballet we did was truly the most memorable and magical moment of my dance career. The sense of accomplishment after I’d trained the hardest I had in my life for this one moment and sharing it with her was just amazing.

- Your current situation in dance?

Currently on hold, until I have money, to pay for classes. Then who knows?

- And how do you anticipate your future?

I owe a lot to dance, and it will always be a passion for me – it truly has shaped who I am today. 

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The best executive is the one who has sense enough to pick good men to do what he wants done, and self-restraint to keep from meddling with them while they do it
Theodore Roosevelt

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Alright, so note for the future. 10 shots of coffee maybe not advisable? Sleep may not happen easily tonight.

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Innovation distinguishes between the leader and the follower
Steve Jobs (unfortunately, but gotta give it to the guy)