In the avalanche of dance luminaries and legends that spoke out after Lara Spencer’s unfortunate comments on Good Morning America yesterday, the words of the iconic Debbie Allen stand out as the most true about the entire situation; “Lara Spencer-I am sure you did not expect your remarks to set off the firestorm that it has-but it did”. (see her full remarks below).
Yesterday on Good Morning America, Lara Spencer told a story about Prince George as part of her Pop News segment. She mentioned the young royals’ new school curriculum, yet paused when she mentioned that he would be taking “ballet” (complete with pause for a smattering of laughter from some colleagues and members of the studio audience).
The tone of her delivery, as well as ending the segment with the sarcasm-tinged remark “I have news for you Prince William, we’ll see how long that lasts” when mentioning how much the pint sized Prince was enjoying ballet quickly proved beyond problematic for a multitude of people. Spencer was the top trending topic on Twitter for the majority of the day, and received an avalanche of criticism from everyone from RuPaul’s Drag Race finalist (and Broadway aficionado) Alexis Michelle, So You Think You Can Dance star Travis Wall, Broadway champion & actress Rosie O’Donnell & viral sensation and dancer Mark Kanemura.
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DEAR @lara.spencer of GOOD MORNING AMERICA. I have a message for you. Wake up. It’s 2019. Get with the program. Please share and repost this so a boy who needs to see this feels supported if he dances or wants to! #boysdancetoo #ballet #goodmorningamerica #traviswall #laraspencer #bully
— ROSIE (@Rosie) August 23, 2019
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Dear @lara.spencer and anyone else that needs to hear it… BOYS DANCE TOO!!! My buddy @aaron.nelson.dancer and I wanted to remind all boys that want to dance that dancing is fun, liberating, empowering, and freaking awesome! Growing up, I used to get bullied a lot for dancing… i remember feeling so hurt and ashamed that i began questioning my existence and felt like i no longer wanted to live. It is absolutely upsetting to hear grown adults.. let alone anyone shaming and ridiculing boys for dancing or wanting to dance. I hope moving forward, we can cultivate safe spaces for boys to explore their creativity through the arts! 🎵: Shake It Off – @taylorswift #BoysDanceToo
New York City based dancer & choreographer Richard Schieffer spoke with me exclusively about the issue and told me that he “wanted to begin dance lessons at four years old. I was too scared because of the same way the entire studio audience reacted to Lara Spencer’s mockery of the idea of a boy enjoying dance”. He went on to say that “I started dance in sixth grade and my life changed. I was the gay dancer boy at Norwich High School, and if not for friends like Christina Jensen, Amber Perkins, Derek Stratton, and Joel Anderson I would have given up entirely. They loved me and expressed how my talent would go to waste if I quit’. He finished by saying “I stuck with dance and it has shaped my life in a beautiful way. It’s the reason I moved to New York City, the reason I’m sober, and my outlet for self expression”. “Lara Spencer” he pointedly says: “male dancers are powerful and beautiful. They are are as graceful as they are strong. Male dancers can change the definition of masculinity and make it okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to be vulnerable”.
Perhaps the outcry has caused Ms. Spencer to rethink her comments. Late yesterday, she posted the following apology on her Instagram page;
Words matter. In an age and era when bullying remains a prevalent issue in schools for both boys and girls, we should be encouraging our children to reach higher, to think outside the box, and if they so choose, dance even more gloriously than ever before. There are little boys that hung their heads sadly and silently when they watched Ms. Spencer mock the dreams that they may be starting to just realize. Hopefully as the day progressed, those same little boys looked around and smiled when they saw so many amazing and talented people standing up, speaking out and validating their dreams of tossing on some ballet shoes and taking center stage.