Back-to-school can be a nerve-racking time for male dance students—especially as they approach middle or high school—and for their parents. Fears of bullying, isolation and low self-esteem are valid worry points, and, as parents, we want to do our best to help our kids feel supported and loved—especially in uncertain times. For a first-person account from a boy whose mom did a lot of the right stuff, we spoke with Alex Clayton, a professional modern dancer who grew up in Louisville, Kentucky, and is now a third-year member of Paul Taylor Dance Company:
“During my childhood, my mother constantly encouraged me to ask questions and be curious about the world. No matter where we’d go or what we did, we always talked about it.
For example, when trying new foods, seeing a new movie or even overhearing adult conversations, my mom would ask me if I had any questions, and we would have very analytical discussions.
When I started dancing seriously in high school, she constantly checked in with me and asked me questions: How does this person make you feel? Do you feel safe? She listened and gave me honest feedback—and never shied away from hard truths. She let me know that I was likely to encounter instances of bullying and coached me on how we could remedy those situations if or when they happened. But because we’d always had a very transparent relationship, having regular and frank conversations surrounding dance and school felt very in tandem with how we had always operated.”