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Moving men forward

By Keegan Prosser on October 1, 2012 – No Comment

By Gabrielle Nomura

Wimp. Fairy. Sissy. With stereotypes like these, it’s no wonder that so many boys don’t grow up to become ballet or modern dancers. But when young men are able to defy the odds and put stigma aside, something magical happens.

Just ask Wade Madsen, a professor of dance at Cornish College of the Arts.

Not only does Madsen play a hand in training the next crop of artists, as a veteran of the Seattle modern dance scene, he’s well known in Puget Sound for creating and performing his own contemporary work.

Madsen says most of his male students lack the formal training that their female counterparts may have. But that doesn’t mean they don’t bring something equally special to the stage.

“Men aren’t afraid of looking rough, raw or un-pretty. Because of the muscular way these boys and men move, they get stronger faster, and improve quicker than some women who may have danced ballet for 12 years.”

With the power to catapult themselves through the air, and the confidence to tell a story with their bodies – men bring qualities to the stage that are riveting to watch, often with chiseled muscles to boot.

When people see how hard dance really is, and can appreciate the years of training and sacrifice it takes to become successful, they see male dancers for the artists and athletes that they are, says
Richard Jessup, a choreographer, teacher and producer of both concert dance and musical theater based in Seattle.

“You take a ballet, modern or jazz dance class and tell me how you feel the next day,” he says.

Along with a handful of other choreographers and volunteer producers, Jessup and Madsen are helping to change the way people think about male dancers. Their biannual Against the Grain/Men in Dance festival, will highlight a variety of dance styles for two weekends this October at Broadway Performance Hall.

Attendees will be treated to two weekends with slightly different programs, featuring work by local dance celebrities such as former Pacific Northwest Ballet dancer Olivier Wevers, artistic director of Whim W’him. The diversity of the acts includes everything from a performance en pointe by drag-queen ballerina “Doris Vidanya” of Ballet Trockadero de Monte Carlo, to Kaleidoscope youth dance
company featuring performers age 8-15.

According to the concert mission statement, approximately one in 10 dancers in North America is male.

“As the minority in this profession, men have sometimes struggled to find their voice. This festival allows them the camaraderie and the opportunity to celebrate their art with pride while serving as a diversified role model for the male dancers of tomorrow,” the statement reads.

Madsen says the best thing about being a dancer is the ability to be “both masculine and feminine in a single moment,” getting to communicate an idea or feeling without words.

“Perhaps the worst thing is the dance belt. That is a real drag. You get used to it, but man, it can really dig in after eight hour of rehearsal and class. Other than that, I have loved my life as a dancer.”

Men In Dance

DATES: Oct. 12-13, 19-20 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 14 and 21 at 2 p.m.

PLACE: Broadway Performance Hall, 1625 Broadway, Seattle.

COST: $20-$25  at www.brownpapertickets.com or 1-800-838-3006. Cash and check sales (only) at the door.
For more information, go to www.menindance.org.