by VICTORIA LARIMER
On Aug. 22, Good Morning America host Lara Spencer faced widespread backlash for making insensitive comments about male ballet dancers. Spencer reported on the recently released school curriculum for 6-year-old Prince George, which includes ballet classes. Spencer joked, “I mean, he looks so happy about the ballet class. Prince William says Prince George absolutely loves ballet. I have news for you, Prince William: We’ll see how long that lasts.”
Both Spencer’s co-hosts and the studio audience laughed following Spencer’s comment; however, the dance community did not seem to think it was funny. These comments hit close to home for junior computer science major, Chad Lancaster, who is an active member of the UMW Performing Arts Company (PAC), a student-run dance company.
“I feel that there is a strong stigma that men can’t dance, as it ‘isn’t manly.’ There is a view that if you are a male dancer, you have to be gay or flamboyant, and that couldn’t be less true,” said Lancaster.
“Starting at the Performing Arts Company was a little scary to me for these reasons, coupled with the low population of male dancers. But I don’t believe this stigma against male dancers holds weight against me any longer. Dancing is a form of expression. I believe nobody should be critiqued [for dancing], regardless of gender or background.”
Claire Marsala, senior and president of PAC, also expressed frustration with Spencer’s comments.
“I feel like when people ridicule boys and men for doing something ‘girly,’ they’re implying that [the] activity isn’t respectable,” said Marsala.
Marsala said that there are three male dancers in the piece she is choreographing for this semester’s PAC Big Show.
“PAC is all inclusive, no exceptions,” she said.
Following Good Morning America’s broadcast, dancers from around the country rallied together to call out Spencer for her sexist comments. Dance Magazine published an article the following day titled “Good Morning America Thinks It’s Totally Acceptable to Laugh at a 6-Year-Old for Taking Ballet.” The article, written by Courtney Escoyne, called out the insensitivity of Spencer’s comments.
“It is no secret that young boys who enroll in dance classes face bullying to an outstanding degree—according to the documentary DANSEUR, the statistic is 85 percent of male ballet students in the United States,” she wrote.
Following the release of these articles, many prominent members of the dance community took to social media to express their own opinions about the incident, including male professional dancers and choreographers. Two-time Emmy award-winning choreographer Travis Wall posted a video to Instagram calling out Spencer for not only her “upsetting” comments, but “inspiring [her] colleagues and audience to participate in the laughter.” He went on to address the issues of bullying, the benefits of ballet, and encouraged boys to follow their dancing dreams. Wall’s video blew up on social media with over a million views and thousands of shares across various platforms.
Following the immense backlash from Wall and the rest of the dance community, Spencer posted an apology on her Instagram saying, “My sincere apologies for an insensitive comment I made in pop news yesterday. From ballet to anything one wants to explore in life, I say GO FOR IT. I fully believe we should all be free to pursue our passions. Go climb your mountain-and love every minute of it.” Many in the dance community were not satisfied with this apology.
On August 26, Wall lead an impromptu ballet class outside of Good Morning America’s studio with fellow professional dancers Alex Wong, Robbie Fairchild, Sam Quinn and Charlie Williams. 300 dancers showed up to participate in the class, protest signs in hand. That morning, Good Morning America aired a pre-recorded segment in which Wall, Fairchild and Joffrey Ballet principal dancer, Fabrice Calmels, joined Spencer to discuss the reality of being a male dancer.
Spencer delivered an on-air apology stating, “I screwed up. I did. The comment I made about dance was insensitive. It was stupid and I am deeply sorry. I have spoken with several members of the dance community over the past few days. I have listened. I have learned about the bravery it takes for a young boy to pursue a career in dance.”
It seemed that after Spencer’s apology on last Monday’s show the incident had been resolved; however, on last Thursday’s episode of “The Ingraham Angle,” FOX News hosts Raymond Arroyo and Laura Ingraham mocked Spencer’s apology.
“People harass you if you walk around in tights, they’re going to harass you. It’s not exactly, you know, an exemplar of a male…This ended, by the way, with 300 dancers, mostly boys, doing a class in Times Square,” Arroyo said.
The segment then played a clip of the impromptu ballet class from Wong’s Instagram account. During the clip, Ingraham said that the dancers “look like tai chi people.”
Arroyo added, “I hope she offends a mechanic next, so the boys know how to change the oil in a car.”
After the episode aired, Fairchild made a post addressing these comments with the caption, “We riled those folks up @foxnews pretty good.” The post has since been removed.
“Life’s too short to bother with people who think apologies, forgiveness, and ballet are stupid. Onward and upward,” said Fairchild.
Ginny Bixby contributed to reporting for this article.