In a segment aired Thursday on the ABC News morning chat show ‘Good Morning America,’ anchor Lara Spencer’s delivery of a bit of news concerning HRH Prince George’s school curriculum for the upcoming year, mocked male dancers.
Once of the classes the third in line to the British Throne will be taking this year is ballet.
“In addition to the usual first or second grade things, like math, science and history, the future King of England will be putting down the Play-Doh to take on religious studies, computer programming, poetry and ballet, among other things, she said.” The problem was that she barely suppressed a snicker which prompted the audience to break into laughter.
Spencer’s facial expression as she continued could be accurately described as patronizing, which provoked more giggles and laughter from her fellow GMA co-hosts as well as the in-studio audience.
On the screen overlay, photographs of a smiling Prince George appeared which prompted Spencer to quip “I mean, he looks so happy about the ballet class!” adding, “Prince William says Prince George absolutely loves ballet. I have news for you, Prince William: We’ll see how long that lasts.”
Reaction from the dance world was overwhelming anger and disappointment with Spencer’s words. However, the characterization by Spencer regarding male dancers also prompted outrage in the LGBTQ community.
Los Angeles based Robin Tyler, a prominent LGBTQ equality rights activist noted Friday in a Facebook post; “Her remarks about the 6 year old Prince studying ballet are ignorant and disgusting! (And subliminally border on homophobia!) Gee, how funny-a boy taking ballet. ‘But don’t worry, he’ll grow out of it.’”
Arcadian Broad, a nationally recognised choreographer and dancer who is currently a member of the Cincinnati Ballet remarked; “This infuriates me. I don’t know what’s worse… her comments, or the audiences positive reaction with them? A prime example of why all Male Ballet Dancers endure such ridicule. So many young boys quit because of this. I probably would’ve been one of those statistics if I didn’t have a strong support system of mentors and teachers during the young and impressionable time. It’s 2019 people… time to change this way of thinking.”
Broad told the Los Angeles Blade that he was bullied as a young boy by his peers and others because of his participation in ballet and other forms of contemporary dance. He even was the target of homophobic bullying.
Courtney Escoyne, a longtime contributor to ‘Dance Magazine,’ in a lengthy article published Friday, aggregated Instagram and other social media posts expressing universal condemnation of Spencer’s remarks by prominent members of the dance community as well as numerous award winning dance companies.
Escoyne writes: “I could extoll the numerous benefits that dance training has for any human being, not to mention one who is going to grow up to be a head of state. I could point to the physical upsides, the positive effects dancing has on mental and emotional health, the long-reaching benefits of the discipline and focus it requires, and, perhaps most significantly, the way dance training imparts the value of empathy.
But the thing is, I doubt that Spencer cares. What this is really about is bullying. Because that’s what we just watched: A grown woman bullying a 6-year-old child. On national television. To laughter and applause!”
Escoyne noted; “It is no secret that young boys who enroll in dance classes face bullying to an outstanding degree—according to the documentary DANSEUR, the number is 85% of male ballet students in the United States. We’re all familiar with the hateful, illogical rhetoric that goes with it (ballet is effeminate, boys who do it are sissies, or worse, gasp!, gay), and one would like to think that if the adults in the room were aware of it, they would put a stop to it. That’s what makes this whole debacle so sickening.”
On Friday, Spencer walked back her remarks, posting on on Instagram Stories:“My deepest apologies for an insensitive comment I made during pop news on Thursday,” Spencer posted Friday “From ballet, which I took as a kid, to anything in life you wish to explore, I fully believe we should all pursue our passion. Go climb your mountain — and love every minute of it.”
Another LGBTQ activist who declined to be identified, told the Los Angeles Blade Friday that Spencer’s thoughtless remarks are especially damaging to LGBTQ youth who are struggling with their identities especially if they are involved in extracurricular activities in the performing arts. “Glad she apologised but maybe she needs to stream Billy Elliot,” they said.