Male dancers and students had united to take a ballet class after GMA co-host Lara Spencer's snide comments about Britain's Prince George taking ballet lessons.
On Monday, over 300 male ballet students attended a class taught by professional ballerinos right in front of the Good Morning America studios. The class was a response to the show's co-host Lara Spencer's snarky comments about Britain’s 6-year-old Prince George's new curriculum, which includes ballet classes.
“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,” Spencer said in her segment last week, laughing as she got to "ballet".
As fellow co-hosts and audience members giggled, Spencer added, “Prince William said Prince George absolutely loves ballet. I have news for you Prince William – we’ll see how long that lasts…” The segment was widely circulated and slammed on social media, with several professional dancers accusing Spencer of promoting toxic masculinity.
On Friday, Spencer apologized for her remarks on her Instagram page and made an on-air apology on Monday, where she sat down with dancers Robbie Fairchild - former New York City Ballet principal and Broadway star, Travis Wall of “So You Think You Can Dance”, along with Joffrey Ballet’s Fabrice Calmels.
Spencer called her comments "insensitive and stupid", adding, “I have learned about the bravery it takes for a young man to pursue a career in dance.” Calmels said on the segment, “More empathy would be lovely.” He explained that as a teacher, he said he sees young boys drop out of ballet “because of the social stigma around the form. Children should be entitled to experience things without being bullied.”
“The lesson is that words hurt,” said Spencer, “and it was not my intention but it was insensitive.” However, in interviews given over the weekend, several male dancers said that the damage may have already been done. “I would like to believe that Lara Spencer didn’t mean to do harm, but she did great harm,” Peter Stark, a former New York City Ballet dancer and associate director of the Boston Ballet II, told The Washington Post.
“She gave permission for individuals to laugh at boys doing ballet.” Douglas Risner, a dance professor at Detroit’s Wayne State University, who studies the stigmatizing of adolescent boys who dance, said that Spencer “underscored harmful stereotypes and signaled that harassment and bullying of boys who dance is acceptable. And she projected all of that on a defenseless child,” he said, adding, “She implicated the father, too, implying that he’ll change his mind about this once harassment starts.”
Meanwhile, outside the ABC studio on Monday, a group of professional male dancers and others assembled in Times Square on Monday morning, in a spot that would likely be visible from inside the Good Morning America studio, Out Magazine reports.
The dancers led a ballet class for both boys and girls, in the hopes of turning Spencer's comments into something positive. Several dancers shared truly heartwarming photos and videos from the class, and many supporters held up placards and wore T-shirts displaying the message "Boys dance too." Leading the class, among other esteemed dancers, was Travis Wall of So You Think You Can Dance, who explained in an Instagram video that Spencer had personally called him to apologize for her comments.
“She knows there’s a bunch of us, Broadway and a lot of the ballet community here in New York City. We’re going to Good Morning America on Monday morning and taking ballet classes outside," Wall explained. "So, she’s aware of it, and she wants to talk to all of us, and she wants to set this thing straight and right. The dance community is incredible, and our voices were heard, which is fantastic. Hooray!”
Harrison Coll, a City Ballet soloist on leave to work on the film of “West Side Story,” showed up for the outdoor class, because it was “a beautiful demonstration.” He said, “that has nothing to do with hate.” He added, with a laugh: “It was a good class, too. They really challenged everyone, and I liked it when Robbie said, ’Ballet’s hard. We’re still going to make it hard.’”