Breaking gender barriers

“You don’t hear about guys in dance.”

Emily Pavlik, co-sports editor

The Titan Dome roared with voices as students packed the blue and gold bleachers. Screaming over the music, students and staff alike watched as De La Cru (DLC), South’s hip hop dance team, grooved to the beat in holiday sweaters. Standing out within the group, senior Joey Rabor danced as the only male on the team.

Rabor, a current DLC dancer, had only recently grew his passion for dancing after participating in South’s singer dancers, a leading role consisting of multiple moments of stage time for the Variety Show. Rabor gained confidence in his dancing skills and he continues to follow his passion without doubt.

“[Dance] really widens your view on yourself, and on the things that you’re able to do,” Rabor said. “When I’m performing it’s really exciting because people see me, and they’re like, ‘Wow, there’s a dude on the team, and he’s actually killing it.’”

Junior Sabine Lee, teammate and close friend of Rabor, said every dancer is valued, specifically noting the team dynamic would struggle without males.

“Without Joey, or [past male teammates], we wouldn’t have any variety in our choreography,” Lee said. “It doesn’t really matter about the gender, just the person [themself].”

Jake Orlowski, South Alum and freshman at University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), has always been a dancer. During his time at South, being a solo male on the team,  he noted that the environment was still inclusive through their work on performances; Orlowski said it brought the comfort of a place to release the stressors of academics and focus on being a part of a team.

“Whenever we just had time to sit back and talk, [my teammates helped] me realize that I not only had a team, but I had a humongous group of friends that I could talk to if I needed them,” Orlowski said.

Currently, Orlowski continues his passion for dance with a professional team in Chicago and pursuing a team at UIC, as well.

“I’m continuing my growth by taking practice classes once or twice a week,” Orlowski said. “I’m also on a team at my college [that has] almost weekly classes with professional choreographers [that] will come in and teach.”

Although Orlowski has experienced positives throughout his journey of dance he finds there have been struggles with performing as well. While at South, Orlowski said some of his peers questioned his sexuality because he danced. After performing at South he would come across constant messages from his peers asking the determination of his sexuality. Orlowski tried to defy this stereotype.

“I tried to tell people that it doesn’t matter what sexuality you have, whatever you love to do shouldn’t be determined by it.”

Senior captain Maya Mladenovic said that DLC is a place for everyone; although more females try out for the team it should not discourage males if they are interested in hip hop. Mladenovic is hopeful that the team is setting an example for males interested in dance, but is also fearful of younger grades’ confidence in trying out.

“There might be freshmen that come to school and love to do hip hop, but things like:, ‘There’s only girls on there, I can’t try out for that,’ [scares them] and [they] don’t try out,” Mladenovic said. “We really don’t want that because this is a coed team, [and] any person can be on [the team] if they’re good enough.”

However, Mladenovic said that being a singular male on the team takes a great amount of confidence, and gives credit to past male members that have thrived in DLC’s environment.

“Usually the boys that are on the team, they are really comfortable and secure in themselves,” Mladenovic said. “They don’t really care about the moves they do. They love doing whatever, [and when they] try out and make it they’re excited because they just love dancing.”   

Orlowski finds that as a male dancer it comes with the image of being either a sexualized club dancer or an elegant ballet performer. He said both limit the skills involved in all types of performing. Orlowski has tried to shut down the ideas of males fitting a specific image of dance by incorporating both typically feminine and masculine dance into his choreography.

“[I did this to] show that I could be whatever I want to be and not fit a specific stereotype or stigma,” Orlowski said.

Rabor agreed that being the only male on DLC can be difficult at times. Having only two close friends on the team, Rabor said it is difficult to bond with the other dancers as a male dancer.

“I kind of wish there were more dudes [on DLC] so that it can be easier to talk to [the team],” Rabor said. “It’s just kind of hard to [connect] with other members, but I can’t really connect with them the way that they connect with each other.”

Throughout Rabor’s year on DLC, he has confronted stereotypical opinions on his being a dancer.

“When it comes to guys in this school there’s usually a lot of them who are playing football, soccer,” Rabor said. “You don’t really hear about guys that dance. I don’t really see myself as [a] minority, but I see it as, I’m unique  and I get to pursue something that I’m happy doing.”