Peralta dances center stage despite stereotypes


Photo by Ashley Dew

Arimeta Diop, Sports Editor

Junior Anthony Peralta takes an attitude leap off of a chair and into center stage as the Dance for the Stage class at Trollwood Performing Arts School lip syncs to the song “After Today.” This performance took place during the annual Sun Celebration on July 2.

Peralta is no stranger to a vocally and physically demanding performance like this one, as he has been taking classes at Trollwood for four years, is a cast member of the Trollwood mainstage musical:  “How To Succeed In  Business” and also participates in theatre during the school year. He took his first dance class in sixth grade at Trollwood.

“It was the basic dance shake down which consisted of a combination of ballet, modern, and jazz dances,” Peralta said. “It seemed really difficult at first, almost impossible, because I had never done classes before. Looking back, I’m glad I invested the time into it.”

As is the tendency in most dance classes, Peralta was one of few or the only male student in his dance class. Freshman Lucy Barz, a dancer from Nashville who has attended Trollwood for the past five years, found this a typical but frustrating occurrence.

“The more male dominated classes would be stage combat and then an acting or improvisation class and third [in popularity] would be a vocal class,” Barz said. “But in dance classes there are very few males, and it’s not like we are not tolerant of male performers; we actually really want them to be there.”

Peralta, Barz and their instructor Michael Estanich, who is also the dance chair at Trollwood and a professor at the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, all credit stereotypes, preconceptions and even negativity from peers to the lack of male participation in performing arts as a whole, but dance in particular.

“Little boys are more pushed into sports and girls are pushed into dance since it is perceived to be an expressive art form and to be overtly expressive, traditionally, is considered a feminine trait,” Estanich said. “And so this notion of expressivity little boys aren’t attracted to as much.”

Despite their excitement towards Peralta being interested and participating in performing arts, he was persuaded by his family to go out for sports.

“There was a point where my mother wanted me to be in a sport to get me to try it out and I had no interest,” Peralta said. “So the day of auditions for one of my shows, I quit the basketball team half way through the first practice to be a part of the show.”

Beyond the social implications others may draw about dance, another barrier performers have found that keeps potential male dancers from the stage is the physicality of the activity itself.

“[Dance] is really putting yourself out there because you’re using your whole body to express yourself,” Barz said. “But it is the coolest thing [having guys in dance] because they can bring so much to the experience, [to] see the differences in bodies between male and female.”

Agreeing with his students, Estanich said that there needs to be a place of support among peers so young artists feel comfortable to continue exploring their talents.

“We should be encouraging our young boys that have an interest in theatre and dance to be in class, and support them when they may be feeling a little on the outside as the only boy in the class,” Estanich said. “It comes down to support rather than poking fun at people, which is a problem across the young world today.”

Peralta completed his classes at Trollwood for this year, but continues his time at the performing arts school as an ensemble member of the upcoming musical “How To Succeed In Business (Without Really Trying).” His time in performing arts has been both an experience in social growth with friends but also a growth in his ability as a performer.

“A lot of my old friends from elementary school and sixth grade grew from me, which left the few who actually cared about my passion for performing, and some of them actually joined me in theater,” Peralta said. “A lot of my friends auditioned for shows and have had fun doing it too.”