Dance, a genderless way of expression

Dance shouldn’t be held to gender stereotypes, said Dustyn Forbes (Jasmine Gidney/AQ)

Dance is the purest form of expression, according to Dustyn Forbes.

“When we can’t speak any longer, we sing and when we can’t sing any longer, we dance,” the fourth-year St. Thomas University student said. 

“It’s communicating emotion and story and plot with an audience member, or with a group of people, without needing to say anything.” 

For the first time in its 60-year history, male graduates outnumber female graduates in Canada’s National Ballet School. In 2020, 16 boys and 11 girls are set to graduate.

Forbes said it’s cool to see men defy gender stereotypes and pursue dance. He said it shows dance is equal for everyone. 

“There shouldn’t be any gender or language barriers. It’s an expression of movement,” Forbes said.

Even though Forbes didn’t begin dancing until he was 10, the arts were a major part of his childhood. He did gymnastics until he was five and he played the drums and performed in musicals at his local church in Hampton, New Brunswick.

Forbes’ sisters were the ones who danced. 

He watched from the sidelines wanting to learn with them. But his family couldn’t afford to give him lessons, so Forbes found other ways to learn how to dance. 

He took lessons from his cousin once a week, who took professional dance lessons. 

Forbes also learned from YouTube videos. With his background as a gymnast, Forbes found dancing easy. 

“I had the basic training of how to hold your body and how to move your body,” he said. 

While dancing was his passion, Forbes’ parents pushed him toward studying medicine. He took advanced placement classes in his last year of high school to prepare for medical school but decided to pursue his dreams of musical theatre instead. He said musical theatre and dance complement each other.

Forbes said his parents were supportive but weren’t sure if dance and musical theatre could be a sustainable career. His parents said he could try the arts but should keep his options open.

But as Forbes began to star in productions, his parents realized dance could be a sustainable job. Forbes said his parents finally told him they were proud when he starred in his first full-length contracted dance production called The Fruit Machine this past summer.

“That was the first time my parents ever said that they were very proud of the work that I was doing.” 

Forbes said he plans to audition to dance schools like the National Theatre School of Canada, Sheridan College, Randolph Academy for the Performing Arts, George Brown College and other theatre and dance schools after university. 

Forbes encourages young boys who want to dance to “just go for it” and not let anything stand in their way, even if they think they can’t dance. 

“If you can walk, you can move. Everybody’s able to move because it’s a form of expression,” Forbes said.

“You might not be able to express the way you think a dancer should look but there’s no way a dancer should look.”