Nathaniel is a mid-twentysomething Maryland native who knows a thing or two about dance, and its ability to change the way we see ourselves and the world.
For men, choosing to dance is a life-changing decision that defies norms associated with masculinity. And Nathaniel knows this personally. “We’re in a society where most people think that men can’t express themselves because that’s too feminine or it’s a woman quality, or ‘Oh, that makes you gay.’ And that’s not true. I think with those burdens put on men they feel like they can’t say anything.
But deciding to dance isn’t something that Nathaniel takes lightly. If anything, dance helps him in ways that nothing else can. As Nathaniel reveals, “I dance because it’s the only way I can fully express myself spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically…[and] I think men should dance more because sometimes we have a hard time expressing what we feel or what we’re trying to say. And dance can be a tool for that. You don’t have to say anything, you can just dance and you can move.”
It’s easy to see the beauty of dance when you’re in the audience. At some point, everyone starts there. Even professional dancers. It’s often the spark that ignites the courage to do and be. But what Nathaniel teaches us is that you don’t have to remain there. “I invite you to be a mover, be a dancer, where your voice is heard through your body,” he says. Because at the end of the day dance doesn’t have to end with you being a spectator.
Nathaniel continues, saying, “I hope that when people see me dance, I invite them and I welcome them to be as open as I hope that I am portraying or I am being when I’m moving so that they can take that experience and use it again to a stranger. To smile at a stranger when you go to work, when you talk to your kids, to be open.” And that’s what dance is all about. That’s what makes it a creative, life-changing force that surpasses anything we could ever explain with words.
Nathaniel proves that #WhenMenDance they help us experience what it means to be open. And the life-changing gift of leaving an impact on the lives of everyone we cross paths with. For the better.
Nathaniel’s Full Story
The reason I dance is because it’s the only way I can fully express myself spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically. It has really highlighted my views on masculinity.
Growing up, I would tell people I was going to take a dance class and they would say, “Oh, you better watch out for those girls!” And I’m like (laughs), “Ummm…no!” And then when I got older and really started to pursue dance, people would automatically assume that all male dancers are homosexual, and that’s not the case. A person’s sexuality has nothing to do with whether or not they want to dance. So, dance really kind of highlighted this sense of masculinity through these stereotypes.
There is such a stigma about men having to be hyper-masculine and that’s just not the case. Male dancers are filled with emotions, thoughts, and experiences that shape who they are as human beings, and all of those things create different types of dancers. We all do not need to fit into a box of hyper-masculinity to be accepted or to be successful.
As a male dancer, I may exude tendencies that classify as more masculine and that is perfectly acceptable. Why? Because it’s my dancing and my life. Same thing goes with femininity.
I may exude qualities that are more feminine, and I love that. When I see a male dancer that commands the stage and his audience, is vulnerable and open with his emotions, with strength as well as grace, that is one of the most beautiful things I can ever witness.
Growing up people also would not believe me when I said I was a dancer. They would immediately assume that I payed basketball…simply because I was tall and athletic-looking. Then when I was much more serious about dance, people would then assume that the only dance company I wanted to dance for was Alvin Ailey simply because I was tall, muscular, and black.
Having the opportunity to dance in Ailey II was absolutely phenomenal, but feeling like it was the only place I “was allowed” or “looked the part” for did not sit well with me. It’s a hard balance between realizing that people will always assume things about you and your life, and doing those things, not because you feel like you have to because they assume that, but because you genuinely want to.
Why should more people dance? Because before there was words there was movement, and we can connect to movement so much more simply than I think with words. I think men should dance more because sometimes we have a hard time expressing what we feel or what we’re trying to say. And dance can be a tool for that. You don’t have to say anything, you can just dance and you can move.
I hope that when people see me dance, I invite them and I welcome them to be as open as I hope that I am portraying or I am being when I’m moving so that they can take that experience and use it again to a stranger. To smile at a stranger when you go to work, when you talk to your kids, to be open.
We’re in a society where most people think that men can’t express themselves because that’s too feminine to it’s a woman quality, or, “Oh, that makes you gay.” And that’s not true. I think with those burdens put on men they feel like they can’t say anything.
So, I invite you to be a mover, be a dancer, where your voice is heard through your body. And that you can express something and that your voice will be heard.
I think conversations about men, vulnerabilities, masculinity, and community is what this society and world needs especially now. With all the hate, and violence, and ways of separation in this world, we need to come together. We need to remember our brotherhood–and sisterhood, get it ladies!–that connects us innately.
And I decided to be a part of the #WhenMenDance campaign because I think my story has different elements that different people can relate to.
I’m a biracial, homosexual man who has danced for minority organizations touring the world to privileged and unprivileged places. My story is not better than anyone else’s, it’s just different. And those differences may give hope to someone else.
Being able to touch lives and share dance is much more important and necessary than stereotypes and gender roles. Being able to travel to different places both internationally and domestically and share what I love doing is more than what I could have ever asked for.
It makes me appreciate my own dancing, but much more than that, it makes me appreciate the artist and human being that I am–and that my art can affect, help, and inspire so many people.