Real Men Dance

dance shamanism story

I try to shy away from blogging too much about current events, I want my family to be the most important current event in my life. Blogging helps me stay focused on discovering the sacred and transformative in our daily life together. But there’s an article I’ve been waiting to read on the Penn State child abuse scandal, and nobody is writing it. It has to do with its connection to the Catholic Church child abuse scandal.

There’s the obvious comparisons to be made about the cover-ups:

  • The web of denial that protected the abusers was woven by the wealthiest and most powerful members of their communities.
  • The Catholic Church and Penn State ultimately institutionalized pedophilia within their own organizations as a byproduct of their efforts to protect their public image. Protecting the perpetrators established the behavior as business as usual.
  • Special trust was given to the perpetrators, making any whistle-blower an outcast in their own community.
  • Many of the victims were more vulnerable than other kids their own age. They came from single-family homes, lower income.

Certainly there’s a lot to be said about these and other similarities. Both crisis are studies in patriarchal power run amok. These are the people charged with the responsibility of nurturing our boys development into manhood. Shouldn’t these be the places our young men are safest?

Max Waldman photo of Baryshnikov

I went through puberty in the world of dance. By the time I hit 7th grade I was leaving gym class early for ballet rehearsals. When high school finally came I joined the dance company. I never actually spent time in a standard mens locker room until college.
I came of age in cavernous halls, often dancing with adults and little or no parental supervision. I’m sure some will think most of the men were gay and I was therefor at risk of being abused. I always felt much safer in a dance studio than I did on the streets I traveled to get there. It wasn’t unusual for me to be threatened by someone who knew I danced and thought I was gay. My fellow dancers, male or female, always looked out for me. Gay men are not what we have to fear.
The Catholic Church, Penn States football program, and Sanduski’s Second Mile organization have something in common that nobody is writing about: they don’t teach their young men to dance. You can’t dance, REALLY DANCE, without expressing your feelings. I’m guessing exploring your feelings are not really a priority in many of the organizations we’ve developed to carry our boys into manhood. The male institutions of the old guard specialized in vilifying the feminine especially as it lives within young men.
There are many warrior traditions that make dance, art, and poetry, central to the development of their men. I’ve been lucky enough to spend time with an elder Iaido (Japanese sword tradition) teacher who was born and raised in a lineage of Samurai. I found him to be one of the most sensitive and creative people I’ve ever met. I’ve come to believe the heart of a warrior is more feminine than masculine.
Dance, like other arts, is also a way to feel and empower the presence of your own spirit. Some of the initial training I received in core shamanism was in how to dance my own spirit. When our soul is empowered and present we, even as very young people, don’t willingly submit to abuse or exploitation. Experienced warriors know – its our spirits that fight the most important battles in life.
As his teachers can attest, my son has no shortage of testosterone. Even at the young age of four its apparent to all he is a full-contact boy. He has so much energy, so many deep feelings, he HAS to dance! One of his favorite things to do is dance with his family. Sometimes its more of a rugby scrum, other times its a sweet serenade. He’s never brighter than when we’re all dancing together.
To cheat him out of a life filled with dance and art would also cheat him out of an essential piece of the fullness of his manhood. It would also make him more vulnerable to be taken advantage of by those who would lead him away from the power of his own spirit.
When we create organizations where the appearance of being feminine is a sign of failure, we encourage predators to take advantage of us. Maybe part of the reason these institutions became petri cultures for pedophillic wonderlands was because they left little room for the feminine in men.
In the absence of a culture grounded in a sense of feeling that touches the depths of young mens souls, crass parasites flourish, feeding on their beauty and potential. Dance is of course not the cure for the illness of pediophelia, but it is part of an in immune system that can reject the presence of pedophiles.


  • Anonymous
    November 22, 2011 - 4:56 pm · Reply

    Tremendous as usual Tim. Your writing continues to be provocative and very influential to me. Thanks! Moira

  • Dear tpet,
    November 25, 2011 - 7:19 pm · Reply

    I was talking with a friend of mine (male) the joys of a bond with a man who at least recognizes, if not embraces their feminine side. Here, in conservative bible belt, that is such a foreign concept. To even talk about it causes people to walk away and label you weird. Yet, the men I have met who fully embrace the feminine within are probably the most masculine, secure men I know. Thank you for writing this. Traci

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