Callum McGregor’s Story
Company Member Since 2020
I started dancing when I was 7 years old after I received my first pair of tap shoes for Christmas. I really got into dance after learning that my mum had been a dancer. She did more musicals than classical or contemporary, but she trained in everything. After watching the show Riverdance, I really wanted to do Irish tap. That’s why I started my dance lessons, I wanted to be a tap dancer. For the first year of dancing all I did was tap at my local dance school and in the summer performance, I was definitely the star with my Freddie Mercury tap number I was in.
The following year my mum introduced me to Jazz and Ballet and the rest is history. I knew quite early on I wanted to do it professionally. I was 11 when I decided to take it seriously and started training at a vocational dance school which was integrated with a high school. I didn’t decide I wanted to do ballet until I was accepted into a ballet school in London. The director of the school said I should audition for Central School of Ballet in London (the school I would later attend), as preparation and for experience. I really wanted to go down the musical theatre route but at the time — after being accepted to the school in London and other personal circumstances — I couldn’t stay at school another year. I moved to London to continue training where I would focus on ballet and contemporary. It wasn’t that I really wanted to do ballet, but it was the only option to get me out of school. At Central School of Ballet (CSB), I fell in love with ballet and contemporary dance. I wouldn’t change it for anything, and my decisions led me to where I am today and I’m so happy. I don’t know what I would have done have I not found ballet and contemporary dance at the time I had.
Back when I started dancing, I never really knew anything about the industry. I didn’t really pay attention to ballet until I was in college and I never really found someone to look up to. I didn’t see anyone moving in a way that intrigued me. There are beautiful dancers in the companies in London and they are talented, but I never aspired to be like them. I found that people were constantly trying to be like them and some succeeding, but many failing. Because of this, I would always make sure to have a healthy outlook for competing with the boys in my year. I would judge my talent and my abilities off of the people around me because I felt that was a good way to see where I was. I would also compete with myself as I found this to be a good way to continue pushing myself as a dancer.
My second-year teacher Resmi really helped and pushed me to be the dancer I am today. He helped me join CBJ and for that I am forever grateful. I think for me it’s not so much about the gender of the mentor but what skills and abilities they have that will be beneficial.
The most common misconception about male dancers is that they are all gay and that the art form is only for girls. I feel things have evolved a little but when I was at school it was definitely seen as something only girls do.
These stereotypes are wrong because statistically in dance, not everyone is gay therefore not every boy who dances will be gay. It’s seen as a hyper feminine thing to do when in reality the men have to be very masculine and strong. Younger kids and teenagers don’t realize this, and this only perpetuates the stereotypes, myths and bullying. They all stem from a lack of knowledge and not wanting to understand. In society if you’re not doing the “normal” thing that everyone is doing then it should be ridiculed and put down — when all you are doing is something you feel passionate about.
I think unfortunately most boys who dance whether they are gay or not are bullied in some form. Some forms hurt more than others and it can come out in many different ways. Cyber, physical and mental bullying are ways male dancers are told that they are doing is wrong. We are being told that we shouldn’t be doing something just because it doesn’t conform to society’s gender norms of what you think a man or boy should be doing.
I have been bullied in all three forms (cyber, physical and mental), in some way or another. Sometimes it wasn’t even for dancing, it was just for being gay. I feel that people don’t always want to understand or want to know and just want to believe what they are being told. Being bullied makes you feel like you are little, like you are less than everyone else. At the heart of it, you are made to feel like you don’t fit in, that you aren’t accepted.
Unfortunately growing up and wanting to do ballet/musical theatre as a boy comes with being bullied, so having a support system around you is vital. It would definitely help for the mentor or supporters to have been through similar situations. Someone who had lived through what you are going through and knows the trials and tribulations. I think it’s important to always have someone to rely on as things can get tough.
Dancing regardless of whether it’s ballet, jazz or contemporary was a way for me at the time to express myself in ways my words couldn’t. Now I love it for a completely different reason. It still is a way for me to express myself and I love performing. I always have. Acting, singing and dancing have always been major parts of my childhood and anytime I could be on the stage I would be. It was the only thing I really ever felt good at and it was always such an amazing experience. I love dance because it’s all I’ve ever known to do. It challenges me and pushes me to be the best version of myself at all times. Dancing allowed me to grow as person too.
I would tell boys today to surround yourself with people that will love and support you no matter what career path you take whether you are gay or straight. Be around people that will raise you up and be there for you in your moments of need. There will be hard moments for sure, but you don’t need to deal with it on your own, don’t ever feel alone because you are not. You are not the first and you most certainly won’t be the last boy to go through this. Be proud of what you want to do, don’t let anyone try to make you feel less just because you may be doing something a little different from what they are doing. Be authentically yourself at all times, be around people you love and who love you. Don’t give up on a dream because of what other people say or think. Strive for what you want and live your dream.