Monday, June 29, 2009

Football to ballroom: Boys can dance too

From the

Girls learning to dance is common, but not so for boys, who often prefer a muddy game of football or a few martial arts bruises to the sequins and glitz of the ballroom.

And that sentiment is found even among current world champions. Despite now being world-class dancers, Azerbaijan's Eldgar Dzhafarov, and Siberian-born Hong Kong representative Alexander "hated dance" as boys.
"We had extra subjects at school. I was 12 years old at the time. We had a choice of karate or dance. Of course I preferred karate so I joined that club. Only problem was I kept getting beaten up. In the end, my school advised my parents to place me in the dancing club," says world-class amateur dancer Dzhafarov.

"I hated dancing and I didn't like the partner they first gave me. But there was one girl I really liked in the club. I made a deal - if they gave me that girl I would stay and learn to dance. So I began just to get the girl," laughs Dzhafarov, who has made a career of high kicks over karate.

For Slovenia's Domen Krapez it was Patrick Swayze and the opening up of his country's post-USSR breakup that opened the window to dance.

"I started dance at eight years of age as an extracurricular activity at school. A film about dance had been made in Slovenia and the dance school was involved in the film," said Krapez.

"That was the time Dirty Dancing came out in Slovenia and everyone wanted to learn. Dirty Dancing was really big and also we had Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers films on television twice a week."

For Siberian-born Alexander who represents Hong Kong, football was his preference, but his physique was that of a dancer.

"My dad wanted me to be a ballet dancer. I hated dance - I wanted to play football - well anything other than dance would have been fine with me," he said.

"I didn't like dancing with girls at all. But I was tall and slim, so my dad thought I would be good at ballet. There was a dance studio nearby and I had to wait to get into ballet. The dance school said they had a girl needing a partner so I should try ballroom first."

Ballroom paid off and despite his early loathing of dance, Alexander today is a world-class professional and second-place Blackpool professional Rising Star. He will represent Hong Kong in the Professional World Cup in China next month.

And for 18-year-olds Ghaith Mustofa and Wafer Hussein - young Iraqi refugees waiting in Indonesia for a country to accept them - dance has given them a reason to get up in the morning.

"As refugees we are not allowed to work, to study, to do anything. Learning to dance has given us a reason to get up each day," said Wafer, who like Ghaith grew up during decades of war with interrupted access to formal education.

Dance could end up offering these young refugees, like the world-class dancers who inspire them, unexpected career choices in a future currently on hold.

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