Although dance is not accepted as a masculine activity in America, that's not the case in the rest of the world, says Peter Czerner, a professional dancer and dance teacher in Oceanside.
Other cultures, he said "perceive dance as the strongest thing a man can do."
Czerner has become committed to teaching athletic dance to boys. He is backed in the endeavor by Jocelyn Wilson, director of the Oceanside Dance Academy.
They have established a new boys-only dance program, dubbed BAD, an acronym for boys athletic dancing. Girls, the mainstay of dance schools around the county, need not apply.
"We put this class together to attract more males into dance," Czerner said. "It's mainly to show the boys that it's OK to dance. You don't have to be viewed as feminine. I'm teaching the kids modern dance, but it's for strength, endurance, flexibility, and coordination."
Male dancers trained by males are more likely to have a masculine dance style, Czerner said. "They really look like men. They're graceful, but it's not a feminine grace."
Wilson conceived of the project when her own active 4-year-old needed an outlet for his boundless energy.
"Peter uses counting, rhythm, balance--even some exercises the Marines do. Even if kids don't end up dancers, this training can help them," Wilson said.
The school offers a weekly class for 4- to 5-years-olds and one for 6- to 9-year olds. A class for 10- to 14-year-olds may also be offered.
"The kids really like it," Czerner said. "We do a lot of very physical movement. The purpose of this course is to strengthen a child mentally and physically, and expand their awareness. The younger kids are very impressionable."
Typically, boys don't start dance training until they're older. Czerner, now 24, is one of those late bloomers. He never took a dance lesson until he was 19. An active background in sports, however, paved the way for his proficiency, and Czerner made the leap from novice to performer in about a year.
"I was looking for a career, and I knew I wasn't going to play soccer or volleyball," he recalled. "I was taking a nonviolent martial arts course, when I heard about a (dance) class at Palomar. I was too shy, and wouldn't have stayed, except there was one other male. I did really well, and they said I was a natural."
Before long, Czerner was invited to join a dance ensemble that taught children about Russian republics through dance. That led to an association with the Soviet-based Georgian State Dancers, who performed in San Diego during the Soviet Arts Festival.
"I made good friends with the dancers, and I fell in love with the style of their dancing," he noted. "It's very quick, very athletic, and it takes a lot of strength."
When some Georgian dancers saw him perform this summer at Moonlight Ampitheater in Vista, they invited him to visit Tsiblisi in the fall. Czerner took them up on the offer, and was invited to come back in February. He said he is looking forward to going again, perhaps bringing some other dancers along.
Meanwhile, he has incorporated some of the Georgian movements into his dance classes for boys.
Czerner hopes his example will prompt others to fill a void in the dance world, where women outnumber men 10 to 1.
"There's a big demand for male dancers," he said. "I'm trying to get more men out there. They can make a good living in dance. Most men start late, like I did. But just imagine how much they can accomplish if they start young? It would be so great for the dance world."
Boys athletic dance classes are offered on Wednesdays at the Oceanside Dance Academy, 4749 Oceanside Blvd. Class for ages 4 and 5 at 2:30 p.m.; class for ages 6 through 9 at 3:30 p.m. Cost is $28 per month. Enrollment is continuous, so youngsters can enroll at any time by calling 940-6161.