Turning A Negative Into A Positive -- GMA's Lara Spencer Apologizes

by Michael Mahany | 8/26/2019 7:18 PM

Travis Wall, Robert Fairchild, Charlie Williams, Sam Quinn and more at #GoodMorningBallet in Times Square.

The New York City dance community came out in droves early Monday morning to rally against bullying, acknowledge and support male dancers, and to celebrate the dedication, passion, and perseverance the study of the dance demands.

How did they do it, you ask? By doing what dancers do best. They took class!

After the on-air comments last week from ‘Good Morning America’ anchor Lara Spencer that seemingly shamed Prince George — the six-year-old son of Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge — for his interest in ballet, an event called #GoodMorningBallet was a quickly derived by New York City dance figureheads Sam Quinn and Charlie Williams.

More: ’GMA' Host Lara Spencer Rebuked by the Dance Community for "Bullying"

Monday morning’s extremely successful #GoodMorningBallet event — inspired by the trending hashtag #boysdancetoo — brought dancers of all ages, genders, and levels outside the ‘GMA’ Times Square studios to take part in a very public ballet class.

The event also brought out some of the dance world’s most respected names, too. With the organizing help of well-known dancers like Travis Wall, Robert Fairchild, and Alex D. Wong, hundreds of dancers showed up for the 6:30 am outdoor class.

Before the class began, Emmy Award-winning choreographer Travis Wall addressed the crowd of dancers at the corner of West 44th Street and Broadway.

Robert Fairchild and Travis Wall addressing the crowd. Photo credit: Matthew Murphy.

“I want everyone to know, it’s not just an Instagram post, she’s really truly sorry, she’s doing the right steps to apologize,” Wall projected to the crowd of dancers, referring to Spencer. “The amount of attention that the dance community has gotten from this is the most important thing.”

Dance Network spoke with Wall just before he began to teach class.

“We’re all coming together to celebrate each other,” Wall said. “We’re all here to show our support for the boys across America — the boys across the world — and to say we’re here, boys dance too, and we’re proud and we’re not ashamed of it, and we’re here to have a really great time.”

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Sam Quinn, who initiated the #GoodMorningBallet told Dance Network how the idea came about.

“I had the idea after seeing Lara’s comments on ‘Good Morning America’ to post on Facebook,” Quinn said. “I was like, how can we as a community, as dancers, as male dancers create something that makes a statement?”

Quinn’s question on facebook received a lot of traction, and he soon partnered up with well known Broadway dancer Charlie Williams to create the event.

“Our whole message is we’re just giving voices to those male dancers who don’t have that voice,” Quinn continued. “Letting them know that dance is for everyone, and don’t stop dancing, and we’re here to inspire you — we have your back, and what better way to celebrate on a Monday morning than a ballet class?”

Charlie Williams and Travis Wall. Photo credit: Matthew Murphy.

Broadway’s Charlie Williams, known for his work performing in ‘The Cher Show’, ‘Miss Saigon’ and as the associate choreographer of ‘Frozen’ on Broadway, spoke to the power of the dance community and the impact of dance on his life.

“We’re just here today to show the world the power a dance class has, and the community that dance builds,” Williams said. “We want to encourage all the children out there to take dance, explore dance, love dance, and let it change your life — cause it changed my life.”

‘SYTYCD’, ‘Dancing With The Stars’, and ‘Newsies’ star Alex D. Wong talked about the importance of support and acceptance among dancers.

“I think this turn out was incredible, just so necessary for the support, and for the support of male dancers everywhere,” Wong said.

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Spencer was lambasted late last week by the dance community for the comments she made about Prince George during a segment in which she was discussing the future King of England’s upcoming school curriculum.

Video courtesy: GMA/ABC.

After the initial segment aired, some of the biggest names in dance and theatre quickly rallied to not just to defend the young Prince, but to point out the inappropriate nature of Spencer’s comments.

“Ballet teaches integrity, teaches you discipline, teaches your respect, and it teaches you bravery, and if there are any boys out there that want to dance and want to pick up a dance class, do it!” Travis Wall posted in a video directed to Spencer on his Instagram account not long after Spencer's segment aired.

“The next time you want to laugh at a child for taking a dance class — or laugh at them at all,” Wall continued, “look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you want to be a bully today.”

#GoodMorningBallet. Photo credit: Matthew Murphy.

Many other high profile dance world voices weighed in on social media to show their support to young dancers who may be struggling with gender barriers and bullying, too. Videos from Tony-winning choreographer Jerry Mitchell, Olivier-winning choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, Tony winner Chita Rivera, ABT dancer James Whiteside, NYCB dancer Ashley Bouder, NYCDA founder Joe Lanteri, and many more garnered thousands and thousands of views.

Perhaps the most significant voice, however, was that of the legendary Debbie Allen who also spoke directly to Spencer via an Instagram post.

“Dear Lara Spencer, I am sure you did not expect your remarks to set off the firestorm that it has, but it did,” Allen said. “Darling, you’re not on Saturday Night Live, you’re a respected media journalist.”

After mentioning successful men like Steve Jobs, Bob Fosse, and half a dozen others who have previously studied dance, Allen went on to say, “you owe not just the Royal Family, but the dance world an apology for poking fun at something that we’re very sensitive about… We’d get more Steve Jobs’ if we had more ballet [and] less bullying.”

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Allen and Wall’s comments must have touched a nerve with Spencer, because according to Travis Wall, Spencer reached out to him via a phone call — and, she got his cell number from Debbie Allen.

“So Lara Spencer just called me on my cell phone, she got my number from Debbie Allen,” Travis Wall said on Instagram Saturday evening. “She is completely horrified and just truly just issued this massive apology. I could just hear the horror in her voice.”

To make amends, Spencer taped an interview with three prominent ballet dancers — the aforementioned Emmy winning SYTYCD’ choreographer Wall, and Tony nominee and former NYCB principal Fairchild, as well as Joffrey principal dancer Fabrice Calmels. In the taped interview, Spencer offered an apology to the dancers and really, the dance community as a whole.

Before the interviewed aired on Monday morning, Robert Fairchild spoke with Dance Network at the #GoodMorningBallet event to talk about the power of the dance community and his sit-down with Spencer.

“It’s incredible having so many dancers come out, the cool thing is when this community gets attacked everyone just rushes to take care of each other,” Fairchild said.

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“We got to speak with Lara yesterday, on-camera and she gave us the most heartfelt apology,” Fairchild continued. “And, we’re not ones to hold grudges — we’re a giving supportive community and we acknowledge when somebody admits they made a wrong choice, and we’re here to support her righting this wrong. This is a conversation — boys dancing — it’s been a long time coming, and it's evident by the snickering happening in the studio audience, that this was something that we needed to talk about — so she took this and made it a platform for the good.”

Shortly after the #GoodMorningBallet event finished up, a small crowd grew around the Times' Square windows of the 'GMA' studio to see the broadcast of Spencer's apology.

“I screwed up, I did,” Spencer said in the taped segment. “The comment I made about dance was insensitive. It was stupid and I am deeply sorry.”

Lara Spencer's sit-down with Fabrice Calmels, Robert Fairchild, and Travis Wall. Video courtesy: GMA/ABC.

For the crew who created #GoodMorningBallet in New York City, Spencer’s apology was seen as truthful, honest, and an opportunity she took to learn more about how words can be hurtful — it remains to be seen if the rest of the dance community feels the same.

Michael Mahany serves as Dance Network’s New York City correspondent. He is also a professional actor, singer, dancer, writer, and host. Follow him on TwitterInstagram, or Facebook.