Lara Spencer on ‘Good Morning America’. Photo credit: GMA/ABC.
The dance community’s rebuke to the Thursday morning comments by ‘Good Morning America’s Lara Spencer was quick and powerful after the host seemingly shamed Prince George — the six-year-old son of Prince William and Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton — for his excitement about taking ballet in his upcoming school studies.
“Details of George’s curriculum have been released, making us all really happy we don’t have to do homework anymore,” Spencer’s GMA segment began. “In addition to the usual first or second-grade things like math, science, and history, the future King of England will be putting down the play-dough to take on religious studies, computer programming, poetry, and ballet, among other things.”
Spencer’s tone, which elicited a laugh from the in-studio audience, was seen by many as all but outright making fun of the Prince’s curiosity toward dance.
“Prince William said George ‘absolutely loves ballet.’ I have news for you Prince William,” Spencer went on, “we’ll see how long that lasts.”
It didn't take long, however, for powerful voices in the dance community to quickly come forward not just defend the young Prince but also to denounce Spencer’s use of bully tactics from her anchor chair.
“Lara, really? Some of us took ballet. Some of us win Tony awards because we took ballet!” Tony-winning choreographer Jerry Mitchell said in part in a video he posted to Instagram.
Famed dancer, choreographer, and Emmy winner Travis Wall offered a statement directly to Spencer via his Instagram.
“Dear Lara Spencer of ‘Good Morning America’, yesterday you made comments while talking about Prince George wanting to take a ballet class and laughing that he loves it, and I found these comments to be very upsetting,” Wall said. “Not only did you inspire your audience and colleagues to participate in the laughter, you have now added fuel to the fire that is a massive problem in this country, which is bullying.”
“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!” Wall continued.
When wrapping up his statement, Wall posed a pointed query directly to Spencer.
“The next time you want to laugh at a child for taking a dance class or laugh at them at all," Wall said, "look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if you want to be a bully today.”
Even Emmy winner, producer, dancer, teacher, and actress Debbie Allen also offered her thoughts on Spencer’s comments.
“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.”
Tony, Outer Critics Circle, and Olivier winning international choreographer Christopher Wheeldon reposted the video of Spencer’s comments along with a written statement of his own.
“Ballet has made me the man I am today,” Wheeldon wrote on Instagram. “It has taught me discipline, elegance, compassion provided me with huge career opportunities. It has kept my body fit into my 40’s and allowed me to understand the power of communication through movement and music. I have been fortunate enough to travel the world and work with a community that is full of kind, loving creative artists who dedicate their lives to one of the most beautiful art forms. I was fortunate enough to meet Prince George’s mother at the performance of my ballet ‘Alices Adventures In Wonderland at the Royal Ballet In 2013 where her love for our art form was so generously and warmly displayed. I was honored with an O.B.E in 2017 presented by his father Prince William. I’m not surprised that they are enrolling him in ballet class. I have had super privileged experiences, but it all began holding the back of a plastic chair in a room full of girls because I loved to dance. Growing up as a boy in ballet class was not easy, I mean talk about perfect fodder for bullying! It was painful but worth every second.”
“I hope @lara.spencer and @goodmorningamerica that it was unintentional for you to shame Prince George for being excited about taking ballet class,” Wheeldon continued. “Please don’t teach your audience that it’s ok to bully. Let’s encourage children to dive headfirst into the Arts in hope that more of the people of our world have the qualities of humanity, kindness, connectedness and dedicated focus, that the numerous ballet dancers male and female that I have been fortunate enough to work with display.”
Other professional dancers posted their thoughts on Instagram as well.
James Whiteside from 'American Ballet Theatre' talked about what dance has done for him.
Ashley Bouder of New York City Ballet asked Spencer to come and try ballet herself.
Sarah Jessica Parker, who sits on the board at NYCB, even responded to Bouder's post.
"I think Lara might find enlightening a master class with the company," SJP wrote. "She might discover how serious, demanding, challenging, inspiring, and important the work is. 15 minutes spent watching from the door of the studio will cure any doubters and those who laugh at the endeavor and lifetime of devotion. Dance on! X."
The strong condemnation of Spencer’s comments from the dance community spurred support from thousands of fans in the form of comments, shares, and video posts of their own — even causing the hashtag #boysdancetoo to trend.
Around noon on Friday, Lara Spencer posted an apology via Instagram.
“My sincere apologies for an insensitive comment I made in pop news yesterday,” Spencer wrote, posted along with a picture of a flowery field. “From ballet to anything one wants to explore in life, I say GO FOR IT. I fully believe we should all be free to pursue our passions. Go climb your mountain-and love every minute of it.”
It’s yet to be seen if the online apology is enough to satiate those affected by Spencer’s on-air comments.
Jerry Mitchell and Nick Kenkel at the 2018 Actor's Fund 'Career Transitions For Dancers' Benefit.