By Tristan Marks
These dads want to do more than just sit on the sidelines. The Niagara Academy of the Performing Arts (NAPA) “Dancing Dudes” team is made up of dance dads who wanted to get more involved with their daughters’ passion for dance, while also supporting a good cause.
Every year, the dudes train together to open for NAPA’s year-end dance recital at the end of July. Throughout this time they also canvas around to raise money through their dance to benefit Gillian’s Place. They raised $6,500 in total for the shelter for abused women and children by the end of the 2019 dance year.
The group began 5 years ago when NAPA was looking into ways to get parents more involved with the dance lessons. Originally they wanted to make a dance group for mothers, but quickly decided to make the group for their students’ fathers who were usually not as involved as mothers were, according to NAPA director Sandra Hodgins.
“The fathers were always there to watch,” she said. “I thought, ‘why not get them involved,’ and that if we were going to do this, let’s do it for a good cause.”
Peter Whittier, who described himself as the Dancing Dudes’ “self-appointed captain” said that he and took a little bit to warm up to the idea at first.
“I was reluctant at first, but I wanted to support my daughter,” he said. “The first time I actually went on stage my daughter cried. She told me that she was happy that I could finally understand the work she went through for her passion.”
After that he was hooked, and has been a member of the team for every year since.
“This cause is very near and dear to my heart,” he added.
To join, the men have to raise at least $100 in donations for Gillian’s Place and attend on lesson a week for six weeks. The lessons are taught by NAPA choreographers Emily Turner and Caitlyn Neal, who help the fathers find a song and dance that suits them.
Whittier said the team is also a great place to meet new friends.
“You meet other fathers you normally wouldn’t meet,” he said. “We’re always looking for new members, so for dads with daughters in NAPA who want to earn their appreciation, this is a great venue for that.”
As of publication, the Dancing Dudes are on hiatus, as their year end recital was in July. However, they will soon be looking to recruit starting next February for their 2020 year.