When Earl Mosley works with men who have never danced before, he wants to put them at ease. “The first thing you don’t want to do is tell a man to put on a pair of tights,” he said.
Now one of New York’s most respected dance teachers and choreographers, and the founder of Hearts of Men, a summer intensive dance program at Montclair State University, Mosley himself had no dance experience when during his senior year of high school in Raleigh, N.C., a friend dared him to take a dance class. He took her up on the dare and became hooked for life, later getting accepted – with no formal training – to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
“I guess they saw something,” he said. “That’s why I believe in helping young men understand that there is no experience required for dancing.”
Hearts of Men started as a conversation Mosley had in 2011 with colleagues, including the late Dudley Williams, and eventually led to the first program at Montclair State in 2014. It drew 60 students from around the region and country and culminated in sold-out performances at the end of the two-week session. In 2015, the program was held in New York; this year, it returns to Montclair State.
The free program, which runs from August 28 – Sept. 11, is open to any male age 13 and over of any level of experience. During the first week, dancers engage in daytime and evening classes and workshops including improvisation, modern, ballet, hip hop, composition and dance seminars dealing with both the reality of a professional career in dance (performing arts) and how the discipline of dance can help participants reach other goals in life outside of dance. Mosley says one of the highlights of the program is a visit from Dr. Daniel Jean, Executive Director of Academic Development and the Educational Opportunity Fund (EOF) program at Montclair State University, who gives a motivational talk on building social skills and planning for the future.
The second week is devoted to rehearsing repertory works with one of the program’s guest choreographers, which is performed onstage at Montclair’s 988-seat Memorial Auditorium at the end of the week.
Though Mosley regularly teaches both men and women – he also runs a co-ed summer intensive program at his Earl Mosley Institute for the Arts in Kent, Conn., and is an adjunct instructor at Montclair State – he understands the importance of building male bonds in a female-dominated field, as well as overcoming the stereotype that men who dance are somehow not masculine.
“A lot of men are interested in dance but don’t have the courage to try it,” Mosley said. “This program allows a support system for those people who are curious and want to try. We can help them be that person they want to be.”
He adds, “Dancing was the one thing that grounded me and helped me find myself. We try to help young men define themselves and better themselves. I know dance helped me do that.”
For more information about Hearts of Men, or to register, visit the EMIA website.