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Young dancers were studying and chatting with friends in between practices at the Florida Ballet School in downtown Jacksonville. A petite boy emerged from the crowd of giggling girls. He donned black dance shoes, a leotard and a wide smile. Dante Gonzalez has been dancing for seven years after falling in love with ballet at age three.
“The music just captures you and your body takes over. I love the aspect of it. I love every single day I dance,” he says.
Now 11-years-old, Gonzalez is looking forward to training this summer at the Royal Ballet School in London. It’s a prestigious program that has produced many of the world’s top dancers.
But it isn’t always easy being a boy in ballet, Gonzales says. Sometime other boys tease him for being “girlie.”
He says, “My mom and my dad always tell me, ‘If you’re going to be a dancer, you hold your head up high if that’s what you want to do.’”
A large part of his support system is his family, and his mother, Irma Gonzalez, says she’s helped him through some rough moments.
“When he was in third grade I went to pick him up. He came to the car very silent and very pale. I said, ‘What’s wrong?’ and he said, ‘Somebody called me gay.’ I said, ‘Well it’s not that strange, and it’s not that bad. So can we talk about that? Do you think that your profession makes you like that? Whatever you decide to do you can be a banker or a teacher… I want you to be happy. If being a dancer makes people think you have different preferences — and if you do, whatever — but it doesn’t make you that different just because you like that,’” she said.
Dante’s been able to pass his confidence on to other boys at Florida Ballet.
“ I had a boy ask me, ‘Oh, you’re a dancer, does that really make you a boy?’ and I said, ‘Yes, of course. It’s what I love to do,’ and I see him here two years later dancing and saying, ‘Thank you,’” he says.
Dante Gonzalez heads to London this summer.