Jimmy Long has been dancing since he was seven years old. And as his talent has grown, so has his passion.
“I want to be a professional dancer I just don’t know if I want to do commercial dancing which doesn’t require college, or if I want to do concert dancing which does require college,” said Jimmy.
Now 14, Jimmy is a dancer at Midwest Edge Dance Academy, where he participates in hip-hop, jazz, and other dance styles.
But that desire to dance was pulled into question when, after a performance by Midwest Edge at a local elementary school, some in the audience heckled him and the other male dancers.
“Our understanding was our dance troupe, who were performing at a local school event, unfortunately was on the receiving end of some heckling, which devolved into a few homophobic slurs which were directed at some of the male dancers,” said Greg and Mary Long, Jimmy’s parents.
Greg was inspired to create t-shirts with the phrase #DanceOn to support the male dancers at Midwest Edge, figuring he could sell enough to make a small donation to the dance academy.
He sold a few more than that.
“At this point, we are at $12,000 raised, 10,000 social media hits, 300 different donations,” said Greg Long.
Instead of a donation to the school, the Longs have provided four different dancers with scholarships to Midwest Edge.
“From the age of ten to the age of 18 I’ve dealt with close-minded people,” said Nathan Lopez, one of the #DanceOn scholarship recipients. “Growing up I was the only boy at the studio, and now coming to Midwest Edge, there are so many boys and it’s such a great environment. Boys and girls can dance together without any judgment.”
The #DanceOn movement will continue to help boys who want to participate and work to remove the stigma around dancing. But in the meantime, Jimmy isn’t worried about future heckling.
“I know this is kind of cheesy but don’t listen to what other people say, just do what you want to do because you’re probably not going to know them in a couple years or remember who they are,” said Jimmy. “So just keep doing what you want to do and if you get made fun of for that, who cares.”
Spinning a bad experience into an inspiring cause.