This All-Male Dance Company Wants to Quash Gender Stereotypes

10 Hairy Legs is one of only a handful of single-gender dance companies in the nation.

10 hairy legs
10 Hairy Legs is one of the few single-gender dance companies in the U.S. Courtesy of 10 Hairy Legs/Nina Wurtzel

[Editor’s note: Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all events mentioned below have been cancelled; the company hopes that they will be rescheduled this fall if conditions allow.]

Their name seems silly, but their quest is anything but. With each performance, the dance company 10 Hairy Legs celebrates “the artistry of the male dancer.”

“Breaking gender stereotypes,” is how company member Robert Mark Burke describes the New Jersey group’s mission. “[We’re] pushing the audience’s vision of what a male-identifying dancer can be.”

Artistic director Randy James and executive director Elizabeth Shaff Sobo founded 10 Hairy Legs in 2012 with five alumni from Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts, where James used to be a full-time dance professor. James had also previously helmed Randy James Dance Works and was president of the nonprofit Dance New Jersey.

Today, the 10 Hairy Legs roster consists of about 14 dancers. The single-gender company is one of only a handful in the nation, claims James.

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The company is also unique in presenting the work of multiple creators. Twenty-three choreographers have developed works for the group, including 13 commissioned pieces in various styles, from ballet to dance theater. Three new works will debut on June 25–27 at New York Live Arts. “When you’re just going to have one sex [or] gender on stage,” says James, “[you need] to have diversity in all the creators.”

In addition to local performances, 10 Hairy Legs tours nationally and offers educational programs. The group has served more than 25,600 elementary through college-aged students and educators during master classes, performances, long-term residencies and intensives in 18 states, South Africa and the Cayman Islands.

On April 18, Burke will make his 10 Hairy Legs choreographic debut with his piece A Sunday Kind of Love, as part of a tribute to jazz great Louis Prima, at the Jay and Linda Grunin Center for the Arts in Toms River. The Ocean County College dancers will also perform. On May 15, the company will appear at County College of Morris.

James is focused on “presenting positivity,” he says, “and showing that men can be strong and sensitive and tender, and touch does not have to be sexual.”

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