Dante Grayson is the first male Pioneerette since the creation of the Warren County High School dance group in 1974.
Grayson, who is 16 and a junior at the high school, found his passion for dancing while in middle school when Kristy Weeter, the coach of the Warren County Middle School Dance Group, began encouraging Grayson to dance and instructing him on how to do so.
During the tryouts, Grayson was nervous due to the fact the first year he tried out as an 8th-grader was the first time the middle school had a dance team. The most worrisome part for Grayson was the fact he was the first male dancer the town had seen.
“I was scared,” says Grayson. “Mrs. Kristy told me she didn’t know if it would be approved or not since there had never been a male on the team, and it was the first year the team had been created. She came back to tell me Mr. Tidwell of the middle school had approved me dancing on the team. It was the first time a male had participated in what was commonly known as a female sport in Warren County.”
The experience was new for Grayson, as he had previously played soccer before developing a love for dancing.
“I didn’t find out I liked dancing until my 8th-grade year when Mrs. Kristy was my first dance teacher in middle school,” says Grayson. “My love for dancing kind of just went from there. It was hard because it was an all-girls sport.”
Grayson tried out his 8th- grade year for the middle school dance team. He didn’t try out for the Pioneerettes during his freshman year due to the stigma he was facing. However, during his sophomore year, Grayson became more comfortable in his own skin and tried out, making the team as the first male Pioneerette.
“I do remember during the first practice, the football players looked into the girls’ locker room and questioned why I was in there. That gave me a little bit of a push. I used to watch the Pioneerettes from the hill when I was younger and saw the pom-poms which inspired me. I always looked up to how amazing they were, and that made me want to be a Pioneerette,” says Grayson.
Grayson was also encouraged by the show “Dance Moms.” He used to watch the television program, and the performances inspired him to participate in the middle school talent show in 6th grade as a dancer. Grayson listened to the song “Heartbeat” by Beckah Shae with the beat inspiring him to fall in love with hip-hop.
“It was a new experience even for the middle school, but especially for a male dancer since many people hadn’t seen a male dancer before,” says Grayson.
Grayson faced adversity as he began to dance.
“When I started dancing, people always asked why. It was always a question. It was always why did he decide to do that?“ says Grayson. Every average boy played football, basketball or soccer. I’m not trying to be that boy. I knew I wasn’t that boy at a young age.”
Grayson’s love for fashion created a sense of being different. Since he was unique from most of his peers, Grayson experienced bullying from others.
“I remember one time coming out of soccer practice, I just fell to the ground after being bullied. My mom said she would talk to the coach, and I said ‘No. It’s not worth it,’ ” says Grayson.
Grayson gets more encouragement at the high school, but he still feels as though people are biased regarding him being a male dancer.
“It’s something I have to negotiate with myself and let go because it’s honestly what I want to do, not what they want me to do,” says Grayson. “I was soft-hearted in middle school, but I’ve grown out of my shell and realized who I am, as well as the discrimination that is being faced.”
“When people bully, I realize that makes them feel better, but that is not who I am. I’m not the type of person to respond. I’m happy with myself. People can believe what they want to, but I know who I am,” adds Grayson.
Grayson is highly supported by his fellow Pioneerettes and says they came in with open arms to welcome him, as well as the coaches and choreographer. Grayson is supported by his family, as well.
Grayson’s favorite part about dancing is the passion he feels. He looks forward to dancing at the end of the day. He believes dancing makes everything better.
“The ability for me to get out there and show the passion and love for this sport means everything to me,” says Grayson. “Dancing is all about getting up there and doing what you love and leaving it all on the dance floor.”
Since young men have always played the most common sports, Grayson hopes the difference in him being a Pioneerette will encourage others to do things out-of-the-box, such as boys dancing or girls being able to play football.
Grayson disregards the judgment or negativity which he may face. He hopes to encourage young men who may be different and want to dance have the courage to do so.
In the future, Grayson hopes to enroll in a four-year college and achieve an undergraduate degree in fashion while practicing to become a pharmaceutical representative. He also hopes to open a dance school in Warren County or another location to help others achieve their goal, regardless of how different it may be from societal norms.