Wednesday, January 15, 2020

UCLA's Dance Team's First Male Member: Meet Devin Mallory

In a big school, it's not easy for a student to stand out. At St. Ignatius College Prep there are nearly 1,5000 big fish. Making waves in a pond that big with that much tradition isn't easy. But to the delight of teachers, students and the larger SI community Devin Mallory '17—who recently became the first male member of UCLA's Dance Team—made an indelible impact. Here's how. Here's why.

When young people share their gifts and talents, when students take risks and reveal their passions and deepest desires, it's hard not to notice. Authenticity, beauty, excellence speak for themselves. The expression of oneself in that way has and will continue to inspire others, open hearts and minds and yes—make an impact.

In the Fall of 2013, I noticed that a young man joined the Dance and Drill team at SI. On one hand I suppose I took note because this crew is typically female. More importantly however, it was hard not to notice this dancer. He was naturally gifted. I realized that he took a risk in pursuing something I could see he took seriously. It's never easy to go against the norm, especially in high school, but that's Devin.

Over the course of four years at St. Ignatius, Devin Mallory became one of the most talented and memorable dancers I have ever seen. Like all students he matured in age and in wisdom and as a dancer he grew into his athletic and graceful physique. His height and stature, flexibility and pliability, his innate rhythm and feel for the music brought this art form to life—to my life and the greater life of SI. 

I will never forget waiting in anticipation to see his performance at the Fine Arts Assembly each January or the spirit he would bring to Dance and Drill's half time performance inside War Memorial Gym for the Bruce Mahoney game. I want to say that Mallory got a standing ovation from his classmates when he earned the Fine Arts Award near graduation. It sure felt that way. 

Because of the memories Devin gave us, because of the impression and expression he left with us, it should come as no surprise that a current SI teacher thought to share a recent piece in the LA Times via social media, Devin Mallory is doing what he loves as first male on UCLA’s dance team about his new strides and success.
I must have watched the dance routine ten times. In fact, I was so inspired, I shared it with my current students who don't know Devin and who attend a different school. I wanted them to see his talent, to think about the impact that they might make in their own school (which is even bigger) and to encourage their peers to pursue their passions, too. 

Devin's larger story is quite important. Thuc Nhi Nguyen writes 
Growing up in San Francisco, a city known for inclusion, Mallory said he was met with compassion and support from his friends when he dedicated himself to dance. He thinks it may have helped that he specialized in hip-hop, a style that seems to earn more street cred for its aggressive moves .
Mallory still believes boys are often discouraged from dancing because dance comes with natural flow and body awareness men aren’t often expected to have. 
In a 2009 study that surveyed 75 males 13 to 22 years old who were studying dance in the United States, Wayne State University dance professor Doug Risner found that 96% of participants experienced teasing and name calling and 70% reported verbal and/or physical harassment
In Moral Issues, I used this piece to ask if there are any compelling reasons or arguments why a young man should not pursue dance. In other words, Why is it—or should it be limited to girls/women? In Sports and Spirituality, I revealed how and why I find the story and his dance to be spiritual. I asked them, Do you? This was a great day.

I would like Devin to know that I am not overstating things. The sharing of your gift and talent for dance brought me joy for four years. I'm so grateful you have continued to share that with others and in new ways. You keep getting better. You truly embody AMDG. 

Photo Credits
SI Photo Archive

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