MARTINEZ -- When Joshua Bigness finishes his day at Martinez Junior High School, he heads to New You Dance Center (NYDC) and begins rigorous dance training.

"I think it's pretty cool to be able to dance," says the 11-year-old. "Not only can I show off moves, it also helps with flexibility and strengthening every muscle in your body."

Joshua is among the growing number of boys taking up dance as an extracurricular activity, and Alexander John "AJ" Rogers owner, director of NYDC, is teaching them the moves.

"Most of our (student) percentage is boys. That's unheard of in California," Rogers says.

Although statistics for the number of boys versus the number of girls enrolled in any dance classes or schools are vague and elusive, empirical studies indicate girls greatly outnumber boys.

"About 35 percent of girls and 8.4 percent of boys report dance as part of their regular physical activity," noted a study examining the prevalence of dance among youth by Jennifer O'Neill, Russ Pate and Angela Liese of Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina published in October 2011.

Additionally, national statistics show the number of boys enrolled in the nation's 32,000 private dance studios is also low.

But the numbers of male dancers are on the rise, says Rogers, who attributes the television dance competition show, "So You Think You Can Dance" as a factor for increased interest among boys. The TV series began airing in July 2005 and reportedly became the number one-rated summer show.


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Rogers performed on the show and says he took his own dancing to a new level after a weeklong intensive study with the show's famed choreographer, Brian Friedman. Rogers says dancing and the opportunity to study with Friedman gave him the confidence to identify his own style.

A self-taught hip-hopper, Rogers began teaching in Walnut Creek in exchange for professional dance instruction when he was 15, and continued until he was 18.

During his years working with professional choreographers, including Cris Judd who has worked with the likes of Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson, as well as dancing with Dave Scott, the lead choreographer for many motion pictures, including "You Got Served" and "Step Up 2," Rogers developed his own style of dancing and teaching.

"I don't (teach) out of a book," Rogers says.

Instead, the award-winning dancer deconstructs the various dance steps and body movements that make the dance happen.

"I break it down so I can teach it to kids," Rogers says.

He then develops a dialogue to communicate to individual students how they need to control their muscles to re-create the body movement.

Rogers is building his studio through teaching dance at various schools' after-school programs. Along with teaching dance, students are entertained with a personal performance that gets them excited to learn, particularly the boys.

"A lot of boys come up to me after and ask, "how can I do this?" says Rogers. "Boys see me as a male role model."

It was a performance by Rogers that excited Joshua, 9, who was attending his 3-year-old sister's ballet recital. Among the different acts was a dance by Rogers.

Joshua was hooked. He wanted to dance.

"I never really thought about it until I saw AJ," says Joshua. "I saw his solo and I thought it was pretty cool. He made it look really easy."

Joshua's mother, Carrie, signed him up for classes.

"It was really hard," he says. But he kept on dancing. "I think I might like making it a career."

Joshua is not shy about dancing saying, "I've had a couple of people come up and ask me to dance." And he obliges.

Joshua, who has studied ballet and jazz at NYDC, says the hardest part of dancing is the stretching to become flexible enough to perform a routine. The easiest is "probably learning the numbers; doing them is a different than knowing them."

The best part is "finishing a dance and performing," he says.

Joshua spends many hours learning new routines and getting in shape for the 2013 competition dancing.

But like with all dance students, Rogers insists students pay attention to their school studies. NYDC has an area above the dance area that is quiet for students to do homework while waiting for their class or when taking a break.

For more information, call 925-293-4726 or visit www.newyoudancecenter.org.

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