Stepping up

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Chatfield High student is ‘proud to be a dancer’

By Ramsey Scott

The Nutcracker was a girl. That didn’t sit right with 8-year-old Tyler Humphrey. 

Tyler, now 15, had previously seen his mother in a performance of “The Nutcracker,” and he asked indignantly why a girl was cast in a boy’s part.

“I told him it was because there weren’t any boys to play the part,” said Demelza Humphrey, Tyler’s mom. “I told him, ‘You’re the only one who can change that.’ ”

Right after that performance, Tyler joined a ballet class at the Foothills Park and Rec District. Tyler’s mother, father and older sister all were involved in dance, but his own goals didn’t include soaring across a stage.  

“I joined to help with soccer,” Tyler said. “But I quit soccer right after, and now ballet is what I’ve got going for me. It’s that one big talent that can get me somewhere in life.”

Tyler’s talent was evident last weekend as he portrayed the Prince in Foothills Park and Rec’s production of “Cinderella.” 

Tyler’s goal now is to dance professionally for the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle. But taunts from from classmates in middle school almost led him to abandon his newfound love.

“When I started middle school, it was bad. I got picked on a lot. I was suicidal,” Tyler said. “It’s hard to talk about. It was that one year that was horrible.”

Tyler was bullied for defying a stereotype that suggested boys who dance are effeminate and odd. 

“All we could do was support him and give him the tools to cope with it,” Humphrey said of her son. 

For Tyler, though, the bullying couldn’t eclipse the joy he experienced while dancing, and so he refused to quit. 

“I’m not any of those stereotypes — I’m just a dancer,” Tyler said. “They made me think about quitting. … I tell people proudly now I’m a dancer. Laugh at me if you want; I’m proud to be a dancer.”

Since entering Chatfield High School, Tyler said, everyone has accepted who he is and what he loves to do. His dancing has progressed to the point that he regularly attends summer camps at the Royal Academy of Dance, one of the most prestigious ballet programs in the world. 

“No matter how hard my day is, I always have dance,” Tyler said. “I can forget about the world and just dance.”

And, as far as his mom can see, Tyler got the last laugh on the bullies.  

“When he goes to the Royal Academy of Dance summer camps, it’s him and 95 girls. All the other guys are in a smelly locker room,” Humphrey said. “You tell me who’s the winner.”