Emmitt brings dance out of closet for men

'If the great Emmitt Smith can do it, so can I,' some men think.
MILWAUKEE (AP) -- Jay Pintor was convinced that dancing "didn't look manly." Not even five years of cajoling from his wife, Nicole, could coax him onto the dance floor.
But it took only three months for football great Emmitt Smith to change his perspective.
Smith, the NFL's career rushing leader, was half of the winning couple on the third season of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." Dance instructors across the country say Smith's victory in November has redefined the boundaries of "coolness" and inspired legions of reluctant men who otherwise considered dancing beneath their dignity.
"I definitely wasn't into it," said Pintor, 40, a landscaper who attended a recent "Dancing With the Stars" performance with his wife at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee. "But then you see this big football player doing it -- I mean, you don't get much manlier than Emmitt. I just don't feel as awkward anymore."
Now Pintor practices waltz moves in his living room with his self-taught wife, a change of heart that dancers say is playing out across the nation.
Enrollment increase
There are no official statistics on dance-studio enrollments. But instructors say they've seen a surprising increase in the number of formerly hesitant men, who say Smith is the reason they're giving ballroom dancing a whirl.
Bobby Gonzalez, manager of Arthur Murray Dance Studio in San Jose, Calif., said he definitely noticed an "Emmitt effect." His studio added about 45 students during the three-month period in which Smith's "Dancing" season aired, as compared with about 10 in the same period last year.
"Lots of guys didn't really give credit to how much [dancing is] a sport, how athletic it can be," said Gonzalez, 43. "But Emmitt definitely proved it is."
Male dancers have frequently risked stigma although performers such as Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire and Savion Glover have "made the world safe for men," said Dan Froot, who teaches choreography and performance at the University of California at Los Angeles.
Kris Gehring of Hartford, Wis., was nicknamed "Twinkletoes" after he told other construction workers that he now takes ballroom dancing lessons. But he takes the teasing in stride, especially since his burly friends seem more intrigued than condescending.
A marketing agent for Smith said the former Dallas Cowboys running back was not available to discuss his dancing.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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