When Thom McIntyre and the teachers at Philadelphia Dance Center planned parent-child classes for Valentine’s Day -- videos of which have since gone viral -- they had no clue the response would be so overwhelming. They just hoped the families would get a kick out of the experience.
In fact, McIntyre’s concern wasn't that the press would mob him, but that a parent would get hurt. So he had all the moms and dads sign waivers, which also conveniently set him up with permission to use images from the classes during the ensuing media onslaught.
“I had to bring in my sister to help man some of this,” said McIntyre, 37, who was losing his voice Sunday from doing so many interviews.
Videos of the dads -- a few of them in tutus -- bumbling along after their graceful daughters have more than 18 million views on Facebook. Media outlets ranging from USA Today to BBC Russia picked up the story. On Saturday, students and parents who were part of the viral classes traveled to New York to perform on Fox & Friends Weekend.
“Your FATHER/DAUGHTER/SON Dance Class was better than ANY anti-depressant!” Gerry Pearson of Toronto posted on the studio’s Facebook page Sunday.
McIntyre is enjoying the attention, which he hopes to use to raise awareness about the importance of dance for boys. Even before this media whirlwind, he was striving to combat the stigma that dance is just for sissies.
“There are major football players who take dance for agility and balance,” McIntyre said. "It’s not all about silliness and tutus and sequins and rhinestones. It’s about giving these boys another outlet.”
He is starting a scholarship fund to draw more male dancers to his studio on Crispin Street in the Northeast, which currently has four boys among its 50 or so students who take everything from hip hop and lyrical to ballet and tap.
McIntyre, who grew up in Academy Gardens, began dancing when he was just 4 and his sister’s studio needed boys for a couple of performances. Opening his own studio, which he did eight years ago, was a long-time dream, he said.
Dancing is a way for children to express how they feel and provides discipline and exercise, McIntyre added.
It’s such a workout, in fact, that father Leo Romero -- whose 11-year-old twins Gabriel and Isabel both study at Philadelphia Dance Center -- said he was sore for two days after participating in their back-to-back classes Tuesday afternoon.
“It was definitely a physical workout, and actually made me even more amazed that they do this anywhere from four to five times a week,” Romero said.
His son Gabriel wrote in an email that he liked dance because it was a “special way to let feelings flow through movement and just simply relax and let out all the stress and tension gathered from the day.”
After the incredible outpouring of support for the dads’ participation in dance, McIntyre is now planning for the fathers to join an upcoming performance with the troupe at Walt Disney World this spring.
McIntyre and Romero said none of the parents who are featured in the viral videos have been embarrassed about being seen worldwide clumsily prancing around.
“They love their kids,” McIntyre said.“They did this for their kids. This is something they wanted to do.”