Dance anyone? Despite efforts towards a more inclusive space, traditional ideas of masculinity continue to foster a lack of diversity in the U.S. college dance spaces. As the first male dancer on the famed UCLA Dance Team, there is no denying the impact Devin Mallory has made on the college and professional dance worlds. Competing at top tier competitions on television, such as World of Dance and The Kelly Clarkson Show, Mallory brings authenticity, inclusivity, and energy to the stage and court.
What motivated you to pursue becoming the first male member of the elite UCLA dance team?
I was first on the UCLA Spirit Squad as the university mascot Joe Bruin. My background in dance created many performance opportunities for me as a mascot. I danced against fellow mascots on game days and had the opportunity to perform with the UCLA Dance Team. After my first mascot performance alongside the UCLA Dance Team, I was asked to do a guest performance with the dance team, not as Joe Bruin, but as myself, Devin. This was an invigorating experience, and the support from the team inspired me to pursue a spot on the team.
In the past, male dancers have auditioned for the UCLA Dance Team, but no one has successfully made it on the team. As a BIPOC male, I intended to only audition with 100% confidence that I belonged on the team and at that audition.
Where have you performed, and can you share a standout experience?
After breaking barriers as the first male member on the team, I’ve performed at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion and The Rose Bowl, as well as many televised performances such as for The Kelly Clarkson Show, Inside Edition, Good Morning America, and Spectrum. I’ve also recorded at the infamous UCLA John Wooden Fitness Center.
A standout experience was my first game as a member of the team, where we performed at the Rose Bowl. I remember running onto the field and feeling so empowered, executing what we as a team trained months in advance for.
You’ve been compared to icons such as Michael Jackson – who do you take inspiration from?
After our viral dance performance to “Smooth Criminal,” I was compared to Michael Jackson. I take a lot of inspiration from those around me, as everyone evokes some form of authenticity that I work to implement and express through my movement. Two people at the top of my head I take inspiration from are Misty Copeland and Roslyn Warby, who have such control and understanding of their bodies. They also represent inclusion, which I heavily work to embed in my dance journey.
There are many notable male dancers in the professional and club worlds. Why do you think the sports and college stages have been slow in creating a more inclusive scene?
I think sports and college stages have struggled with creating a more inclusive scene due to how male-dominated the athletic space is overall. Having a male dancing on the field or court counters ideas of stereotypical masculinity. And very few styles of dance easily harmonize with toxic masculinity.
How do you overcome any negative reactions you receive?
For a long time, I struggled with letting go of the negative reactions that were consuming me; they were taking over how I perceived myself. I brought my focus to my loved ones and those who have supported me, bringing more meaning to the love and affirmations I received rather than the hate.
How can we further inclusivity and representation in the dance world?
I do not think inclusivity and representation can happen overnight. But when people find empowerment through their passions and differences, there is an opportunity for people to make themselves heard and seen. We cannot control people’s perceptions, but pursuing our most authentic selves, no matter the result, will inspire and possibly create change.
What impact do you hope to have on the dance world, both on young dancers and veterans?
I hope to be an image of authenticity and to help create a space that welcomes others to pursue their most authentic selves with me, in and out of the dance space.
The Kelly Clarkson Show featuring Devin and his team's performance
KEEP UP WITH DEVIN ON INSTAGRAM HERE!
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Interview conducted and written by Naomi Segal