Everyone knows gay dancers have always been a huge part of the ballroom world as top dancers, coaches, educators, world champions, but until relatively recently, in competitions, it was always telling the traditional romance story between a man and a woman. The same sex world beginning to find ways to tell the gay romance story on a competition floor is new.
I think watching same sex dancers and choreographers as they create and define a new art form tweaks all of us dancers in some new and helpful ways. It makes us think…what characters do we as dancers and choreographers want to present?
How exactly do we want to show ourselves as men and women?
Are there ways we can be both strong and feminine, or sensitive and masculine? Might we show exciting romantic relationships on the floor that are closer to the romantic relationships that exist in our lives, and the same time still use to the maximum what is most beautiful and powerful about the dances of the many great dancers before us? Can we make dances in which we as individual dancers bring in a bit more of who we really are?
After all we are part of a great history of an art form whose technique has developed over years and has become more and more efficient so that dancers are able to express themselves and their relationships in incredibly refined, dramatic, and powerful ways. The knowledge of how to train our bodies is out there so that we can express what we choose to express very clearly. And as we grow technically as an art form, doesn’t it also makes sense that we grow and expand the romantic story that we tell, to fully express what is most beautiful and true about our relationships?
Personally it always gives me a sense of joy to watch same sex dancing, perhaps because I never quite felt like I fit in with the stereotype of what it is to be a woman. I am 6′ tall. I never knew how to wear make up. I never felt particularly intimidated or submissive to men, nor a desire to be submissive. I was good at math. I love my husband, and I also expect him to respect me as an equal, as I respect him. Seeing dancers presenting characters outside traditional gender roles is comforting. When I watch the gay couples, strong women, flowy gorgeous men dancing, I feel this very visceral, “Yes, it is OK to be you, you, who you are, whoever that may be, it is really OK to be that person completely. In fact, it is beautiful who you are, and you will be loved.” At same sex events a warm and enthusiastic audience’s reception just reinforces this feeling.
It touches on the universal experience – everyone has some part of their being that is irrationally not embraced by mainstream society and is therefore shoved “in the closet.” And what a beautiful moment it is when we fully accept these parts of ourselves. It is then that we can be truly authentic as performers, as we then have both something true to be authentic from and the freedom to chose to share all or parts of ourselves as we like.
Same sex dancing not only makes us think about and be conscious of what gendered characters we present on the dance floor. It reminds us of the possibility of showing through our dance the beauty and celebration of who we really are.
About the author:
Suzie Hardt is the author of MOVING AS TWO: A Guide for Ballroom Dancers Looking for Balance, Freedom, Power, and Harmony in Partnership. She has a dance studio in San Rafael, California