Dancing in the Face of Violence

Some of my semi-coherent thoughts and feelings in of the recent shooting at Pulse. Love to the families of the victims, the LGBTQ and Latinx communities of Orlando, and anyone else who’s been having trouble making sense of world lately:

In an otherwise meh performance I saw on Saturday, there was one image that stuck with me all night: a cloud of smoke meant to resemble a bomb with people dancing tirelessly through it. The coexisting images of dancing and bombs, as if there were nothing contradictory about them, seemed as strangely affirming as it did absurd.

When I read the news on Sunday, the only thing that made sense to do was nothing. The next morning, the only other thing I could do was dance. It’s a pretty useless thing to be doing, but maybe that’s what made sense about it.

Some people have expressed shock that people could be shot in a place where they came to feel safe, have fun, and dance. But the truth is that queer clubs have always been sites of dancing in the face of danger. Maybe some of us are in a time, place, or social position that lets us forget it, but queer clubs around the world have grown up in the face of violence, whether from criminal attackers or law enforcement.

In this space, with this history, there’s no need to check the shooter’s race or religion or background to recognize a shooting as an act of terror—especially for queer people of color, it’s all too clear that targeted violence meant to invoke fear isn’t only something that comes from Muslims or brown people or immigrants.

And yet the very existence of clubs like Pulse—filled with dancing—is testament to everyone who has refused to let their body be paralyzed by that fear.

In the face of violence, dancing is a pretty useless thing to be doing. But maybe that’s kind of the point. Even when they’re after your life, you refuse to let them reduce your body and your movement to the bare functionalism of fight or flight.

Refusing to let them tell you what not to do with your body. Refusing to make it quieter and smaller as a plea for tolerance or safety. Asserting your will not just to survive, but to live. Demanding that your community be defined not just by oppression and death stories, but also by dancing and life stories.

Dancing through guns, through bombs, through tears, through fears. Keep dancing y’all.

 

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Why This “Girl in Tights” is Over the “No Homo” Defense of Ballet Boys

Being a boy in ballet can be rough. Like a lot boys with interests counter to expected gender roles, they can get targeted for being “girly” or “gay” (whether or not these things are true).

But let’s also pay attention to how we’re responding to this type of bullying.

The Real Man thing again? Eh, I know plenty of men who lift nothing and are still pretty real.

One of my least favorite defenses of boys in ballet is the “no homo” defense (with a side of misogyny). Growing up, I heard a lot adults tell boys who do ballet to respond to “that’s gay” comments by replying that they spend their days surrounded by hot girls in tights that they get to touch.

Now I can hardly blame a kid for saying what he has to say to get through middle school–though the adults encouraging it might be a different story–and I get that it sucks to have people make assumptions about your sexual orientation, but it always bothered me that:

  1. People care more about disassociating ballet from “gay” than disassociating “gay” from “bad.” (And what if that kid is gay?)
  2. As one of the “girls in tights,” these statements always made me feel uncomfortable and objectified.
  3. I also like girls, but I certainly never came to ballet class to check people out. I would be pretty offended if someone suggested otherwise—so why should it be different for boys, who are also probably coming to class for the purpose of actually learning ballet?

Because let’s be real, ballet is hard, and regardless of your gender or sexual orientation, you’re not gonna stick around long or get very far if you’re only there for the purpose of staring at butts.

What does it say about our cultural values that staring at butts (as long as it’s hetero) is considered a more acceptable motivation for boys in ballet than practicing a challenging art form?

Look, I want to erase the stigma associated with boys in ballet at least as much as anyone else–but we can’t do that simply by erasing gay boys in ballet and waving around flag of aggressive heterosexual masculinity. That only trivializes the commitment of male dancers, demeans female dancers, and devalues ballet itself.

If really we want to end a stigma based in homophobia and gender-policing, we’re gonna have to actually fight homophobia and and gender-policing. 

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Credit to Asher for inspiring this post!