It’s 2009, and my highschool self is within the studio choreographing a brand new duet with my finest pal to Pink Floyd’s “Want You Had been Right here.” The corporate director pokes her head in and disparagingly tells us the music and motion alternative makes us seem like “a few lesbians.”
We stand in surprised silence. I grew up in a performing arts household and had by no means as soon as correlated being homosexual with being dangerous. My director’s tone, nevertheless, tells me a really totally different story. My mind recordsdata the dialog underneath the heading “Being a Lesbian Dancer Is Not Okay.”
I want I might say that after highschool, my world opened up vast, and I noticed an abundance of illustration inside the dance world. I didn’t. Although I had out-and-proud friends, they have been the topics of frequent whispers. I nonetheless didn’t see any feminine or female-identifying professionals out. I didn’t have my first queer feminine instructor till graduate college. I went by means of a number of dance historical past programs with out a lot as a point out of a queer feminine.
I got here out publicly after finishing my MFA. As I continued to check dance historical past, it felt odd to not see myself in something I used to be studying and watching. It actually appeared as if queer girls have been simply absent from the dance historical past canon. In distinction, queer males have been broadly acknowledged—we learn about Alvin Ailey, Invoice T. Jones, Merce Cunningham, the difficult historical past round Vaslav Nijinsky. We’ve information of queer males in dance even when they lived in eras when homosexuality was punishable by legislation or shunned by society.
Why does the dance world have a good time the queerness of males whereas concurrently suppressing its queer girls? It drove dwelling my internalized emotions that queer girls have been, in truth, not welcome within the dance neighborhood.
In 2019 I started to show dance to highschool college students, and the extra time I spent with them, the extra I needed higher for them. I needed them to see themselves in our historical past. I needed them to see themselves represented, to see profession paths past what I had chosen. Statistically, there needed to be queer girls in dance’s narrative—so the place have been they? Was their absence a fault in my training or reminiscence, or within the area of historical past itself?
This 12 months, I started to go looking in earnest for the queer feminine dancers of the previous. (I’m nowhere close to the primary particular person to probe for comparable solutions in queer dance historical past; Clare Croft and Peter Stoneley are two trailblazers that spring to thoughts.) I had anticipated to unearth communities, fashionable greats who had “particular pals” or “roommates” or “fellow spinsters with whom they lived their complete lives.” As an alternative, I discovered little or no. And what I’ve seen, I’m baffled by. Why, after I realized about Yvonne Rainer, was her sexuality by no means talked about? Although I don’t consider we should always “boil individuals down” to their sexual orientation, are we not contemplating illustration for these in our school rooms? Why can we strip girls of the identical identities we applaud or a minimum of acknowledge in males?
It appears like each a society-at-large and a dance-community drawback. The dance world is so gendered. Its therapy of individuals in accordance with their gender identities is painfully unequal. And we’ve traditionally gone by means of durations of acceptance, tolerance, and oppression of the LGBTQIA+ neighborhood, with no linear timeline. The facet impact is that we’ve figures of dance historical past who couldn’t come out, no matter their desires and wishes.
As I proceed my analysis, I ask two issues of the dance world: Can we create house for queer girls to be out, celebrated, and acknowledged? And may we work collectively to seek out and acknowledge our queer feminine dance ancestors? Once we root ourselves in our previous, we give ourselves one thing to develop from.
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