Tag Archives: tea dance

Dancing Should Not Be an Act of Courage

Hi everyone. I really tried to find something lighthearted and funny to say today, because we need it, but I couldn’t. The Pulse night club shooting is disgusting and horrifying, and another shooting in a long, exhausting list of shootings. I’m bone tired of it. If shooters don’t care about killing kids in schools and people in theaters, why should we be surprised that someone wants to kill gay dancers of color at a club?  And yet most of us are surprised, so that’s something. The minute we become desensitized to these shootings is the moment we are lost. But we are becoming numb and overwhelmed. It feels hopeless sometimes. Have any gun laws changed since Sandy Hook? Has the conversation between responsible gun owners and people who are horrified by guns advanced? It doesn’t feel like it. It just feels like many dispersed organizations are working on different aspects of this madness. Maybe we are moving the needle, but it doesn’t feel like it’s nearly enough. Well, actually it isn’t enough because this shit keeps happening.

Most of my best times dancing have been in gay clubs. The thing is, I like to actually dance, and when I went to straight dance clubs in my 20s, I could dance the way I wanted to until about 1 am. Then the straight boys who had been hugging the walls and were previously too sober to cut loose and dance were very drunk and looking to score before the 2 am deadline. So there was a lot of slobbering and grabbing in that last hour, and most of my dance moves were deployed to avoid them. If they had actually danced with me–really danced with me earlier –they might have had a shot. There is nothing sexier than a man who can dance and be comfortable in his own skin. The straight men of previous generations who could only legitimately be close to a woman by dancing with her got that. Or they were at least forced to learn how to dance if they wanted to meet women. I don’t mourn all the sexism back then, but I do miss a straight man who can dance and enjoy himself .

So where’s a dancing girl to go? The gay clubs of course. There I learned so much about gay culture and history. Back in the day the clubs were often unmarked and you could only get in with a password. They were and are hallowed and safe places for people who are often reviled for just being themselves. I came along after the password era, but some of the clubs I went to were still unmarked.

Then and now, once I enter a gay club, I am among men and women who can dance. Who are enjoying themselves. Who are dancing like there is no tomorrow. My kind of people. I spend many Sunday nights at a gay club, Club Cafe at what they call a tea dance, one that starts in the afternoon, rather than at 10 pm. Here’s the history from the Back2Stonewall website:

“By the late 60s, gay men had established the Fire Island Cherry Grove and also the more subdued and “closeted” Pines (off of Long Island, in New York) as a summer resort of sorts. It was illegal at that time for bars to ‘knowingly sell alcohol to homosexuals’ and besides many of the venues there were not licensed as ‘night clubs’ or to sell alcohol. To avoid attracting attention, afternoon tea dances were promoted. Holding them in the afternoon also allowed those who needed to catch the last ferry back to the mainland to attend.”

And now some gun-owning person stunted with hate has made going dancing a courageous act. And going to school, and going to a movie theater. It’s bullshit, ridiculous, and tragic. I’m sorry, responsible gun owners. You have to step up. You have to help figure out the solution to this. I’d ban every effing gun in the country, but the NRA and many of you find that unacceptable. So what is the answer? You’re the one with the gun, with the passion. Tell me. How do we keep guns in the hands of people like you and out of the hands of stunted people who hate? Tell me. I’m going to go dancing looking over my shoulder, looking for the man who is not dancing, is not comfortable in his skin. So you tell me. What is the answer? Tell me.

You Should Be Dancing Part II

I’ve written a couple of times about dancing.  Nearly every Sunday early evening I dance at a mostly disco tea dance. Friends and family have asked me at various times in disbelief, “Do you really go dancing every Sunday?” Then they recount how they are in their pajamas on Sunday nights or don’t have that kind of energy. But what I try to explain is that the dancing and the music feeds me. I want to go. Unlike the gym, which is rarely fun to drag myself to, but I’m glad I did, dancing for me is fun to anticipate, fun to do, and  fun when I get home sweaty and hepped up endorphins by 9:30 or 10 pm (so much easier than club dancing that starts at 10 pm). Body moved! Calories burned! I certainly wouldn’t drag my ass out on a Sunday afternoon to listen to a lecture on the meaning of dance as a transformative activity in society. Heck, I probably wouldn’t watch other people dance on stage, either. I recently went on a  Sunday to see the Oscar-nominated short films at the Institute of contemporary art a few weeks ago, but that freaked me out, so that was not a good substitute for dancing. All I’m saying is if there’s something you love to do and it happens on a Sunday from 6 to 9 pm, you do it, which brings me to my topic. You were having serious doubts that I was going to get there, weren’t you?

The harsh reality is that I have not been going dancing as much lately, mostly because my fabulous dancing friend Mike broke his foot. The story we’re sticking with is that he was getting chased by a group of hot, young man who wanted to have their way with him; he is such a giving man, but in trying to accommodate them all, he broke his foot. As a result of his Herculean heroics, he’s been in a cast and on crutches for six weeks and just found out it will be four more weeks of the boot.

You’d think that would’ve stopped our dancing in its tracks, but it actually had only curtailed us. The photo above is exhibit A: dancing with cast. We’ve gone dancing twice now and because we’re professionals we quickly adapted to the new situation.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, here are our 4 tips for dancing with a broken foot.

  1. Get a stool, preferably one that rotates, but a non-rotating one will do. This seems like a no-brainer, but what we quickly realized is that the stool becomes a dancing prop much like my scarves. Sure, at first Mike just sat on it, but the beat of the music has its own life force and it must be obeyed. Soon Mike was rocking it out in the stool.
  2. Stool placement is critical. Do not place the stool next to a fellow dancing regular who always sits in the same place every week. This is his or her territory, so be mindful of that. Where we dance, Whistle Guy has such a spot. He sits there for most of the night, blows a whistle rhythmically and with discretion during the right songs (Donna Summer’s “Bad Girls” is a favorite), and he bestows beaded necklaces that he makes himself on the lucky few during the night. I’ve been lucky four times in the past two years. His stool is near the tables at the back of the dance space. Because it’s more practical to not have to drag chair through a crowd of dancing people, we set up Mike’s stool close to Whistle Guy. He was pretty good about it, but I got the undertone to his joke about “not getting too comfortable.” Rule #1 among the regulars is to keep peace among us. The interlopers will come and go and may disrupt the routine from time to time, but we regulars are in for the long-haul and must get along. As the night went on, I understood that he’s got his thing going on and didn’t want us cramping his style. Duly noted. The second time we went dancing I cleared a path through the bodies and carried the stool closer to the front of the room. I waved at Whistle Guy as I went past. His big smile and thumbs up was all I needed to know. All was well in our little dance regulars world.
  3. Your stool is a dance partner, not a piece of furniture. If you’ve ever seen that scene where Fred Astaire dances marvelously with a coat rack, you know this is true. It took us a little time, but Mike was soon learning to move around on the stool. Then when he turned it around and straddled it with the back support between us, we were transformed. Suddenly, his leg was up in the air and I was holding on to the back of the stool and sliding underneath it. I shimmied, Mike swirled. We hit our stride when Mike, an infuriatingly natural back-bender, began to do back bends to the floor, sometimes holding on to the back of the stool, sometimes not. I held on to the back and did my own back bend in counterpoint.
  4. Have fun, and don’t worry what you look like. The fact is you’re dancing with a boot. You look and are absolutely fabulous.

Mike and I have 4 more weeks of stool dancing–who knows what moves we’ll make up next.