I am beginning to get annoyed with the fundamental sexism of ballroom dance. It's up there with figure skating, except the ballroom people freely admit that a plurality if not majority of the male dancers are gay. I went to a "gender-free" ballroom workshop this past weekend. This should not have to be a specific thing, and yet it is. When even Ye Ballroom Instructor, a dude who won titles dancing with other dudes, has to consciously remember to say "lead" and "follow" rather than "he" and "she", the gender essentialism must be pretty fucking entrenched.

I lead whenever I am given the choice. I am not making any kind of political statement or asserting any kind of gender identity. I lead because it's easier for me, and I have more fun. There are so far three whole people on planet Earth that I can follow to any useful degree. With everyone else, it is a long frustrating sequence of having to tell my brain to cut that shit out, without actually knowing what shit that is, because frankly I am so much better-suited to leading that I can't tell when I'm crossing the line between "keeping myself from falling" to "leading the dance". If you've ever busted your dominant hand and had to spend a few weeks doing everything with the incompetent one, then you have experienced the same kind of aggravated clumsiness.

The only place I am routinely given this choice is at events run by Ye Ballroom Instructor. I mentioned this to him once, and his response was 'yeah that's how it goes'. I'm just like, does this not bother you? Even a little? Judging from the results of the workshop, I can both lead and follow him just fine, so at least there's that.

I'm told there are female leads in the local lindy hop community. They show up in borderline-drag and still apparently have to get very pointed about asserting it. The other (ex-competition) dancer who co-taught the workshop complained that always leading meant never getting to do all the pretty spins. So apparently I'm not a complete space alien.

I've considered finding myself a nice lesbian bar to practice in, but I'm afraid that would end badly. I get hit on enough in dance clubs where you're explicitly not supposed to do that on the dance floor, can't imagine how many noses would get out of joint if I tried to just go dancing in places where people do hook up. I'm not even sure it would work -- for all I know, I'd run into the same problem there, just framed as "butch" vs "femme" instead.


  1. Try contra dancing, maybe? The roles are usually identical , because a "set" is 2-4 couples dancing together. (Or maybe try moving to the West Coast, Bay Area? I know I've seen *true* gender-neutral calling at California dances, where they really did call "leader/follower" or "left side/right side".) Also, and I say this as a person who do not go to bars, I suspect your experience in lesbian bars would be different than your experience in straight bars. Good luck to you. I enjoy dancing too.

    1. I don't doubt that lesbians are not as obnoxious as straight dudebros, but I'm still afraid going and hanging out in bar where girls hope to meet girls would go badly, inasmuch as I'm not interested in women. I do try not to invade spaces where I don't belong, at least not if I'm not accompanying someone who does.

      I haven't done contra dance, but I do know how to square dance. I don't hate it, but I don't find it all that fun to play Simon Says with a musical backing. It lacks the specific element of one-on-one communication that makes ballroom dance so interesting to me. It's a thing you do when you want to socialize briefly with many people for the evening. I want the experience of socializing fairly intensely with one person for about four minutes, then wandering away to sit the fuck down.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

State of the Blogger