Addis Ababa to Doha
March 16, 2017
Seat 10D (although I tried to change that)
Warning this post may come across as more of rant than an entry.
As I lounge in this upscale mall otherwise known as the Doha Airport I ponder a question that keeps coming up on this African Adventure – Why is there such a stigma with men dancing in America? When I was 16yrs old and started seriously studying dance it was common to be in a class with 30 women and maybe 2 men (and with that I mean sexually questioning men). It’s the exact opposite here in Africa – we have been teaching classes where the men far out number the women, like 30 to 3. Why? Why is it so accepted here? And why are the men so damn good? I mean natural talents, fearless and fierce (and probably straight too).
The dance here seems traditional – women dancing with women and men with men, ritualistic, delicious in it’s repetitiveness and exuding sheer joy. The dance is rhythmic where rhythm doesn’t seem to be apparent and always with wide, glowing smiles.
I can’t help but remember that time in High School, I think it was a talent show or a student assembly, when the entire student body was in the audience. I remember it was lunch time and my friend Latoya Jackson (yes that was her name and yes she was the only black girl in our class) and I decided to create a dance together to Janet Jackson (no relation to my friend LaToya). Hit play (was it Pleasure Principle or Rhythm Nation? I am almost positive it was Rhythm Nation) 188.8.131.52.1 and let the isolations begin, we were synchronized and ready, ready to share our joy of dance. And then it happened – fag bashed from the top row of the bleachers, from the senior class bullies, from the insecure shit heads (yes I am not afraid to let my anger rage). That rage, it still lingers but I am no longer looking for sympathy as that was almost 30yrs ago and those bullies in the back of the bleachers are most likely fat, bald, divorced and unhappy – and I am sure they haven’t had nowhere near the amount of life experience I have. So what is the lesson? To follow your joy, not your judgment.
But maybe it was the bubble-bee-yellow spandex outfit I was wearing that initiated their insecurities or the fact that these white privileged kids never saw dance. Most likely it was the gay factor that stigmatized the dance so maybe it’s not really about “men dancing” but about “gay men dancing”, about our cultural fear of being gay. It’s time to let that heal and it is time to let all kids dance – IT IS TIME FOR MEN TO DANCE!
I am literally overwhelmed by the dancers here in Africa and especially the male dancers. What a breath of fresh air to see such incredible talent unabashedly exploding from such beautiful souls.
What can we do as a society to encourage all our kids to dance? I encourage you to hit these two links and I also encourage parents to teach their children by example. Dance for Every Child and Boys Dance Too.
My rant continues – after three weeks in Africa it becomes evident that as Americans we are really missing out on the beautiful traditions of dance, of the healing and social aspects as well. We can be more than just the electric slide or a drunken chicken dance. We can be a community where everybody is welcome to dance. Trust me dance is our universal language.
Phew it feels good to get that rage out, maybe now I can bury it. I will forgive you if you forgive me for “I am that too”. To be honest when I go to the ballet and the curtain goes up and there is a male dancer in white tights with bulging body parts my inner homophobia goes into overdrive (mixed with a tinge of eroticism too). As the orchestra begins and the magic on stage comes alive I’m waiting for someone high in the balcony to giggle or worse to shout out “fag”. And I am that too – I too feel homophobic but I need to let that go because I want everyone to dance, I want everyone to experience this African experience – THIS JOY OF DANCE .