19. The Queer Swans of Dance

Look up the phrase “Lesbianism in dance” and Google will pull up three or four legit pages and the rest linked to porn websites.

On this the day after same-sex marriage’s victory across America, I want to bring up an issue closer to my heart than it might appear to be.

What does it mean to be a lesbian in the world of dance, specifically ballet? Where are they? Who are they? Why is there more to loose than gain for queer females in dance than queer males? It’s a topic that is larger than these questions and myself, but it’s a topic that needs to start between dancers of all dance forms.

And this is by no means limited to just lesbian dancers, but open to all sexual orientations, obviously bisexuality being my affiliation, that are not heterosexual; it’s just a bit more simple to write about one orientation than all the different, lovely kinds.

The first really personal legit information I found on lesbianism in dance came from a blog post on The L Stop. Blogger Lauren Warnecke put it simply, “More importantly, I quit dancing. Lesbians DON’T do ballet.” It’s sad to say that I felt the same way during my teenage years, when luckily I stopped worrying about being a “lesbian” in ballet and just became a person in dance. A lesbian is portrayed in media to be the one into skateboarding, surfing, biking, basketball, softball, and maybe cheerleading. The male gaze wants the female in ballet to be available to him, ready to express a heterosexual pas de deux before a female partnership on stage.

The statistics and stories for male identified queers in dance, ballet mainly, are starting to piling every year, and that is necessary and wonderful. However, there are no numbers to back lesbians up and there aren’t enough stories to connect those of us still struggling with this identity and this activity.

Aside from a few tales of Isadora Duncan’s orientation or Josephine Baker’s extraordinary career, we aren’t left with much of the past for lesbian dance pioneers. A largely silent, or silenced, group of dancers have yet to become a bit louder, or at least as loud and open as their male counterparts.

Dance luckily is an art form that is open, accepting, and ready for changes to the status quo. Lesbianism in dance is a personal and deep journey that I wish had more of a public following and understanding, more than porn and more than what is out there with the silly Black Swan Portman and Kunis scenes.

And this is not to say that lesbians are not in the dance world, because, trust me, I know they are there. They are in all dance; in modern dance, in contemporary dance, in salsa, in butoh, in hip-hop, in improv, in ballet. And on and on. They are strong and wonderful and just as important as the strong and wonderful gay male dancers.

I’d love to do more research and learn more about this topic. But mostly, I want to help out more and find ways to get resources and a community going publicly and proudly for queer identified women in dance. Maybe it’s already out there and I’m just not looking hard enough. But if it’s that hard to find, a community of women dancing with their proud pride badges, then there’s the problem and we need the solution soon.

The future of queer dance is upon us, America! More female partnering and characters of queer orientation, more pride in personal sexual orientation, and more opportunities for open connections.

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