Stereotypes abound in dance: all the women are straight, all the men are gay, and everybody wears exceedingly tight pants.
Except when they don’t.
Ok, so a lot of the men are gay, and the majority of the women are straight, and there is a plethora of tight pants. But stereotypes are meant to be broken, right? The modern dance community, in particular, is known for breaking the mores of dance, if not the ones of life.
In spite of the high ratio of gay dancers, the dancing itself is often decidedly straight. We create love duet after love duet portraying heterosexual relationships when the demographic of the dance community tends to tip the other direction. Young dancers in ballet classes are trained which steps are the boys’ and which are the girls’. The men lift the women; the women wear the dresses.
Except when they don’t.
Curated by Rebecca Kling, GenderFest this weekend explores life and love in performance through an LGBTQ lens. Headliner Sean Dorsey and Co. graces the stage at Links Hall with The Secret History of Love. The festival also includes performances by spoken word artists Ellie Navidson and KUKOMO, as well as excerpts from the Youth Empowerment Performance Project.
As the first out transgender American dancer/choreographer, Dorsey’s waters are largely un-charted, especially when you place him against the stock heteronormative love duets you can see at dance performances throughout the country on any given weekend.
The Secret History of Love explores historical, actual relationships developed over a two- year research process in collaboration with the LGBTQ Elders Oral History Project. TSHoL blazes a trail for the love stories that, throughout history, have remained largely untold and against social codes, if not the law.
The appearance of GenderFest on the roster of dance performances this weekend suggests that performance can and does stray from the typical boy meets girl story. Ultimately, LGBTs are itching for stories that resonate with our own, and not just in the genres of drag and burlesque. In the case of The Secret History of Love, our stories are elevated to the level of Modern dance (capital M) and approached with a sensitivity and authenticity that I personally have never encountered.
Catch GenderFest this weekend at Links Hall (3435 N. Sheffield) Thursday through Saturday at 8pm. Tickets are $12 in advance, available at http://linkshall.org
Lauren Warnecke is a freelance dance artist and writer based in Chicago, IL. She regularly contributes to danceadvantage.net and 4dancers.org, in addition to her own writing pursuits at artintercepts.org and craftylauren.com. She holds degrees in Dance (BA, ’03) and Kinesiology (MS, ’09) and is currently a Visiting Instructor for the Department of Kinesiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Lauren is a certified ballet teacher through the Cecchetti Counsel of America’s Midwest Counsel and a member of the American College of Sports Medicine. Also a Certified Master Composter, you can often find Lauren arm deep in worm poo, perusing her neighborhood farmer’s market, and generally speaking up for local and sustainable food culture. She has a fetish for 50′s housewives and likes to hike and bake scones.