So, let's talk a whole bunch about dancing, now that I have ranted at Marc some, and so I have removed all the anger and returned to just frustration.
First off, and mostly unrelated, I feel there ought to be a seminar at things like NEFFA and Flurry which just goes through some of the beginning dance things that can apply to multiple dance forms. Things like "Give weight" or "the most important part of a figure dance is ending in the right spot". Also, up is towards the music, down is away from the music, heads are the people facing or backs to the music, sides are the people with their sides to the music.
Though in all honesty, I can distill all of dancing into three things that everyone should know: Get to the right spot. Give weight. If you're not having fun, you're doing it wrong.
Second off...heh. Yeah.
So, today was the Regency tea dance, where I was again specifically asked by one of the local1
dance historians/teachers to never dance the lady's role while dressed as a gentleman (or perhaps to never have a male partner dance the lady's role while I danced gentleman, which is a problematic distinction, so out of charity I will assume I was asked the first2
). The reason is for the sake of the newbies --fine, whatever, it is indeed easier for a new dancer to identify the gentleman and lady's sides of the dance when the people on them are appropriately garbed.
However, if you are going to require me not dance in the lady's role while a gent, then I am going to require two very important things from the dance community at large.
First of all, I require gentlemen to stop asking me to dance. This happens at least once at every ball I go to, and tonight it happened three times for the same dance
, which is exasperating, offensive, and time-consuming. If a gent asks me to dance, I must politely explain that I am a gentleman3
, disentangle myself from him, and find an eligible lady. This wastes my time, and it wastes the time of my fellow gentleman.
To the end of the dance masters and mistresses, perhaps the best thing you can do to discourage this is to refer to me properly, as a gentleman, when explaining dances. Saying something akin to "and then you will dance with the gentleman across from you --or the lady dancing the gentleman's role" while referring to me4
does not encourage your dancers to treat me as a gentleman.
In more blunt terms, when I put on the full tailcoat et al, I am not a lady dancing the gentleman's role. I am a goddamned gentleman, and I will
dance the gentleman's role, except in the most dire or intriguing circumstances.
The second thing I require is that, if you insist that gentlemen may not dance together, ladies may not be permitted to ask one another to dance until and unless there are no unpartnered gentlemen.
Oh no! This is terribly sexist, isn't it? Why can't ladies ask each other to dance? Well, because if all the ladies on the floor are dancing with each other, and I am left alone at the end with another gent, our choices are to not dance, which goes against every reason I am here5
, or to split up another couple, which always feels *terribly* rude to me. Perhaps the other couple is a pair of old friends, who do not see or dance with one another near oft enough. Perhaps one of the other couple is not comfortable dancing with men. Perhaps one is trying to learn how to dance the role of a gent, or is more comfortable doing such. Certainly, they may be quite pleased to be split apart, but especially when they flocked to one another in the early stages of choosing partners, it feels cruel to demand they separate.
So, if gentlemen are not allowed to dance together, then the ladies must wait until all the gents who wish to dance have partnered before joining hands. And certainly, a lady may ask a gent (and I am always honoured and pleased when it occurs to me) in order to expedite this process, but she may not be allowed to ask another lady until there are no unpaired gentlemen.
Now, for what it's worth, I think that second rule is complete and utter bullshit. When I am clothed as a lady, or clothed gender neutrally, I often ask other women to dance, in either role, because there are many people I like dancing with, and not all of them happen to dance the gentleman's role. I am fond of this ability.
Furthermore, I am perfectly willing to dance with another gentleman. Honest. I won't freak out or feel I've lost out on an important flirtation6
, or feel otherwise cheated. I know many gentlemen --male, female, or queer identified-- who feel the same way, and are perfectly willing to dance either role with another gent.
And no, I'm not even encouraging male/male dancing7
(though I will happily get argumentative about that as well). I am simply pointing out that you cannot insist gentlemen not dance together unless they are in surplus, and still allow the ladies to dance together whenever they please, thereby potentially locking gentlemen out of the dance entirely.
Mostly unrelatedly, I also refuse to ever follow the rules of gentlemen not dancing together when it comes to couple dances at balls or other dances where there are very few of such, like only a single "last waltz". Nine times out of ten, the person I bring to dance with me is male identified, so I am _damn well_ going to dance the "special" dance with him. There is no gentleman's or lady's side to throw off the newbies with, and if it's a special important "dance the last waltz with your sweetie" dance, I see no reason why charity towards an inexperienced or unpartnered lady is more important than me getting to dance with my special important sweetie. If that makes me cruel, I happily accept the title8
Almost entirely unrelatedly, it makes me weary that I so often get into conversations about costuming, and someone assumes that I am clearly looking for advice or resources to put together a proper lady's ballgown and corsetry. Um. No, I'm sorry, I am wearing this tailcoat and waistcoat because I prefer to
dance the gentleman's role9
identify as a gentleman at Regency events. It is not some sort of hand-me-down "pity" garb, that I am only using until I can get an appropriate gown. I know this is a huge gender-issues clusterfuck of a thing, and will probably not be fixed in my lifetime, but man, it hurts so stupid much every time someone invalidates my masculinity by insisting or implying that I am clearly a lady, I just happen to be wearing guy's clothes.
Um, beyond that, the tea dance was fun, albeit simple, and I should never be the best dancer10
at a Regency event, that is just heinously wrong. There were delicious cookies. People complimented me on my garb, and my ludicrous non-period hat (FEATHERS).
Also, word on the rumour mill is that maybe there might be some sort of Regency-for-Scottish-dancers in Boston sometime (knock on wood), so hopefully that will happen and more of you will be available. If not, I will just have to dance with you otherwise, huzzah!
MOOP!1: Where local covers the upper half of the east coast
2: If you are saying that I *may*, when dressed as a gentleman, dance in the lady's role without that being problematic in terms of confusing newbies, where a cisgendered male dressed as a gentleman dancing the lady's role *would* be problematic in terms of confusing newbies, then you are NOT ALLOWED to use any variation on "because newbies cue off costumes" for why gentlemen and ladies should stick to their own sides. Because my costume is decidedly and distinctly male.
I don't know that this happened. But I also don't know that it wouldn't happen, and I find that offensive as a genderqueer person in general, and as a male-identified dancer specifically.
3: It _maddens_ me that I have to do this. It is not like I am wearing a relatively genderneutral t-shirt and jeans. I am in knee breaches, hose, a shirt, waistcoat, cravat, and tailcoat, and somehow people still assume I am dancing the lady's role? I am not talking about friends wanting a dance with me, I am talking about complete strangers who come up and ask me. What. The. Hell.
4: I'm not clear if this actually happened today, but it has certainly happened before, and even if the teacher was referring to one of the lady-identified people dancing the gentleman's role, I got more than a few glances from around the room.
5: I go dancing to dance. Everything else is secondary. I don't give a shit about your costumes, your food, or your gender roles, all I want is music and a dance.
6: I have been made livid about certain conversations in which it was pointed out that you can't have genderbalance by having a fem/fem couple, one of whom always dances the gentleman's role, because the women who danced with that female-as-gent would feel "cheated" out of a dance with a "real" male. Which is one of the reasons I've been told I can't go to Newport as a boy (in order to increase my chances of getting in). I shit you not, that is some queerphobic bull-fucking-shit right there, and I don't pander to *phobes.
7: As in, men specifically making a point of asking other men to dance, at the beginning of the "finding partners" portion of a dance, (as opposed to the end when there are no other available partners) which, yes, I suppose could technically deprive two whole ladies of dancing. Because they can't possibly dance together. Because --I shouldn't start this rant. Basically, it boils down to "everyone should learn every part, because then everyone can dance more".
8: Is Kat perhaps bitter about two assemblies ago? Noooo, how could such a thing be true!
9: I feel I should point out that in all truth, for all dancing, I prefer to be as ambidancetrous as possible --dance as evenly split down the lead/follow (or lady/gent) line as possible. However, if I am formally dressed in the costume of one gender or another, that means I am much more inclined to be dancing the role I'm presenting.
And I do really love dancing the gent in Regency. There's a lot of flirtation, gentlemen get more and better solo sequences, and I happen to prefer vests to basically every dress ever. Now that I think of it, I should change the wording up there --regardless of what role I dance, I vastly prefer to dress the gent.
10: genarti may very well have had the footwork and figures better than me, and there were certainly a few of the EA/CVD folks who both knew what they were doing, and had the springyness to support it. But I was decidedly in the top tier, and that is _insanely_ inappropriate for my skill level, and that of the people I know.