Feminist Dance

As many young female bodied individuals I also found myself in dance class early in my life. My mother had me enrolled in many classes and for a while I am sure she was using it as a babysitter. I took ballet, baton, tap, and jazz classes from the age of 4 years old until I was about 9 years old. Its really not that long of a time, some people describe taking classes most of their childhood. I do remember early on performing ballet and tap with my older brother, he was 5 years older than me. Anyway, in those years I loved the dance but I always felt like I missing something. As a child I chose to stop taking classes and my mother let me make the decision.

So here 30 years later I sat and thought about my love for dance. When I was married to my husband and trying very hard to be hetero-normative I often was most excited about dance classes. I specifically remember taking numerous dance classes of all sorts. When I thought about all the classes I remembered one class in particular – African Dance. I took a few classes at some festivals I attended. The classes were often taught by a man and a woman and I was usually guided to the female role. Often I would find myself doing what the male does, if not in the class at least in private. Its almost like I am wanting the male role in the dance….and since I am a drag king!

Well Drag king is fun for many reasons and one of them includes the exploration of my relationship with music, which includes dance. I have been thinking a lot about my dance background and I was lead right to tap dance. As I listened to the very jazzy christmas song “Happy Elf” by Harry Connick Jr. I could feel myself tap dancing. I suggested it to my creative partner and we ran with it. I got my shoes and I felt the dance pouring out of me. As I practiced for my christmas show I watched myself in the mirror. I found that my old dancing habits re-emerged and it was like riding a bike.

I also immediately realized that I had learned some things as a kid that I needed to remove from my dance moves. The biggest and hardest thing to remove was the way I held my hands. I remember my dance instructor standing next to me and if my hands came up above my hips while tapping she would push them back down. She taught me that girls hold their hands down and men are above the hips. Mostly she was just traditional, unaware, and trying to get the routine to LOOK the way she wanted it to look. Now I realize that training needed to be removed. I needed to dance from my heart. It took weeks to take out some of things that were trained into me but eventually I was able to connect the two. My soul danced its heart out in this performance! I won’t stop dancing – I don’t care what gender roles it breaks!

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