I came across an interesting read on Homophobia & Salsa: Same-Sex Couples on the Dance Floor. Immediately, I thought of the disasterous times I tried to lead in Salsa. Some particularly bad experiences include:
- Two men stopping my dance with another women, and split us apart:
- Guy: “you want to dance with us?”
- Me: “I’m learning to lead.”
- Guy: “then you come dance with me.”
- Thinking he was going to dance as follow, I agreed. To my disappointment, he tried to hold me as a lead.
- Me (again): “I’m learning to lead”
- Guy: “I can’t follow. Why do you want to lead? You want to teach dance?”
- At this point, I saw no point in explaining I simply want to learn lead, and said “yes.”
- Guy: Drags another man over. “He can teach you”
- After the previous instance, I decided to bring my husband and ask him to dance as a follow. If there’s a man and woman, then we won’t get pestered, right? Wrong! When dancing with him, a man tried to correct him for not holding me correctly.
- A women left me in the middle of a class that rotates partners, and walked across the room to partner with a male lead.
Of course, not everyone is so rude. The instructor at one of the event above was very excited to see me leading and even came by to show her excitement. Similarly, I didn’t have these issues with Los Salseros de Stanford’s workshop. Though it is annoying that a few people can make the experience so uncomfortable.
My Favorite Dance Spots for Role Reversal
For people who’d like to explore nontraditional dance roles, here’s where I felt most comfortable dancing role-reversed.
Everyone will probably agree that college campuses are more open minded. At Stanford Lindy Project, it seems that all club officers of both genders are comfortable with both leading and following. No only that, many of the students also relish at the chance to learn and practice a different role in Lindy Hop. Of course, my first time there involved two men teaching the lesson, so that helped set the norm that roles are not confined by gender.
Check them out on Saturday 11:30am-2:30pm at Stanford, or see more about my experience dancing there.
While newcomers at Wednesday Night Hop may find me taking on a lead role to be confusing, the regulars are very supportive of nontraditional roles. When I saw a confused face in the Level 1 Lindy Hop drop-in class even after I told her I’m leading, I said “just pretend I’m a guy.” The instructor immediately chimed in and explained to my follow: “No, dance roles are not defined by gender,” to which I’m very grateful. Later during the social dancing, I also observed many people dancing in nontraditional roles.
Check them out on Wednesday evenings 7:15-11:45pm in Palo Alto, or see more about my experience dancing there.
There’s typically a few dancers taking on nontraditional roles in Friday Night Waltz’s intermediate classes. (Disclaimer: I haven’t taken the beginner classes for years so I can’t comment on those.) People will typically still assume I am taking on the traditional role by gender, but they are respectful when I explain that I’m leading. Very rarely, I may get some awkward looks from my follow in the class. There are also people like Bob who enjoy reversing roles within one song, so it’s a great place to practice switching roles while mid-dance!
Check them out on Friday evenings 7pm-midnight in Palo Alto, or see more about my experience dancing there.
Many people agrees that Aregentine Tango is a hard dance, and I know several dancers got into Tango after becoming familiar in other dance styles first. So I’m glad I already lead in other dances before I came to Tuesday Night Tango, where everyone learns both lead and follow roles in the classes. In addition to being a great place to learn both roles, this is a very friendly and welcoming place for anyone wanting to start dancing Tango.
Check out Tuesday Night Tango on Tuesdays 7-11pm in Palo Alto, and keep an eye out for a post on my experience dancing there!
Dance Spots with Role Reversal Dancing
Here are other places that may be good for dancing role-reversed. I’ve seen people take on nontraditional roles, but I haven’t tried it myself.
The dancers at For Dancers Only are quite skilled in Lindy Hop, which is why I didn’t feel confident enough to lead here. Also, I typically take class as lead and social dance as follow, and missed the class at this event. Here, I saw many people dance in reversed roles, and see many of the same people from Wednesday Night Hop and Stanford Lindy Project who switch between roles with ease.
Check them out on 1st, 3rd, and 4th Fridays 8:30-11:45pm in Sunnyvale, or see more about my experience dancing there.
The blues-fusion scene has many of the same people from Lindy Hop spots mentioned above, so it’s unsurprising to find people at South Bay Fusion who can dance as both lead and follow. Bob, the organizer, confirms that many regular dancers are role-neutral.
Check them out on Thursdays 7pm – 1:30am in Redwood City, or see more about my experience dancing there.
Bob learned to “gender bend” at Contra dancing himself. There’s often more men than women, so he quickly learned that he could either sit out a dance or just dance as a “lady,” and he prefered the latter. Sure enough, I often saw two men partnered together. I think there’s not as much difference between dancing as “gent” or “lady” in Contra since the dance is called, compared to dancing as “lead” or “follow” in some partnered dances, so it should be easy to switch roles in theory. In practicality, I didn’t notice any female “gents.” Though Phil tells me that some people trade roles at top or bottom of sets, so I may have just been too busy dancing to notice.
Check them out on 2nd, 4th, and 5th Saturday evenings 8-11pm in Palo Alto, or see more about my experience dancing there.
Ceili feels quite similar to Contra but with more energy. At Stanford Ceili, I’ve seen both female “gents” and male “ladies.” And the label “gents” and “ladies” are remnants of the past used for convenience because the dances choreographies are written this way, but in reality no one seems to care.
Check them out on Tuesdays 7-9pm or Thursdays 8:30-10:30pm at Stanford, or see more about my experience dancing there.
More “Ambidancetrous” Dance Spots
I asked on Facebook for input on more places to for me to try, and got a wave of responses:
- Argentine Tango:
- Lindy Hop
- Blues & West Coast Swing & Fusion
Now let’s go break some traditions!