The BuzzFeed Breakdown of Queer Dance

History of Queer Dance

BuzzFeed recently released a video that is everything plus a bag of chips! Choreographers Kumari Suraj, Jonte Moaning, Derrell Bullock, and Brian Friedman have put together a history of queer dance through movement, and it totally has us reaching for our high heels. It’s like time traveling through a queer dance space time continuum… and it’s amazing.

The video is perfectly compiled of five different genres of fabulous, which include; Voguing, Waacking, Drag, Hip Hop, and Jazz Funk. It begins with all of the dancing queens in one room (picture the Geneva Convention, but if the Geneva Convention was sparkly and amazing). Then the genres begin to emerge. First is the voguing section, which includes Derrell Bullock, Dolores Parisi, and Noel Bajadas. It’s voguing like you’ve never seen it before, and dare we say… better than Madonna (gasp)! Then we are blessed by the waacking crew, Kumari Suraj, Lorena V, and Lashaun Price, who serve up a mean slice of sass. Next up is the Drag section with Calypso Jete, Jasmyn Simone-Echelon, and Mystic Befierce-Miller, which of course comes with some splits and death drops. The Hip Hop/ house, heels section includes Jonte Moaning and Tovaris Wilson (whose jazz funk classes you can take right here on DancePlug!), and it’s one of our favorites because HELLO… can you say nostalgia. It will bring back all of those 90s feels. And of course Brian Friedman rocks the ending with his Jazz funk section, accompanied by Jade Chenoweth, and Taja Riley. But the best part… all four choreographers come together at the end and give us all of the feels!

The video is also completely raw and unforgiving. There is no holding back… from the truth behind the movement to the honesty of the uncensored music, this video tells it how it is. Also, notice how the whole video takes place inside a relatively dark and low lit space - this is quite the statement, and is a salute to the many queer dancers who had to keep their dancing underground. The video is a wonderful gesture of respect and appreciation for the history of queer dance. Check it out for yourself - take your pick

Original Version

Choreography Version

Happy Pride Month!

Bey & Jay's New Vid Has Us SHOOK

Beyoncé and Jay-Z "Everything Is Love"

Unless you're living under a rock, you probably know that everyone's favorite Queen Bey released an album last weekend she created with her husband Jay-Z called Everything Is Love. Much to our delight, the pair incorporated dance right off the bat! The cover of the album features two dancers of "So You Think You Can Dance" fame: Jasmine Harper and Nicholas Slick Stewart, both from season 10.

Beyoncé and Jay-Z "Everything Is Love"
Jasmine Harper and Nicholas 'Slick' Stewart in front of the Mona Lisa

Of course, this famous singing duo never does anything halfway. The album's lead track is called "Apes**t", and Mr. & Mrs. Carter have released a video for the song. And, of course, it's pretty epic. The video was filmed in Paris's Louvre museum, which houses some of the most iconic art in the world. (Side note - how did they make that happen? Did they close down the museum for the day? More than one day? Did they film overnight? We have to know!!)

In true Beyonce fashion, the video incorporates some sweet dance moves. But unlike many of her previous videos, much of the movement is unmistakably contemporary. In addition to their usual choreographers, JaQuel Knight and Chris Grant, the Carters actually hired Belgian choreographer (and current artistic director for the Royal Ballet of Flanders) Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. You may recognize that name - he's collaborated with Damien Jalet and Akram Khan, and has created work for companies like Geneva Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, and the former Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet.

Iconic.

Want to learn more about some of the symbolism of the art featured in the video? Read this article

What's Better Than a Protest? A Dance Party!

Welcome Mike Pence: Big LGBTQ Dance Party

Pride month has been showing some beautiful colors this season, but one of the most notable dance-related moments so far has to be the gay Pence party. The conservative vice president has made it clear that he is not in support of the LBGQT community, but that has not stopped LBGQTers from expressing their pride in a peaceful and fun way. In fact, a recent groovy protest turned into quite the celebration.

Vice President Pence made a visit to Columbus, Ohio and was given an enthusiastic greeting thanks to the "Welcome Mike Pence: Big LGBTQ Dance Party.” The event was planned by Jay Smith, who was quite surprised when the Facebook event drew in a larger crowd than expected! What was so wonderful about the event is that it was really just one big dance party. The event took place just outside of Pence’s hotel and it was equipped with a DJ (Democratic politician and candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Ohio, Betty Sutton), Queens, and some sick dance moves.

There's a lot of political unrest, and we are very glad to see people expressing their opinions and feelings in a fun and harmless way. Moreover, it’s always inspiring to see dance used as a vehicle for love. And while no one can say for sure if Pence enjoyed his welcoming party, you can’t help but picture him tapping his foot to the music inside his hotel room. We hope that dance can continually inspire an attitude of respect, mutual understanding and peace.

Watch NBC4 coverage here.

This Dancer is Working To Be The First Male Ballerina

Chase Johnsey in the English National Ballet's "Sleeping Beauty" - photo by Elliot Franks

Last week, the English National Ballet performed their version of "The Sleeping Beauty" with all their usual glory - elaborate sets and costumes, and lovely dancing. However, it was a groundbreaking moment for Chase Johnsey, as he became the first male dancer in recent history to perform a traditionally female role in a major ballet company. 

In an interview with The New York Times, the American-born dancer said that he "wants to be seen as a ballerina. My hair is up, I wear makeup, female attire. I am able to do female roles and look the part, so that is artistically what I do." He chooses to use the male pronoun but says that he is gender fluid. He has had facial surgeries to make his face appear more feminine and has been working with a nutritionist, physical trainer and ballet mistress to reshape his body, which included losing 20 pounds off his 5-foot 5-inch frame. 

Johnsey was formerly a member of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, famous for their comical renditions of classical ballets with men dancing en pointe in the leading roles. In 2017, he won an award for 'best male dancer' at Britain's National Dance Awards for his work with the company. For his role in Sleeping Beauty, however, he performed as a member of the corps de ballet, appearing in the character-dance sequences in character shoes.

The director of English National Ballet Tamara Rojo (who was recently under fire for her management of the company as well as her relationship with a dancer - see our reporting on that here) told the NY Times that she felt this step was "reflecting the world we live in. There are different races, cultures and beliefs in our company - this is another aspect of that view."

We're all for gender equality, and for people expressing their true selves by any means possible! It takes a truly brave person to do what Johnsey is doing. But this does open up an interesting debate. One the one hand, ballet has been used for centuries as a way for men to express feminine characteristics. And why should it matter who is performing the role, as long as they are embodying the character and executing the choreography with passion and grace? But, as Isabella Boylston told the Times, companies need to be "open to it going both ways" and place women in male roles as well. 

What are your thoughts? We want to hear from you - leave us a comment below!

Read the entire interview here

photo: Chase Johnsey in the English National Ballet's "Sleeping Beauty" - credit: Elliot Franks