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HomeDanceLooking for Dance Historical past’s Queer Girls? Get started Right here

Looking for Dance Historical past’s Queer Girls? Get started Right here


Within the November 2023 factor of Dance Mag, dancer and educator Samm Wesler asks: The place are dance historical past’s queer girls? Right here’s a reaction from dance artist, educator, and previous Dance Mag editor in leader Wendy Perron.

It’s true: Lesbians in dance historical past have no longer been as visual as homosexual males. It hasn’t been as open a secret as with the male dancers you identify. In our box, homosexual males are extra prevalent and extra accredited—it beats me which got here first.

Perron—wearing a dark top, flowing pants and sneakers—is seen in profile, with her hands raised to her chest and her head thrown back, eyes closed.
Wendy Perron in her solo “Large Canine” at Danspace, 1978. Photograph via Richard L. Goldstein, courtesy Perron.

As a dancer who recognized as a lesbian for a five-year bite of my previous existence, I’ve watched how attitudes have modified. Sara Wolf wrote in a 2003 article titled “Lesbian Choreographers Redefine Movement” that “previous to Stonewall, the state of the art downtown dance scene was once no longer open or hospitable to lesbians.” However even after Stonewall, it took girls longer than males to return out.

In 2011, dancer-choreographer Pat Catterson wrote an essay in Angle titled “Can You Inform I Am a Lesbian After I Dance?” She principally spent the primary 30 years as a dance artist hiding her id. “I sought after to stick within the closet professionally,” she wrote. “I didn’t suppose it might be wonderful to my occupation to speak about it. . . . In part it’s that we make a choice to be invisible. Homosexual males in dance don’t. Visibility is most likely extra of a legal responsibility for us.”

Perhaps it’s only a topic of numbers—{that a} positive mass is important earlier than there could be a sense of group. It sort of feels that queer girls dancers have a tendency to be remoted, while homosexual males dancers are a part of a social swirl.

Your query was once about queer girls in dance historical past, so let’s return. The American Loie Fuller, moderately older than Isadora Duncan, took Paris via hurricane within the Nineties, no longer via displaying her frame, however via overlaying up her frame with implausible imagery—a lily, a butterfly, a flame. Regarded as some of the moms of contemporary dance, she invented lights units that, together with yards and yards of silk, created those pictures as a surprising theatrical coup. She had a long-term dating with a girl; in Dancing Girls: Feminine Our bodies On Level, Sally Banes describes L. a. Loïe as an brazenly figuring out lesbian. (For a deeper dive into Fuller’s sexuality and the encircling homophobia, see Ann Cooper Albright’s e-book Lines of Mild: Absence and Presence within the Paintings of Loïe Fuller.)

Jill Johnston, the renegade Village Voice dance critic of the 1960s, was once out, very a ways out. Her number of dance opinions, titled Marmalade Me, is very important studying for somebody who needs to grasp the rebellious Judson Dance Theater. Staging her personal rise up, round the similar time because the Stonewall Riots, she shifted from writing dance opinions to writing essays about queer girls, that have been accumulated in her 1973 e-book, Lesbian Country: The Feminist Answer. (We’ll all be capable of learn extra of her writing subsequent 12 months, when Duke College Press will submit a brand new number of Johnston’s writings—edited via Clare Croft, whom you discussed.)

The Wallflower Order Dance Collective, a feminist troupe shaped in 1975, morphed into the Dance Brigade a decade later. They’re a mixture of homosexual and directly girls in San Francisco’s Project District. Co-founder Krissy Keefer is quoted as pronouncing, in this 2011 article via Keith Hennessy, that they had been most probably the primary dance corporate “to specific specific lesbian sensibilities and issues.”

The feminist Nineteen Seventies introduced out Pat Graney, a Seattle choreographer dedicated to social justice problems. She is out and devoted to supporting the lesbian group. She mentored many dancers, together with Gina Gibney, the choreographer and entrepreneur who created the Gibney areas that experience executed such a lot for the New York Town dance group. In 2016, Out mag named Gina Gibney one in all its OUT100.

Within the Eighties, issues began getting extra fascinating. A bunch of downtown Ny dancers together with Lucy Sexton, Jennifer Monson, and Jennifer Miller had been gloriously frank about their sexuality. I bear in mind, within the mid-Eighties, Johanna Boyce’s Ties That Bind, that includes a stupendous duet during which Miller and Susan Seizer talked brazenly about their dating in a humorous, poignant means. Many years later, in 2007, at a Motion Analysis gala honoring Yvonne Rainer at Judson Memorial Church, Monson and DD Dorvillier abruptly dashed to the altar for an impromptu, outrageously caressing makeout consultation. That was once simply the end of the iceberg of Monson and Dorvillier’s lengthy, wild journey as rambunctiously out lesbian dancemakers.

(A facet word: You additionally requested, “Why, after I realized about Yvonne Rainer, was once her sexuality by no means discussed?” The reason being most probably that she was once in heterosexual relationships all over the time she was once making historical past along with her ground-breaking danceworks of the 1960s. It was once best round 1990, whilst making feminist movies, that she advanced a dating with some other girl.)

I feel the brand new acceptance of lesbian artists is partially because of the shift from fashionable dance to postmodern: Choreographers within the latter mode have a tendency to be much less gendered. Whilst the portrayal of ladies in Graham, Limón, and Ailey was once at all times quite conventional, the gender presentation of postmodern choreographers like Trisha Brown, Invoice T. Jones, Mark Morris, and Jawole Willa Jo Zollar are much less gendered (or, fairly, multi-gendered), subsequently much more likely to draw homosexual girls. Now not best is the presentation of ladies much less femmy in postmodern dance, however there’s much less dramatic stress between women and men. I feel this could also be true in present variations of faucet and flamenco.

In her 2003 article, Wolf contends that lesbian dancemakers “re-conceptualize the feminine frame in movement.” Living proof: Elizabeth Streb, whose slam-bam athletics go beyond gender expectancies. “Whilst you’re out of that field, it lets you get away in alternative ways, make other possible choices, ask different questions,” Streb instructed Wolf. “You’re a lot more in a position to discard the gear that experience already been invented.”

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