Why dance isn’t gender neutral

Irreverent Dancers in the LGBTQ Pride Parade, London 2014This is the first of four posts relating to the Irreverent Dance Kickstarter. Over the next month I will be explaining some of the reasons why this inclusive and welcoming community is so essential – to the people within and those who have yet to discover it – and why dance is far more important than you might first think.

Movement is one of those things that so many of us take for granted. Being able to walk down the street, run for a bus or hug your best friend, is something most people don’t really think twice about. But many of us do think about how these bodies of ours look and how others see them, and we then worry that we’re not quite right in some way. As soon as you worry that you’re too fat or too tall, for example, you become self conscious. And self conscious people become awkward and shy, hiding their bodies away and moving differently to avoid attracting attention. This becomes even more of an issue for anyone whose gender presentation or gender identity falls outside society’s binary norms.

For those who want to learn to dance, it becomes difficult to find somewhere comfortable to do that. Dance studios and gyms, like the vast majority of public spaces, have toilets and changing rooms that are segregated by gender. Partner dancing usually dictates that men lead and women follow. Ballet classes will teach graceful pointe work to women and athletic jumping to men. There are often also rules about what participants can and can’t wear, even at adult beginners classes which are supposed to be fun. However, it doesn’t have to be that way because dance and movement are not inherently gendered. To quote Irreverent Dance Founder Amanda Leon-Joyce:

Dance is so, so important. The ‘permission’ to enjoy who you are and the skin you’re in should extend to everyone. The ability to move and enjoy your body in a safe space; the intersection with music and art and community; the sheer joy and power of that moment and that emotion is SO HUMAN. Look at these humans, all in their various and varied bodies. Tell me this isn’t important. No, not important vital. Literally vital.

Imagine being able to learn to dance at a place where your gender is not an issue. Being able to learn ballet, tap or contemporary dance, no matter what your size or age. Being able to learn circus skills, swing dance or yoga with people of all shapes, abilities and ethnicities. At a place where social status is irrelevant and everyone is welcomed with open arms. Sounds like fun, right? Dance may not be gendered but many people’s experience of it is, and it’s about time that changed. When you make people feel comfortable in their skin, it’s truly amazing what they can achieve. Don’t just take my word for it.

Irreverent Dance currently have a Kickstarter campaign to raise money in order to create Europe’s First Gender-Neutral Community Dance Studio. If you can donate anything – even the price of a coffee – it will go towards ensuring even more people can enjoy the safe space that means so much to existing members of the Irreverent Dance community. To see what Irreverent Dance has already achieved, why not come along to the annual Showcase performance on Sunday 9th November. A video of last year’s can be found on the ID blog.

5 thoughts on “Why dance isn’t gender neutral

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  1. At Studio LaDanza in London, UK, we have been teaching ballroom and latin dancing for 12 years to leaders and followers of any gender. In fact same sex dancing is very popular in the world and is included in the Gay Games and Outgames so I don’t think you can say it is excluded. In fact last year we had our first World Championships!!

    1. Hi Heather. I intentionally used words like “usually” and “often” because I know that not all dance classes operate that way, just the mainstream ones. This post was written in response to a comment on Twitter from someone who asked what was gendered about dance. It’s become so normalised that many people can’t see how problematic it would be for others.

      It’s great that your studio teaches to all genders! The Irreverent Dance latin teacher has participated in same sex championships too and it’s wonderful that competitions like that exist. Hopefully there will be more in the future.

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