Dance: entertainment and a way of expressing feelings and musicality. Many consider it to be a means of working out and expressing creativity with numerous benefits, some of which have been studied and show that dance helps improving the body and self-image, recovering stamina, strength, and balance.
Studies have also illustrated that dance contributes to improving the immune system, while it also plays a role in reducing stress. When we dance, neurotransmitters are released naturally, increasing the endorphin, serotonin, and dopamine levels. By joining a course, the brain practices how to learn steps, the order of movements which combine the upper and lower trunk, as well as co-existing with other participants.
If we were to draw a parallel between mainstream working out and dance, while working out is like driving in a highway, dance is as if one is riding a motorcycle in a busy street.
The psychological benefits of dance are impressive, as it is viewed as an effective therapy for those who suffer from social anxiety or fear of public appearance. And what about the ones who do not feel comfortable when they are to speak in front of an audience? Let’s think that if a person can boogie in a room packed with strangers, then they can probably manage to perform well in public speaking and reduce their stress levels in the meantime.
Focusing on music and steps, even for a short while, helps a person put aside their daily, trivial thoughts and then “magic” happens. Without using words, people can communicate and show acceptance; first and foremost self-acceptance and then acceptance towards others at a collective level.
Dance fosters social cohesion and what psychologists call “self-other merging”. We dance in festivals and parties with people regardless of their age, origin, social or financial status and sexual orientation.
However, has this social flow really been achieved?
During the last years, the public has become more familiar with Yiannis Marsall dancing in high heels. Now, all the more students challenge their selves taking ladies styling lessons in Latin or Commercial dance. The same stands with same gender dancing which case doesn’t mean that the dancers should be gay, it is all about challenging yourself, and taking your dance to a whole new level. Even if you are straight you are used to taking a stereotypical role, but if you challenge yourself to switch to the opposite role, you discover how hard and at the same time how fun it is.
A few years ago, same gender dancing was unimaginable but now, little by little we come across it in dance festivals and parties. And one could say that this is good but… there are still so many people frown upon it.
Same sex partners teach in festivals or dance in parties and now it is obvious that there is a need for flexibility and flow, not only when it comes to movement, but to “roles”, too.
Johannes Radebe / Graziano Di Prima
The Queer Latin Dance Festival takes place in California, where artists were invited to keep reinforcing their efforts so as Latin dance scene can get a larger audience and more participation on an inclusive basis.
If what was mentioned above is true, if dance has actually succeeded in breaking social boundaries, then why is there a need for a queer festival? Is there a lack of acceptance? Are artists who identify as queer, transgender, or LGBTIQ allies still struggling?
We wondered why, in 2020, there is still a need for a Queer Festival and we addressed Latin scene artists who represent the LGBTIQ community.
Ace and Ciara:
“We believe everyone deserves to be heard, everyone deserves to be seen and everyone deserves to come to a safe place where they can be themselves and show up as they truly are. Walking into any Latin dance community where most people are heterosexual cis people, not only as dance partners but also as a romantic couple, has never been easy.
We can relate to the pain and frustration of feeling marginalized, judged and deemed as “other”. Our LGBTQIA family is constantly subjected to this, and it is far more dangerous, scary and painful for persons who are transgender.
Having an event created specifically for us, is a dream come true. The beauty of the QLDF is that anyone and everyone are welcomed! When in this space, people have an obligation to show up in respect to our expectations. QLDF is so important to persons like us because it allows for us to share our passion in a space where love, respect, compassion, inclusivity and acceptance are all present and expected.
We have an opportunity to show up as our whole selves and been seen. That feeling is inexplicable and allows us to feel whole and truly loved for the people we are.”
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Edwin Baltierra – aca King Edonce
“When I first started (dancing) I had so much anxiety and with all those social norms I was uncomfortable asking someone to dance because of the rejection. The QLDF promotes and highlights queer and trans dance instructors and dancers in general and it is like a good little safe haven for our family. But it is not only for LGBT members; it’s for everybody.
In a hetero-dominated dance world there is no room for us. We have to prove ourselves to be able to be accepted anywhere. That is not cool; nowadays it is getting better, but we are not there yet. A queer festival it is all about love and acceptance, and I think that this is what is missing from a lot of dance festivals, LOVE. And even though it is all about the business at the end of the day, the queer Latin dance festival doesn’t focus on that like most of them do, but focuses on love, and making sure that we are safe, happy and having fun instead.
In some festivals you can sense it right away, you feel a negative eye, you don’t see the owners mingle with the people, you don’t see the instructors, but in a queer festival you see all the participants united, you feel acceptance and love.”
Even though the pandemic hit health and economy, we hope it will not afflict the progress being made in this part of social cohesion. We may not celebrate this June with Pride events and Queer Festivals, but let’s not lose our steps in this dance of acceptance, ourselves and others, whatever role they “dance” into.
Infos / references:
 Self-other merging: The process by which a person forms such a strong bond with another person that they consider the needs of the other as theirs.
- Andrea Arenas (Aka Ace Fusion): In junior high school and high school she always attended hip – hop classes, Salsa, Bachata etc. By joining the Marine Corps she didn’t lose the opportunity to social dance around the world. Nowadays she teaches Dominican Bachata and enjoys Djing.
- Ciara Morales (Aka Ciara): She has had training in ballet, modern, West-African, house, hip-hop and Bachata. Today continues to share her passion for dance, teaches Dominican Bachata in international dance congresses around the world.
- Edwin Baltierra (aka King Edonce): He has been dancing since the age of 5 in Ballet folklorico, cheer, and Performing arts. He started dancing salsa and bachata in the year 2014, and now he performs Bachata Diva Styling.
- Queer Latin Dance Festival is a Queer, Trans, and Ally Bachata & Salsa Dance Festival, based in Oakland CA. The Directors are Angelica Medina and Jahaira Fajardo and their purpose, among others, is to build an inclusive, loving community of talented dancers.
Stay on the dance floor: Till the next time people, remember why you started..and keep on dancing. For you 😊