In lieu of Gay Pride, while parading
Some members preferred masquerading.
In The Times, they expressed
That they weren’t overdressed.
But to others, it seemed quite degrading.
In lieu of Gay Pride, while parading
Some members preferred masquerading.
In The Times, they expressed
That they weren’t overdressed.
But to others, it seemed quite degrading.
This issue of the newsletter is full of commentary about the issue of drag within the Times Squares. Since my profession is advertising and public relations, I thought a few of my thoughts on the subject might be appropriate.
The Gay Pride Parade is our community’s single most visible public relations display to the world at large each year. The media loves to show pictures of men dressed as women, or as butterflies, or as anything other than what appears to be “normal” people; these images are more colorful, provoking and in general make for much better press than reporting that, for the 19th year in a row, 100,000 “normal-looking” people, who happen to be gay, went marching down Fifth Avenue to show that they are everywhere and want to be accepted by society for what they are – normal, productive, valuable human beings with a right to their place in society without fear of hatred, prejudice, violence or death on account of their sexual orientation. And let’s not lose sight of the goals of the ”gay liberation movement”. The gay movement is a movement looking to achieve acceptance for our community by society regardless of our sexual orientation, not to reinforce society’s rejection of us.
From a public relations point of view, those who appear in women’s drag, leather drag, or any other ‘outrageous” form of costume play in the desire of the media to portray our community as a bunch of “freaks’ and ‘queers”. Does this mean that no one should appear in the parade in this fashion? As much as the public relations man in me wants to say “yes.” The civil rights activist in me says “no”. Who are we, who have suffered so much as a result of trying to make our true natures conform to the constraints of “straight” society, to demand that our brothers and sisters in the gay community now conform to a dress code so as not to offend the sensibilities of that same society?
On the other hand, my perception is that none of our members is clinically a “transvestite,” which calls into question whether or not we are truly dealing with a “civil rights” issue in this situation. Drag is used in our club for laughs and for a good time at our own affairs. What we must address here are two issues: 1) assuming that we are not defending the civil rights of any clinical transvestite to live out his (or her) true nature shouldn’t those of our members who dress is drag “for a laugh” be more conscious of the appropriate times and places for these laughs and be more sensitive to the possible media and image repercussions of drag when at such a public media circus as the Gay Pride Parade, and 2) does the Times Squares as an organization have any right whatsoever to determine its own public image – both within and outside of our own community – or is the organization ‘s image always to be determined by the whims of any individual member at any time regardless of the desires of the majority of its members?
Many of our members have strongly objected to drag at public functions in the aftermath of this year’s parade. Should those of our members who wish to march in drag be told that the club does not wish to project this image to the community at large, and that if they wish to appear in drag in the parade, there are other places in the line of march where such attire would be more welcome? I don’t claim to know what the desires of the club’s majority is, but perhaps the board should put the question of drag at public functions to a vote of the entire membership just to ascertain the feeling of the club members about these two central questions.
The reprinted articles in February will revisit the responses we had as a club around the issue of drag and how we were perceived my the straight community as a result of an article about the 1988 Pride Parade in the New York Times excerpted here:
“A bearded man calling himself Virginia Hamm, wearing a blond wig, a pink dress, pink gloves and white high-heeled shoes, marched with the Times Squares, a New York square dancing organization.
Was he overdressed for a parade?
“Only if it rains,” he said.
After scattered showers in the morning, the afternoon was hot and hazy, and it didn’t rain on his parade.”
Read the next article.
I was deeply disturbed by the tenor of the announcements delivered at club night last evening. Taking the lead from the movement slogan “SILENCE=DEATH,” I feel I must speak out on the issues raised last evening.
If conformity were a prime value of gay people, there would be no gay movement. Those who would have our members be more conformist should just as well send us back to Iowa, Texas Georgia, Montana and all of the other places from which we have fled conformity and bigotry to be able to live our lives as who we truly are.
The themes of tolerance, acceptance and respect for diversity and individual differences are not only at the foundation of the gay movement but at the foundations of this nation. If we begin by actively discouraging “drag” in our club because some people are offended, then other activities with which we feel at home in our club may also be discouraged. Will we be told that leather is unacceptable; that kissing is unacceptable at club functions’ that hand holding and embracing while not dancing is unacceptable? Where might this end? If conformity is so highly valued, why do we, as gay people form our own clubs? Why don’t we just join “straight” clubs?
Those who are quick to express their displeasure with drag are likely to always find causes for their displeasure. Those who would not join the Times Squares because of drag activities or any other characteristic of the club do not really want to dance with us and are probably not the kinds of people who would assist the club in growing and flourishing
I also feel the need to stress that announcements of a serious nature need to be carefully considered and thoughtfully worded. They should be expressed by peers to peers without hostility or condescension. In communications, both style and substance are important if significant issues are to be discussed without divisive effects on the club.
We are fortunate to have a large club with a wide diversity of members. This diversity should be cherished and nurtured.
F. William Chickering
Consistent styling makes the flow of our dancing so much smoother. It’s the difference between dancing and just walking through random patterns.
As a club, we have been dancing sloppily of late (and not so of late). Sometimes it seems as though we are more concerned about getting in the maximum number of twirls, claps, stomps, etc., than in ending up in the correct position at an appropriate distance from one another.
One of the things that happens frequently is that we end up with our square spread out or our line ragged, or our columns all over the place, or our waves looking like a hurricane just passed through. This may, just possible, have something to do with BREAKING DOWN.
Everyone needs to know where you need to be in relation to the other seven dancers in the square. There is a certain precision to square dancing that at times has been missing in our dancing.
KEEP THOSE SQUARES TIGHT!
Good words from our own “Bossy Betty”.
Having been nominated for the “Bossy Betty Award” for several years running, the following words of encouragement from A Ceder Chest of C-3 Square Dance Definitions by Vic and Debbie Ceder apply to me as well as a few other Times Squares members, both in classes and at dances:
Being a good dancer has nothing to do with level. It has more to do with being a good team member. Dance your part and allow the others to dance their part. A truly good dancer will wait until the last moment … before offering help if necessary. Please don’t be the obnoxious dancer who must help every other dancer in the square whether or not they need it.
The truly important things are the ones we learn after we know it all.
There was a time when many IAGSDC clubs had exhibition squares that performed at gatherings. Here’s an article about one from Times Squares.
Yes, folks, they’re back and the Times Squares has got ‘em … those fabulous dancing Von Trapps!!
On Saturday, April 19, Pauline Plummer (aka Maria), and her seven Von Trapp boys performed for the New Jersey Square Dance Convention. Since the convention staff failed to provide us with the lavish accommodations called for in our contract, we took over the men’s locker room and yes, Pauline was in there with us! We even had our final run through in the showers!! As we approached the dance floor in our chic Price Jepsen originals, we got lots of quizzical looks from the polyestered and crinolined conventioneers. But once the music started, we were more than forgiven for our non-traditional square dance attire. The crowd went wild enjoying the music, dancing and comic mugging of the performers.
The Von Trapp’s next scheduled appearance will be in Las Vegas. I won’t be able to attend the convention this year, so Todd Fellegy has agreed to fill in at the microphone. We are looking for two understudies to attend the pre-convention rehearsals. In Trenton, Greeley “Ruby Keeler” Walker stepped in for an ailing Michael Coan and learned the part in just 1-1/2 rehearsals! Sometimes understudies DO get a chance to enjoy the spotlight. So, if you’re interested call me.
After that, we’ll probably retire our “curtain-hosen” until the year 2000 when the National Square Dance Convention comes to Baltimore. But that’s another story!!- Nick Martellacci
This letter to the editor helps us think about how brave Roy Gotta was to publish his article in a national magazine as early as he did.
Okay, let’s cut to the chase about gays in square dancing. This could also apply to the other minorities mentioned. The objection to dancing with any vocal minority is not an objection to the distinguishing characteristics that sets that minority apart. The objection is to the flaunting, taunting and rudeness that some of these individuals seem to feel they must exhibit concerning their minority orientation.
Of course homosexuals have been square dancing with heterosexuals, probably from the very beginning, and heterosexuals never knew the difference. And that, Mr. Gotta (and ladies and gentlemen in square dancing) is precisely the point! We didn’t know the difference because the difference was not being flaunted in our faces.
A square dance is not a political platform from which to launch your particular social or political agenda. There is history and tradition in square dancing, and there are rules and codes of dress and conduct. We don’t allow drunk people to impose their “rules” on us. If we define “Friendship Set to Music” in terms of every special interest group out there being allowed to demand we accept all their friends, rules and music without regard to our own, then square dancing is doomed. Mr. Gotta needs to review the 10 Commandments of Square Dancing and be reminded that they apply to the minorities as well as to the majority.
Happy square dancing,
Larry L. Dunn, DDS
Now that gay and lesbian square dancers can comfortably dance in many venues, we tend to forget that this was not always the case.
Roy Gotta’s article appeared in the February 1994 issue of the national square dance magazine, “American Square Dance”. It was reprinted in “Times Squares” in April 1994. Next time you see Roy Gotta, thank him for his early and enduring support. A critical letter to the editor in the next month’s issue will be published here next week.
Stay tuned for one reader’s response.
“Why do they have to dance at our club? Why can’t they deep to themselves? I don’t mind if they want to square dance, as long as they stay in their own clubs. This used to be a nice family club. If you let one or two in then, before you know it, your club will be taken over by them.”
Do the above statements sound familiar? Have you heard any of them recently at your club or another club where you were dancing? Well, these statements were overheard back in the late 1950’s when my father-in-law had the nerve (or was it the courage) to bring a Jewish couple to a square dance club.
Is there any difference between this and the current uproar over “allowing” gays and lesbians to dance at straight clubs and festivals? I think not. Is there any difference between this and the same uproar in the sixties when Blacks entered the square dance picture? I think not. Prejudice and hatred are the same whenever and wherever they appear. I know of one major square dance festival that has actually had meetings to discuss “the problem”.
Before I discuss attitude, let’s take a look at a couple of facts. Barring gays and lesbians from your club or dance, or segregating them at said affairs, is illegal! It is discrimination! Also, you have been dancing with gay and lesbian square dancers for many years. You just didn’t know it! Gay and lesbian dancers have been coupling up and dancing as “traditionally correct” couples. If you are concerned about coming into contact with gays, keep in mind that a week doesn’t go by that you probably have contact with a gay individual outside of the square dance activity.
I have heard the argument that “I can’t dance in a square with same sex couples.” Two things come to mind when I hear this. One, this person probably didn’t say anything in the past when two women were dancing together, and two, this person is a very poor dancer. Some men are uncomfortable swinging other men. This is not a problem if you just say so up front. It is no different than not swinging someone of either sex who has a physical problem.
Let’s suppose for a moment that your club decides to break the law and ban gay and lesbian dancers from dancing as same sex couples at your dances. Do you now follow the same rules for the two senior ladies who have been dancing together at your club for the last 2 years? How do you know for sure that they are not lesbians? And how about the times when I have jumped into a square to be the needed 8th body? Since that 8th position was the “girl’s” part, do seven people have to sit down, because the rules prohibit same sex couples? Does my 84-year-old mother-in-law have to give up the activity she has been doing for over 40 years because she dances mostly the “boy’s” position?
Finally, whatever happened to “Friendship Set to Music?” Does this mean only my friends, by my rules, and to my music? It is not easy to change one’s attitudes and feelings. It is similarly not easy to accept lifestyles and customs that are radically different than your own. Remember, you are not being asked to accept, condone or embrace anyone else’s lifestyle. However, you are being asked to not deny anyone the right to enjoy their chosen form of recreation. After all, that’s all square dancing is, recreation. It happens to be recreation that involves interaction and interdependence on at least 7 other people. If your prejudices are so great that you cannot even dance in the same square with a person who believes or lives differently than yourself, then perhaps you should be looking for another form of recreation.
Click here for previous part.
The Last Resort
Finally, there’s the method of last resort, which I’ve often heard termed “find a hole and fill it”. If you get totally lost during a sequence and can’t possible remember any of the other methods outlined in this article, you always have the option of standing back until the dust settles, then dashing into the only empty spot in the formation. (Hint: If you know who you image dancer is, you can dash into that spot much more quickly!) People may laugh at you for a moment, but at least your square will keep going.
Don’t Ignore the Caller
If your square breaks down, and the caller starts calling specifically to your square (“Just that square, make waves with girls on the ends…”), don’t freak out, don’t argue with the caller, just do what he or she says.
I’ve observed a number of callers having fun with a floor by giving a broken-down square specific instruction, then have the rest of the floor do something different, until finally all of the squares converge. (“In that square only, swing through; everyone else, centers trade…”)
What to Do Next?
Don’t wait until your square breaks down to start practicing some of the techniques in this article. Make a note of your image dancer each time you square up, and periodically notice where he or she is during the top. Once in a while, glance over at another square to see where your mirror dancer is. Start being aware of where the girls are ad where the boy are in your square. You’ll eventually find you can fix a broken square nearly automatically.
The Point is … to Have Fun
One of the unbreakable rules of square dancing is, sooner or later, you’re going to dance in a square that breaks down. Regardless of which of the above techniques you decide to use (or not use), the most important thig is to have fun.
When your square breaks down, don’t get mad, and don’t place blame. Just keep moving, keep on dancing, and keep your sense of humor intact. Some of the most fun squares I’ve ever danced in were broken down during most of the tip, but we were all laughing so hard, we had a great time anyway!