Thursday, February 17, 2011

Reflections on Queer Dance

The following is my introductory note in the program for tonight's 2nd Annual Queer Dance Festival at CSU East Bay, followed by some related videos. This felt like an appropriate exploration to share here:

Reflections on the Nature of “Queer Dance”
By Queer Dance Festival Director Eric Kupers
February 17th, 2011
University Theatre, CSU East Bay

I want to attempt a definition of “Queer Dance,” (even though I believe that these two words are ultimately impossible to pin down.)

 “Queer” is my favorite way to identify myself. The word has a lot of complex connotations, as it has been used historically (and still today sometimes) as a way to put-down, insult, repress and attack people who seem different. Many people are triggered when they hear this word—remembering feelings of hurt and anger. However, I love that the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and affiliated communities have reclaimed the word as a symbol of our empowerment.

At this point in my life I have spent equal amounts of time in intimate relationships with men and women. In this sense I identify as Bisexual. At the same time, I am married to a man that I have been with for over ten years (and plan to be with for the rest of my life.) In this sense I identify as Gay. And still at the same time I am a non-conformist artist at heart, and so feel that any label, identity or definition of myself is limiting and inaccurate. The closest I can come to whole-heartedly identifying myself is to just say, “I am.”

For me the word “Queer” includes all of this—even the non-conforming parts. “Queer” points to the aspects of us that are beyond labeling, while at the same time acknowledges the oppression and empowerment of us who live outside of mainstream heterosexual and dualistically gendered roles. 

“Dance” is a word that describes movement when viewed from a particular perspective. It includes choreography, performance, creative movement, what we do at parties and clubs, as well as the interactions of the cells, fluids and organs in our bodies, the relationship of the planets and solar systems, the combined movement of all the people in an urban area at any one moment, the flight of birds and bugs, and so much more. 

I think of Dance as a point of view rather than a phenomenon itself. It is rather a way of experiencing any phenomena from a slightly larger frame of reference—acknowledging its flow, exchange, and interdependence.

What you see tonight onstage is “dance” just as much as what you are doing right now with your body as you read this is “dance.” From this understanding, there’s absolutely no way anyone could truthfully say, “I am not a dancer.” Dance is impermanence made visible.

“Queer Dance” is therefore immensely open, inclusive, fluid, ambiguous, and omnipresent.  It takes great courage to live in this universe that is at its core uncertain, ever-changing, mysterious and impossible to pin down with any definition or concept. When I am able to embrace this sense of cosmic insecurity, and perhaps even celebrate it, I am practicing the basics of Queer Dance.

Tonight we have gathered together a concentrated burst of Queer Dance for you. I encourage you to not take any of it too literally and instead to listen with your whole being like you might listen to poetry, or like you might remember images and feelings from a dream.


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