ROCKING THE BOAT
CELEBRATING QUEER CONTENT IN CANADIAN CONCERT DANCE
BY PAMELA GRUNDY
Performance art, cabaret and burlesque are accepted arenas for expression of queer themes; but what about the more conventional world of dance performance? It has long been acknowledged, both inside and outside of the concert dance world, that there are many choreographers, performers and audience members who self-identify outside of the heteronormative framework. Despite the significant numbers, there remains surprisingly little queer content on the stage.
In ballet, and also in contemporary dance, queer messaging has often been obscure at best – the work’s intent left unspoken. Some reasons for this are personal to the creators, or may be related to conventions within the profession … but ultimately all reasons are political. The 1969 decriminalizing of homosexuality in Canada represented a change in social attitudes toward sexuality. Over time, queer-themed pieces began to appear and today such works are more common. However, while society continues to evolve, the stigma of being queer still lingers … even in a profession that seems to embrace difference.
This exhibition celebrates a sample of dances from the past 30 plus years that were intentionally created to illustrate queer themes. The choreographers featured here consider sexual identity, overlapping in some cases with gender and race, to be an important part of their artistic vision. They risked consequences for declaring and promoting the essence of certain works. Would they be pigeon-holed as “queer” choreographers? How would they be regarded by producers, funders or the media? Would the public support them?
Explore the dances that they made … each one has a story.
The live exhibit Rocking the Boat: Celebrating Queer Content in Canadian Concert Dance was produced by Dance Collection Danse and on display at the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives (CLGA) in Toronto from November 22, 2013 – April 1, 2014. The Exhibit was made possible through the support of presenting partners, Ontario Trillium Foundation, J.P. Bickell Foundation and the Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives.
Copyright of the virtual exhibition is held by Dance Collection Danse and copyright for individual items in this exhibition are retained by the respective artists and/or companies. Best efforts have been made to identify copyright material contained in this virtual exhibition. Dance Collection Danse welcomes any information enabling it to rectify references or credits.
In accordance with Canadian copyright law, some video excerpts included in this exhibition have been reproduced without the sound track.
Photo Credit (below, in the background): William Douglas in his work Anima (1990) / Photo: Cylla von Tiedemann