Gender Stories

Dancing ourselves free

January 21, 2019 Season 2 Episode 12
Gender Stories
Dancing ourselves free
Chapters
Gender Stories
Dancing ourselves free
Jan 21, 2019 Season 2 Episode 12
Alex Iantaffi
Marcel Byrd talks with our host, Alex Iantaffi, about dance, how it intersects with gender and other aspects of identity, such as race, and the joy it can bring us.
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Marcel Byrd talks with our host, Alex Iantaffi, about dance, how it intersects with gender and other aspects of identity, such as race, and the joy it can bring us. Marcel Byrd is a 25 year old dancer and public health activist that has been living in the Washington DC area for a little more than three years. An avid lover of health equity, dance, and social justice, Marcel aims to better health and wellness outcomes through creativity and access to the arts. Marcel is also about to co-host a brand new podcast These Colored Pages. You can soon find out more at thesecoloredpages.com or follow their podcast on Twitter @TheColoredPages

 

Narrator:
0:32
Everyone has a relationship with gender. What's your story? Hello and welcome to gender stories with your host, Dr Alex Iantaffi.:
Alex:
0:48
Hello and welcome to another episode of Gender Stories. I am thrilled to introduce Marcel Byrd. Marcel is a 25 year old dancer and public health activist that has been living in the Washington DC area for a little more than three years. Marcel is an avid lover of health equity, dance and social justice. Marcel aims to better health and wellness outcomes through creativity and access to the arts. And I met Marcel at the Podcast Movement Conference last July and we hit it off.:
:
1:20
Yes we did! Absolutely yes.:
Alex:
1:24
We had wonderful conversations. We realized we had some things in common because I do have a past and kind of public health and specifically in HIV prevention and research and then we just had the most fabulous time of the party. Um, and so yes we are. And now we get to have a conversation about dance. So welcome. Thank you so much.:
:
1:50
Of course. Of course. Yes. Thank you so much for having me. And yeah, I just. Yeah, well when we met at that conference I was like this is amazing, this relationship you need to definitely keep in touch. And also we slayed it on the dance floor at that goodbye party. People were honestly like, we like, we started that shit like, for real. So:
Alex:
2:08
Didn't we? And then everyone was in it. But anyway.:
Marcel:
2:10
Right. But, but it was us, you know, trailblazing. But whatever. It's fine!:
Alex:
2:16
It's just the fabulousness we bring everywhere and we both love dance, which is, you know, we both love dance and we both love public health as well as podcasting. So this time we're really wanting to talk about dance a little more. So why don't we start with, tell me a little bit more about your passion for dance and dancing.:
Marcel:
2:43
So it's so funny that you, that you asked that. So I guess I guess some context on me. Yeah. Like I said, like you mentioned in my introduction. Yeah, I'm 25 years old. I live in DC right now but I'm actually originally from Atlanta, Georgia. So um, it's funny growing up I didn't necessarily actually really didn't like dancing. Like I always felt kind of uncomfortable whenever there was any sort of like school dances or anything like that, mainly just because like, well one, I feel like everyone around me just danced really well. Like people around me just had rhythm and like, you know, there are always these dance crazes that people knew how to do. And I was like, oh, like I don't know how to crank that soulja boy. Like I'm overwhelmed being like this is like, it was a little intimidating. I feel like I didn't really find my dance voice until I was about maybe 17 or so.:
Marcel:
3:35
Um, and I think what allowed me to sort of tap into that mode of expression is that I just became more comfortable sort of in my own sort of sexual orientation, gender identity. Like, you know, my, my ideas around those markers of identity just like augmented. And so I think that allowed me access into this mode of expression because I think one of the reasons why I never really felt comfortable dancing was because it felt very gendered. A lot of the times like the ways in which people move their bodies and I just felt like the avenues that were presented to me didn't necessarily always feel congruent. Sometimes do but not at the same time. And so I don't know, it just, I felt like it kind of took me a while to sort of get into it. But once I was 17 I remember very specifically, I was like, it was junior year of high school, it was like the homecoming dance and I was like my like usual, like awkward, like Cactus Self, like at the dance, like dance as little as possible and like everyone's like getting into like getting down funking it up and I'm overwhelmed. And then I remember they played this, like, what was it? It was like some, the Daft Punk song, like some like, like techno kind of electronic song at the time. Like I was very into that. I was super into that and so all of a sudden it's like, just like I was possessed. Like I just started doing the robot, like out of control and everyone was like, Marcel dancing is this shit really happening right now? And like ever since that moment, it's like I went from zero to 100. It's like I went from being like, I don't want to dance at all to like literally every song I was just like woo, just like getting it. And I was like, where is this coming from? And so that was kind of, I guess like how I got just comfortable with dance as just something that I could do sort of publicly because before that I sort of would dance in my room like, in private the first time I really felt comfortable doing it publicly. And then once I got to college, went to school in Chicago. Um, my sophomore year I want to say is when I first, I guess started taking, like sort of started doing dance and like I guess like a classical sort of like training type of sense. So that's when I, um, my first ever dance class that I ever took. Yeah, was 19. It was a beginner, a modern class. Um, sort of focused on the Katherine Dunham technique or whatever. And so basically, so that was the first class I took and then I took another modern class later that year and then from there I kind of would take classes here and there just sort of like, you know, as I had availability and stuff like that. And then recently when I moved to DC back when I think this may be like end of 2016, early 2017, I found a studio here that just like modern West African hip hop jazz classes. So that's when I really started to sort of branch out and try different styles. And then it just similarly went from zero to a hundred. Like I just started taking all the classes and doing all the things. So now I'm just like obsessed and like have kind of got to the point where like, you know, I have performed more often, I'm taking more styles, I'm just like getting more vocabulary into my body. So, so that's kind of my history. I didn't necessarily grow up like dancing either in a classical sense or in a personal sense. But yeah, just as I got older, I just felt more comfortable doing it and I've been kind of doing it off and on for the past, I guess now six years. Um, but it's like super duper consistently for the past two years or so. So yeah.:
Alex:
6:46
That's wonderful. I love that story because there are so many elements. When you were talking about that, I was like, oh, I relate to that. I relate to that. I remember when I first transitioned and presented more masculine, It was like I had forgotten how to move because I felt like the way that I was expected to move wasn't congruent with my body and I had to that point of going, fuck it. I'm just going to move the way I want. And I love that your story there's that moment where the music moved you at that point where, you know, I love what you're saying "it's like I was possessed" the dance moved though you. And you said a little bit about you getting comfortable with your own gender identity and sexual orientation, kind of those experiences are really important and kind of made a difference for you. Can you tell me a little bit more about how gender intersects with dance basically, what's gender got to do with dance and dance with gender.:
Marcel:
7:45
So the ironic thing is that, so, so to me, I think by definition dance is something that, you know, sort of outside of any context should be like, like folks being able to move their bodies in whatever way they want to and that can be in response to music or not. It can be response you know to nature to, you know, whatever it is that motivates you to move moving in whatever way. But growing up it was interesting because I think that, you know, I think gender really it felt overwhelming and a lot of ways like, you know, there was a very particular way that like, you know, boys were expected to move. There was a particular way that girls were expected to move. Um, in the sense that like, you know, for me, like if I wanted to like, you know, sway my hips more or like even like something like flexing my wrist and things like that. Like things that like could be read as more feminine people would like it, it, it will kind of give people pause or like it would be something that like, you know, it was just, it would seem, it was something that like it was Kinda like okay you can express yourself but like to this point and once you start kind of like doing things that like, you know, we assign as you know, I guess like a form of gender but performance that we don't perceive your body as being congruent with when we take problems with that is I think that that pressure has always been really stifling in a lot of ways. But once I got to the point where I was like, I don't give a fuck, I'm just going to dance whatever way I feel comfortable doing. It's funny to the point now it's like I don't really classify what I do as like, oh is this masculine, is this feminine, is this more androgenous? Like I just like, I just am doing whatever. And it's interesting though because like since then I've noticed that like the way people respond to it, like the way that I did, it's usually very appreciative actually. Like people tend to be like, oh yeah, like I really liked the way they moved. Like that heightened authenticity I think has allowed me to kind of access various opportunities, which, I mean it's certainly not the case with everyone, but I think it's just kind of noteworthy. But um, but it's interesting because even now like as I take dance and sort of a more sort of like I guess training classical sense, you know, the ballets, the moderns and things like that. It's like it's, I think right now, especially as you sort of start doing a style and like kind of get more involved with it. Like everyone kind of starts out in the same place. Like there's not really like a gender difference. But you sort of noticed that sometimes various teachers or various choreographers will adjust things based on what they perceive your gender to be. So they'll say like, okay, at this point of the combination like we want the woman to do this, guys to do this. I'm kind of like, that seems a little gross. I like always kind of hate when that's the thing or like even really you see it more so I guess in performances that you do in class. So like and if you're performing there'll be pieces where you know, things that like everyone does the same thing and then there are pieces where like there are these kinds of like gender diversions. And I think that also sometimes in a classical sense, you know, I mean you think about things like that. Like for example like you know, typically when you think of someone that's like a ballet dancer that identifies as a man, like you know, they kind of will expect this person to play this more. It's still kind of like, it's like graceful but so kind of like sort of this masculine role or like you know, there'll be expected to like lift dancers and things like that. Like kind of take on these commissions that like, I don't know, it's like the way they're expected to move, it's just, it's just kind of different. Um, and that's again, I think it's just like, it kind of varies from style to style from person to person, like choreographer to choreographer. It's not always like that, but I think that like gender is something that like kind of has a huge impact on things. I mean I literally, I remember being, and it's interesting actually, I remember one of my, my, so the jazz teacher that I met two years ago who have like very consistently always taken classes with. He's amazing. I love him so much. I remember it was interesting we were talking about performance and stuff like that and he said to me in a way that like, I, like I was, I kind of had an interesting time of processing this, but he was like, you know, he was like, yeah, like Marcel, I love the way you move. Like you're very authentic. You have a lot of fun. Like it's like very, like fun the way you move your body. But like, you know, just because like I mean he has this very established career, like he's dancing like and aly, like all of that. He's like, I just want you to know like if you want to get into, you know, dance sort of in a more professional way, um, you might have, you might work with people who might take issue with sometimes the way that you move your body or they might, you know, like sometimes you might have to be a little, like less feminine or more masculine in some respects. It's just something that will come up. So I don't want this to surprise you in any way, just like obviously keep doing you. But like it might prove challenging depending on who you work with. I just want you to just know that. And I was like, oh, okay. I was like, thank you for that tip. But also it was kind of interesting because I was like, I figure, you know, in a, in an artistic space. Like I, I always, I guess assume that people will be more progressive or people were sort of like, you know, like it is like this is a mode of expression that should allow us to explore different possibilities to explore different realities like to put ourselves in a different space. So, and so it's interesting that even in this space, like we're still bound by this sort of gender normative like binary view of how people should move their bodies and I think that like there are choreographers and people that are doing amazing things like, you know, like folks who are, like really actively challenging those roles. But for the most part there are these expectations there, um, that you kind of will find in a more sort of performance choreographic space rather than like, I guess in in class. Um, so yeah,:
Alex:
13:28
Which is interesting because that space in some ways perpetuates culture, you know, there is this culture that is perpetuated and when you see. I remember the first time that I saw like a choreography and that kind of played with some of this kind of binary expectations. Femme presenting dancers, for example, lift somebody else or male dancers kind of dance together and lift each other. Right. It was like, I remember my body just having this moment of like this relief washing over me, this expansion, this bigger sense of possibility. That I didn't get from more classical performance of either ballet or modern dance, if that makes sense. Earlier you said you were expanding your, your dance vocabulary, right? I love that you used the word vocabulary because that's really how I look at dance and movement vocabulary that I want to expand, you know, in part of dancing professionally and, and performances, it's kind of seen that expansion and to feel that gender is kind of, I dunno. Um, then sometimes as gender normativity kind of shuts things down. That's some of what you were sharing that sometimes the expectations kind of make that make things a little bit smaller. Which is interesting because that was the next question I was going to ask you, which is what do you think the idea of gender opens up and close down when he comes to dance? And I'm already started speaking to that but I don't know if there was more than you want it to say about kind of just how. Yes, while it gets opened up and while it gets closed down, especially when maybe in more expansive, um, idea of gender is invited into the room.:
Marcel:
15:33
Yeah. It's, I think, um, yeah, I mean a lot of certainly that resonates as well and it's like. And I think that also too, it's like anything that, you know, there's two sides to a coin, right? And I think that like, like in a lot, I guess from my experience up to this date, I've seen ways in which gender can be very limiting, but also ways in which it's kind of, it can kind of open things up. Like I think that there is, there are ways that you can use bodies doing sort of contrarian things that like is really interesting and very captivating. I'm like, I think it's like, it's so funny too because I like being in sort of a dance space. Like I've never, I'm not really accustomed to people speaking about like I guess bodies in like this, like very like explicit way. Like people just like, you know, they just like, I don't know, it, it, it's, it's like, you know, when you, when you see dancers like on a stage or performance or whatever I like, it's like you're not necessarily getting to know them, it's like they're kind of just move as you kind of have you make these assumptions about their bodies, about the physicality, about their abilities, whatever, like just like kind of like from what's presented to you. So I think that in a lot of ways having a body that is read a certain way, doing things that you don't expect for that bothered you or Dennis and with other bodies that you don't expect them to be with. It makes it like, okay, like this is, there's a, there's a piece here, there's like a point to be made here. And so I think that like gender, it doesn't always have to close things down. I think that sometimes being someone that can be identified as like a male dancer being in a certain space, dancing a particular way, it can' be really interesting and very captivating. So it's, I think it just. And also I just want to really sort of underline the piece earlier in that for me at least, like the more comfortable I got with my own gender expression, the more I got comfortable they might like less so of my sexual orientation. Honestly. I'm more so just like my gender identity, my gender performance like that allowed me to even just like explore dance in general. Like as like my sense of gender opened up, it allowed my way to my movement vocabulary to open up. Like for example, if I'm like, like the fact that I don't necessarily honestly give a fuck about, you know, being read as like masculine or feminine or whatever. It just allows me to just do things more in whatever way. But like, you know, in a way that feels more authentic. I think that sometimes you find that people have a hard time adopting certain types of movement because they're like it. Like, oh, like I felt like I'm not really supposed to be doing this kind of movement or like moving in this way. Whereas for me I'm just like, who cares? Like whatever. Like, it just, it just, I think having that expansive sense of gender allows me to just open up and it really just adopt more types of, of movement vocabulary. I think that it's been really helpful in that way. So it's like, so you see different sides of it. But um, it's, it's, it's interesting though.:
Alex:
18:15
Yeah. And I love how all of those things intersect and I love that you brought in the idea of like talking about bodies and how bodies are read when we look at a performer, for example, I don't know if you came across, there was a video that went viral on the Internet, I think it was several months ago, might be last year of a larger sized male presenting a dancer and people add all sorts of reactions to that. And, and it's really interesting to see that intersection and this case was very specifically about the intersection of dance, masculinity and size, which at topic close to my heart because when I started dancing when I was really young and I love dance, and I'm kind of a larger body, like really broad shoulder for somebody was assigned female at birth, which is not usually considered really ideal. More and more curvaceous, which is not really the ballerina type. When I was growing up in the 70s in Italy. It wasn't as broad aan idea of what a dancer could look like or what bodies could be like and so it's fascinating how much weight and meaning we give to like all these different intersections, for you as well around dance then make that you've experienced or things that are not just about gender or parts of your identity and experiences that also feel meaningful for you when it comes to dance.:
:
20:04
Yeah, it's interesting. Yeah. It's like I think. Hm, that's a good question. So I guess the other sort of like, I think what's so beautiful about dance that is it allows us to open so many different sort of like societal conversations. Um, I think honestly we do ourselves a disservice when we, you know, for example, like the example you brought up, it's like when we think of someone doing ballet, just having this very like specific image of what that kind of person looks like and how they move it, all of that. I think that's so limited. Like in it. Like I get it, there's like a historical precedent for why we have certain quote unquote preferences are like, why are just like, oh, like a ballerinas, you know, sort of this like, yeah, this isn't kind of classical image and it's just like, why is it like. I think that for me it's interesting because I think being someone that is black that does, these more classical forms of dance I think in a lot of ways is very. It does feel very. I'm trying to find the right word here. I guess just like not rebellious but like it I like, it feels like I'm challenging something. It feels like I'm challenging sort of a precedent or like a, you know, a historical sort of notion that like only certain types of people we should be doing certain types of dance. I think the more I expand and try different styles that are very much outside of my level of comfort, like the first time it's like a ballet class. I was like truly what the fuck is going on? So confused right now. Like the girl you want me to do what? Like it's just like it was like such an adjustment but like being, I mean just even being in class and just like the optics of the class often being the only black or only one of very few black people in class. It's like it's interesting being in that space and it's like, like, but I can do this too. Like it's like even though you don't necessarily imagine someone like me, like a queer black person in this class, like I can still do this. And so I think that for me it's like it's really empowering. It can be sometimes a little intimidating and like a little sometimes like kind of a little isolating in some ways being so like, you know, out representative in class sometimes. But I think that like, you know, when I perform or like you know what I'm in these spaces and like I'm doing a certain movement vocabulary that's not necessarily expected, at least historically for me to do. It feels very like this is like, I'm like, no, this is good. This is good. That there's visibility and there are people who were doing types of dance that like the devil breaking down these silos of like who gets to do what or like what kind of styles I'm allowed to do or what kind of styles like make sense for me to do. Is it just because I'm black and queer is like, yes. Like I mean I obviously love, you know, like I can get down with like, you know, Bogan and things like that too. But like that shouldn't be the only move that you assigned to me based on my identity. It's like I could also do all different other types of cells as well and that's just as valid. And so I think that it's interesting when you. Because like I think also too, even just in the ways that we define dance, there are like racial implications to that, right? Like I think that people tend to see, like for example, if someone's like, if someone does ballet and they'd been doing ballet for a long time, they're part of a ballet company, whatever, whatever. People would be like, oh, this person's like, this is what they do, Dah, Dah, Dah, Dah, Dah, Dah, Dah. But at the same time you drop that same person and like say like a hip hop class and they don't know what the fuck is going on. It's like in my definition, I feel like dancers should be multifaceted and dancers should not be something that's exclusive like you shouldn't. It shouldn't be only those who do this kind of style of dance can be considered dancers. Everyone else is like, oh, like you know, hip hop or like West African or like whatever like that. That's cute. But like, I mean, are you really a dancer? I think that there's like these undertones people make of what style classifies you as a dancer and I think also uncoincidentally styles that historically tend to be inaccessible. Right? It's like to be able to do something like a ballet, you have to have access to that kind of training, which historically isn't really always accessible for a lot of people. You know, financially it's expensive. So it is like, and even in my case, the reason why I'm even able to take class as much as I do is because no, I go to studios that have programs where they allow you to say like volunteer on a weekend and then in exchange you get free unlimited classes, things like that. Things that make that kind of remove that economic barrier and by virtue of doing that, allowing more people to kind of invest in that kind of skill set. So I just think that it's really, I think there's a racial undertones to everything. And so I think that it's just interesting how we define dance, how we even look at it, what we see is a valid form of dance. Even like I'll go to like if I'm just on a roll, I was like, I'll be in these classes where people will be like, let's just improvising like Improv and it's like everyone just immediately jumped into this. It's like I have like modern or more kind of like lyrical kind of style of movement. And I'm like, Improv by definition is literally whatever the fuck you want to do. So it's like, why is everyone moving the same way and why is it that like if I move separately from how everyone else is dancing, it somehow feels like I'm not doing it properly even though there's no correct way to Improv movement. It's just really, it just think it's really, really interesting. Um, and so I think that like for me it's like it can, it can show up as a challenge sometimes, but I think that like, like just challenging, opening up and challenging what is defined as dance was classified as dance is really, really important. I mean, I even a couple of weeks ago, oh my God, I'm trying to remember this choreographers name. Oh Gosh, the name escapes me but I'll, I'll send it to you later. Maybe you could leave in link in the description, but I remember, um, at one of the students that I danced that there was a show that weekend where there was a, there was a choreographer who put, identifies as disabled that he has his own company and like he grew up using sort of like various, like movement aids. And so like that's kind of how he discovered his own style of movement, but it's interesting because we were talking about it, he was saying that like, you know, when we think of like dancing kind of these more classical ways, it's like, it's not really often designed for someone who cannot move their body in a particular way, but who can also converse. Lee Do things that like, you know, I guess an able bodied population can do as well, like the fact that he's able to use his crutches to kind of slide across the floor in a particular way that you couldn't do if you didn't use them. It is interesting or the fact that he's able to have a range of motion that's informed by that, that you wouldn't necessarily have. You didn't have that. Um, eight as well. It just makes it, it just makes it different. I think the way he positioned that was really important because it's like, it's not like there's this gold standard and this kind of derivative, albeit lesser form. It's like these can exist on the same plane. I move in a different way that you do because of what my body does naturally. And that's fine. That's actually we can. There's things that I can do that you can't do. Things like you can do that I can't do. And like I think it's, I think we would position it as lateral. That's really, really important. So I think when I, when I saw like he had this whole talk and I was like, this is like so amazing and revolutionary and I love this and like this just needs to be everywhere because like it just. Yeah. So:
Alex:
27:22
I don't know if you've ever come across Sins Invalid which is that broader kind of company which has disabled actors in performance and dancers and you know, and I, I love what you're talking about in terms of kind of expanding the cultural vocabulary in some ways, right? So there is individually kind of what can I do and how can I express myself, but then there's this other layer of what does the culture consider valuable or legitimate. Right.:
Marcel:
27:55
Exactly. Exactly. And it's just like, and I think the more I get involved in the dance world, the more you just realize how subjective things are that like, you know, it's, I think because I also have been getting more involved with studios that very actively are like, you know, like dance is something that should not be exclusive. Like we should. Like, like when people say like I can't dance or like I'm not a dancer, whatever, whatever. We should challenge that notion, that image of what we would dance to be. I mean it's hard when you, when you look institutionally and you realized that like dance is funded in a very particular way and there is a particular body type that's like preferential and like that in turn kind of informs how culture sees it. But at the same time when you, it's a, it's a feedback loop, right? Like if we can create a space when people are allowed to dance and be dancers, even though they may not be, have like certain vocabulary, but they still have their movement vocabulary. Like every person's innate move vocabulary is different just by form of us being different people. So it's like that be emphasized that if that's the fulcrum with which we define dance and that expands infinitely the ways in which we can create our create work and just like make space for ourselves. Um, so I just think that like, that's just all very important. I think the social identity has everything to do with dance and I think that we will be honestly doing ourselves a disservice if we didn't analyze sort of like the racial, gender or sexuality, whatever implications when we like create these spaces. Um, and I think that like in a dance education type of setting or a performance type of setting, we should just be very actively trying to make it as accessible as possible and like allowing people the most, like, like there's not like a necessarily like a norm and an other to be included, but rather like we're all that and we will have something to contribute. Um, so, so yeah.:
Alex:
29:45
Yeah. And like you said, it's breaking the feedback loops so that the expansion can also be cultural. Right? Exactly, in some ways in which the ways in which dance is considered more legitimate or more funded, whereas those are real dancers. It's very much do with class, with race, when, right. Those are very real things that don, you know, they're not getting looked at critically, that just keep perpetuating, reproducing themselves in some way. So I didn't even know, you know, we cannot step outside of culture and dance can not step outside of culture either. Right here in that what we now call the US, right? It's so fascinating to see what has happened to dance and how dance is performed, and who gets to perform whatt, which has to do a lot with kind of gender and race. Um, and then, and then I'll, I'll people talk about them here. It's fascinating too because when people are like, white people can't dance. And I'm like, yes in the US, but which kind of white people are you talking about because I can tell you that my English partner can definitely not dance. You know, I have a bicultural child, who is half Italian and half English. Growing up, she tesaes me, I'd be like move those hips, those are Italian hips, that's the Italian half, not the English half right. So this like the way we move as being kind of codified, is that even a word in English? But, you know, like it, I think it is, that's been codified through a cultural lens, right? Um, in history from lots of different reasons that realism and all of the sudden things that are ways of moving that have become more or less acceptable. Um, because of somebody's ethnicity, race and class and gender and all of that. And those are that, those are not necessarily inherently in the body. Right? I mean am I making sense?:
Marcel:
31:58
Absolutely. That's so interesting you even say that because I actually remember. So this actually brings up some memories from um, so I studied social policy and in college and so I took some sociology and gender studies classes as well. Um, and I remember in one of my classes we were reading this ethnography, um, from this book, I think it was called like, "Dude, You're a Fag" or something like that. It had like a very, like, holy shit kind of like title and basically it was just ethnographer who is following this um like, this middle school and I forgot where it was, but basically it's just kind of just like talking about like masculinity as it existed in this like middle school, like high school space. And it was interesting because she was at one point she noted in the book that when it came to dance and movement, like among, like white boys, like it was considered like feminine or like, you know, quote unquote gay to like, you know, to dance at all, like to have any inclination towards movement and dancing is considered like a feminine thing. However, that wasn't true when you looked across racial lines. Um, thought that was really interesting because like, it was like yeah. I just look at my own experience in growing up. It's like if you couldn't dance, that was an issue. No rhythm. You have no beat. You can't move. It's like, it's like people will look at you like, what are you doing? Like d is a song that play right now.:
Alex:
33:15
In southern Italy it's the same. Why would you not dance because of gender? It's unthinkable.:
Marcel:
33:22
Right. And so it's funny because like, you know, when people say things like, you know, I can't dance. I'm like, I think it's like I, I think, you know, environment is everything, right? So I just always imagined. I'm like, okay, so if you didn't grow up with this precedent or this pressure to like you either not move or if you do move you have to move with these very particular ways based on like your social markers. Like would you still have the assessment? Probably not. I mean you were at least maybe it will feel you would feel differently about it even if you'd like moved just the same. You will feel like I don't. I think that when people say they can't dance, I feel like there's something to unpack that there's like a history or eliminating their that has met, made people kind of get to that I'm accessing it. So. Yeah.:
Alex:
34:06
And such a big part of the historical trauma. I think it's one of the saddest wounds of white masculinity is rigid. Literally in the body, you're not even supposed to dance, let alone kind of an expansion of any other kinds in it. It's, yeah, it's, it's such a, it's sad. It's really sad when I think about that legacy and how important it is when we break that legacy, then like you said, there's more possibility that's more expansion, but just where emotions are connection. Absolutely. That rigidity and then I think that's translated in many different ways, right?:
Marcel:
34:51
Yeah. So it's just. So. It's just so interesting. It's just so interesting. Yeah. That kind of cultural views that defines it.:
Alex:
34:59
So I'm curious whether I know this was not in that. That's kind of our role. I'm like, oh, well then we'll just go from there. So listeners, just so you know, uh, Marcel and all the people that are interview are amazing because they just roll with this kind of free floating conversation, which I'm very grateful for. But one of the things I'm really curious about is, is there a space or spaces where you feel you can bring all of yourself as a dancer, whether performance basis or social spaces, but is there a space or spaces where you can feel like you bring your full self on the dance floor?:
:
35:43
That. Oh, I love that question. So I guess so in my experience, and I think that it's just because I tend to find performance opportunities that kind of aligned with my values that so typically have this like social undertone to them actually feel like what I perform. It's a very freeing space because it's one of those things where it's like, you know, I'm performing ostensibly for this audience just here to consume this movement is like. And those spaces, it's always like, you know, beforehand what I'm nervous as shit and I'm like, oh my God, like I gotta go, I'll stay until like three seconds is. It's always like I was telling myself, it's like remember why you do this, right? Like remember why you did remember the authenticity, the freedom that got you into this mode of expression. It's not about, I mean if you hit all the counts on time and you're like fuck it, the piroutte is like amazing. But if you make a mistake, girl, it's fine, it's fine. Just keep it pushing is not that deep. So it's like I think for in those moments like my authenticity is like kind of what helps me push through any sort of like nerves or whatever. But in terms of like socially I think that funny enough, okay, so do you see, I remembered them. He used to have these parties where there was this group called the coven and they would hold these like monthly, like clear, like witch parties basically like where people would just come together and it was just like literally any goddamn body. It was kind of like, you know, there was sort of like this, like we're trans, like sort of centerpiece of a central point to the, to the space, but it was very much kind of like we're just inviting anyone into this space. Like, you know, we like any sort of like ableism, fatphobia, whatever, all that shit is like out the door. We're not dealing with that shit, so it was very much like the way they crafted the space was like anyone, anyone and everyone is allowed in this space and like, you know, we're making it accessible economically. It was just like this monthly thing. I don't know if they still do it, but when I first moved to DC I used to go to those all the time and I just loved. I loved being in that space because if felt I could be myself in a way that like I still am when I'm in dance, like social dance spaces that aren't like that, but it was just different. It looks. So for example, I guess like typically when I go out, right, like he's like, you know, I, you know, like I, you know, I go out with all different types of people, whatever, when I go to my to go, I guess I'm more sort of like straight kind of space or like with straight people. I noticed that and I think that there's also racial implications here as well. I noticed that whenever I dance like just very openly, like they're playing a song and I was like, oh this is my shit. Like let me just get whatever. Like it becomes a spectacle thing. Funny enough, I think that's actually happened at the podcast conference. Like I feel like there were moments where it was like we were dancing and like it came to like, oh my God, like look at him dance. Like oh my gosh. It's like we're like kinda surround this person and like kind of marvel at their ability to move, which on the surface can be like, oh my God, like we're complimenting this person. They can move. Interestingly. And so we're like, like it's like a thing. But also I think there's kind of this piece where it's like I, it feels like I'm performing for people or it feels like just kind of like I'm dancing for them when I'm not dancing for them. I'm dancing for me. And so it feels like weird. And also when you consider the optics of like this black person and this center of circle where it's like, you know, this periphery of white gays, like it just makes it feel like this kind of odd minstrelsy there that I'm like, I, it makes me really uncomfortable and I don't necessarily know how to navigate it all the time. Like I'm always like this is because I was like, if they're playing like Fat Boy Slim, I'm going to dance, but like it's making you weird. He was like y'all are making it. Like, like I still get my life. But like, or like if I'm like decided to like, you know, walks of categories real quick and like do some like voguing, like I'm like yes queen. And I'm like, but this isn't for like, your like weird, like straight thingLike it's like I'm just does it for me reading it like I don't know. I think that like sometimes people, it's like they have good intentions but they make it. When they marvel at you it's like it's very isolating it a lot of ways. It's like, oh my God, look at this person. Do this thing, but I could never do because why would I ever do that kind of thing. And so there is a piece there that always like it is a little challenging and so I loved about the space that I just mentioned. It's like we're surrounded by like other people of color, you know, Queer folks, Trans People like Oh, like you know, all different types of like various identities. It's like you didn't really find that like everyone was just like there to have a good time to dance, to maybe meet someone or just like hang out with their friends, whatever, whatever. It was like a space for any and all types of interactions and dynamics were like allowed. But like with that mutual understanding that like we're not on something like white supremacist, heteronormative like nonsense. Like we're just going to be here and just have a good time. So it was like spaces like that, like events like that, house parties like that, whatever. Those tend to be. The spaces where I'm like I can just go out and it's just like a, like a good time. And also just like on a piece that's like less sort of nebulously sort of like social identity and like more just like in real time, like it's just nice to go out with people who can get it, like people who can like dance and move and I'm not the only one that like wants to like it's like we just go out with people who have that same energy and that same vocabulary, you're just like, all living is just like, it makes it so much more interesting because it's like, it's not this whole like I'm the only one that can dance or I'm the only one willing to dance or like everyone's, it's like I'm the only one day. It's like it's like we're all dancing and we can only five and like dance with each other and it's like lit and we're just having a great time. It's like we're like flowing into the cosmos of becoming this like dance, like goddess. I don't know, it's just like I love that kind of energy and so yeah, it's just, it's really, it's really, really interesting. But I would say to answer your question, like kind of those like social spaces with that sort of shared understanding, um, or even just like kind of because even like when I go to like, like gay bars for example, like I feel like it doesn't always feel that same way. It can still feel like kind of like this weird like gender nonsense. So like I think those spaces that are kind of like, you know, queer trans people of color are centered that like all abilities, you know, sort of like, you know, identities into that space and there's a shared understanding and they play good music. It's so, so yeah.:
Alex:
41:53
And those pieces that are still rare in my experience, I'm in Minneapolis. Not to get too political, but you know, we had the space and then it kinda got encroached on by a lot of queer and straight white folks, and that changed the dynamic in that community, you know, to kind of reclaim that space for what it was meant to be, which was to center kind of, you know, queer, queer friends of color. And like really be kind of more poc center and even though I love what you mentioned about that moment, right? Even on the conference where I was like, you know, dancing and then it becomes this thing that when other people come into we're not used to being in that space in some ways kind of changed the dynamic. Does that make sense? But not used to being in that space but like just move your body. It's mind and not allow our bodies in the same way but it's joyous but then it becomes something else. It's still joyous but also maybe weird.:
Marcel:
43:02
Exactly. It's like joyous but like weirdly like spectacle that you're like joyous, but like you're just inviting these dynamics where it's like it's like you're making it about you. I also noticed that like this might be better but I feel like sometimes like I've had this experience so often where like I'll be out dancing with my friends, whatever and there'll be. Usually this is like when I'm like dancing with like other people of color, whatever, whatever. And we go out and like, it's usually white men will do this for my experience. Like there'll be like, oh, like look at me, like I can't dance, but I'm putting myself out there. Like it's just like they kind of like make it about them in a way where it's just kind of like if you just want to dance, just like dance with us, don't make it like, oh look at me. I'm like making a mockery of this like lol. And I'm just kinda like, okay, like that's fine that you feel comfortable in your body. I'm not saying you should not feel comfortable right now, but it's like you're like, I think the difference is intention, right? Like for me, like whenever I go out to dance, my intention is not to be like bout to fuck it up and I'm about to be like the baddest bitch in the game. Like everyone's gonna be like, just like the Lord am I, I just want to dance to good music. That's it. And then people were like, oh, that's their, that's their ministry. But like that's not my intention. But I think that sometimes you find people that were, their intention is to make it about them or to like just distract from like the sanctity of like, you know, this sort of like queer space and like make it like this is a joke thing, you know what I mean? I think that. And I just, I've noticed that a lot where I'm just like, I don't know how to respond to it, but I'm always left at the same feeling of like you could just dance, you're doing a lot right now.:
Alex:
44:44
Like I got chills, right? Because it's like, yes, it does feel like it feels like a disruption of something. Like, I don't know, for me dancing is so spiritual and not religious, but just like that, uh, that connection with one another. Right. You could just eat parts of it. Why are you. Yes. The disruption of that. And you use that word, right?:
Marcel:
45:24
Oh, that's funny. But yeah. So it's like, honestly I'm like, you know, yeah, get your life. But like just, just have some tact. Honestly, that's really what it is. I'm just still just have some decorum, just like, you know, try not to make it about you, just like, just be, like, just have a good time. It just don't make it additionally complicated for no reason. I guess it's sort of a takeaway.:
Alex:
45:45
Yeah. No, I love it. Like have some awareness about you enter the space piece that you mentioned. Oh, I feel like at the talk about this forever and hours and hours and hours for the sake of our listeners I have done that in season one. So anything that I haven't asked you and you were like, I really wanted to talk about this, um, in this episode. Like I was really hoping that we will talk about this.:
Marcel:
46:32
I guess I sort of love to talk a little bit about. So yeah, like that intersection of like dance and activism and I guess I kind of what that looks like and I guess sort of what that means to me. Yes. Yeah. Like I guess because something that I've been, it's interesting because like, you know, professionally my background is more sort of like is in public health more specifically in working in HIV prevention and things like that. And you know, in that work I always, you know, I, I've, I've always been someone that like has sort of been a bit more slanted towards the creative who seemed sort of like that you utility and like crafting messaging or dialogue or whatever or programs that have this kind of creative tilt to it where we're like willing to sort of make that doesn't always like take risks to like kind of bring in more populations, be inclusive in ways that we haven't been before.:
Marcel:
47:27
Like that's always been something that has been really interesting to me. And like as I get more to dance I find that there's like this tension sometimes of like, you know, I think that dance is so important and I realized that the ways in which is like saved my life and a lot of ways and like realizing that like access to like dance but by extension just like artistic mediums. Like whether that be like the visual arts writing, you know, acting whatever, like I think allowing people to express themselves artistically, it's just like super, super important. And so I think that like for me, something that I'm wondering about is like, like in the pro, like in the activism work that we do, how can we make it such that like we're inviting those artistic mediums into that space. So I think, for example, podcasting is a really great example where it's like just like you're using this platform that you've created creatively, um, that you create a creatively like what you created. Like in creatively kind of like bring in so many different topics. It's like you're using this platform as a way to, you know, to talk about gender, to talk about all these different issues where it's like that's really like I just knew that this really dope. And so I guess like as I'm walking, as, as I'm getting more into sort of like my identity as an activist and as a dancer, that's just something that I'm just trying to think about more often. I think that, for example, there was this, um, this piece that I was in a couple of months ago where we were kind of talking about social justice, like through the lens of Marvin Gaye's music and so it was like this interesting kind of like collaboration of like Motown, like lady hits, but also like talking to him using that as a way to talk about the environment, talk about poverty, to talk about racism and sexism, all these different things. And it's just like I, as I, I want to kind of move into that space more. I want to like be able to sort of use, you know, the way I move and dance as a way to facilitate those conversations and like also encourage people to sort of have a similar nexus within themselves to sort of see their movement as a way to facilitate those conversations as well. Not just like, oh, I went to this dance show that talked about this thing, but also the way I dance or the way that I write or the way that I draw the way I do whatever can also be a similar conduit to talk about these things, to do something about these things, to respond to these things. Um, and so that's something that I guess I'm just trying to get into more so like I. Yeah, I guess that was just like kind of a piece I just wanted to answer about like how like, yeah, I think that like I'm more and more seeing like this artistic passion as like less auxiliary, less supplemental and more like kind of central to the values that I, that I know I have and that like I want to sort of respond to. So that's I guess sort of a similar commission I would like to kind of offer to you and your listeners have like if there was something that you deeply care about that you're really passionate about that might seem incongruent with other things that you're doing or things that you're working on or whatever. Like inviting you to maybe like, yeah, find those ways in which they can connect because there's no like roadmap to liberation, right? Like we, like, we all are just trying to figure this shit out. So it's like if your, if your roadmap is like, you know what I'm going to combine like puppetry and like, I dunno, like conversations around like mysogeny into like the space lit, get be that person that's like, you know, I'm a, you'd be puppets to talk about like, like break it down, tries to fuck it up, cis do that. So that's kind of like, I guess the space that I want to just allow people to kind of creatively talk about these things. It's just like, yeah, I want to do something I'm really interested in. So yeah. So if anyone, any of your listeners on the optimism tips or tools or whatever, like greatly appreciate it. But yeah, but that's just something I just want to insert that, like these art is central to all of this work that it's not sort of a side thing but. But yeah.:
Alex:
51:15
So I love that you mentioned that like arts and creativity are so and oh my God, I can't believe you mentioned puppets because like, so in Minneapolis we have this amazing like, you know, like thousands of people come together to witness this community creative celebration which is like this giant puppets. It's always political, it's always as a team and it's always been about social justice as long as I've lived here on Anishanabe land now known as Minneapolis and that brings together all the different communities that live here. And so when you mentioned that you need to come visit, you know, just like you need to see May Day because it's all about that.:
Marcel:
52:16
The fact that that exists, is amazing.:
Alex:
52:21
right? So it's like I can tell you that is so very real. Creative Arts just opens up the conversation. I'm different way, right? Like dancing with people opens up the conversation in a different way. I love it. I love that you brought in this piece so the listeners wanted to find out more about what you're doing or your work as a creative person or as a public health person or is there any direction in which you want to point them to?:
Marcel:
52:51
Yes, so funny enough actually, so I, so a bit of a shameless plug here. So I'm actually in the process of developing my own podcast series with the cohost and so we're looking to launch in sometime next month, probably around February 14th. It's going to be called colored pages, book club where we're going to be talking about various, um, you know, typically fiction, various works that are by, you know, by women, people of Color, like Queer and Trans people, like you have all different types of social identities in reading fiction from those artists as a way to kind of have like as a conduit to talk about broader social issues and there's going to be sort of a tilt towards like fantasy magical realism and sort of like imagining what that world of liberation looks like. So if you're interested at all in sort of like the intersection of literature and fantasy and activism and all those different things, definitely check out color pages, book club when it comes out soon. I'm not sure when this episode will be released, but yes, but I can certainly send you more information on that as it kind of gets fleshed out and rolled out. Um, so yeah, so that's certainly kind of the main way that I would love for people to get in touch. We also have now an email address called thesecoloredpages@gmail.com. If folks ask for more information, we're in the process of putting together a website things are happening. So be on the lookout for it.:
Alex:
54:19
Is there any social media that people can follow to kind of see an announcement about this? Either yours or your cohost or.:
Marcel:
54:26
Yes. So we actually have a twitter page at the moment. We're still like, we have to like kind of put it. Yeah, it's a process but I think it's. So I might edit this later because I think there's the hyperlink, but it's twitter.com/I think it's these color pages, but like I'll send you the information on twitter, so in like subscribe if they would, DO you subscribe on Twitter? I don't know. Follow out of your social media and we just. Yeah, so folks, if they are at all interested in when it's sort of officially like, yeah, obviously like I said, you know, have a love for your listeners. Could check us out if they're interested. So yeah.:
Alex:
55:09
Yeah, I'm really excited. I was like well that sounds amazing and then you'll just have to come back to talk about your show because I know we can figure out how to make it about gender because that's kind of what I do.:
Marcel:
55:21
Absolutely. Yes. And if you want to, you know, if there are any books that you want to read, like where we would love to have guests come on the show and like we just have like a little book club kiki, you just talk about it, you know, the feelings of the thing. So see listeners, that's how I do it with just the, just go on each other's show and inspire each other. I love it. I love this.:
Alex:
55:44
Well thank you so much for coming on the show. I support your show to just explode out there and have a great following because it sounds amazing. I have so much gratitude because dance is such a topic close to my heart and has so much to do with gender also as we were so much anyway, I'm having feelings which I will process by myself or with my therapist. So I'm very grateful. Thank you.:
Marcel:
56:22
Yeah, thank you for giving me this platform is amazing. I mean just catch up like I haven't seen you in awhile so it's like so good to chat with you but yeah. But thank you for giving me this platform to really talk about these issues because yeah, it can be, it can be, it can be complicated to navigate. So it's nice to be able to have a space where you know, I can, you know, not only sort of talk about how I feel but also speak with someone who like, you know, or a lot of these pieces really resonates with them as well. So that's, that's really, really beautiful as well. So thank you.:
Alex:
56:53
So just taking a breath into that mutual appreciation. To learn more about gender, you know that I have a book out called "How to Understand Your Gender; A Practical Guide for Exploring Who You Are". And there's a new book coming out in May 2019. "Life isn't Binary". Both of those are coauthored with Meg-John Barker. Keep listening and subscribe on your favorite platforms. You can listen on Radio Public, and if you listen on Radio Public need for your listen by you still listen for free so you can do that. If you want to leave a review, drop me a line, share the love, let people know that this podcast exists and that watch out for an announcement about my Patreon that's coming out next episode. And in the meantime, keep dancing and keep moving in any way that you want to. Thank you so much for listening.:
Marcel:
57:52
Thank you all so much.:
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