I cannot remember a time since I started dancing when the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre, dubbed the “Cultural Ambassador to the World,” has not played a monumental role in shaping how I see dance. Inspired by my sister and girlfriends in the Northeast Bronx, I grew up exposed to the sheer joy of dancing. In this world, dance icons such as Alvin Ailey and Arthur’s Mitchell’s Dance Theatre of Harlem provided visions of beauty and belonging.
Though I took to dancing, and my love of it grew, I also became more aware of what it meant to be a male dancer. Where I came from, men did not dance. And the choice to dance singled out my difference. What this difference meant at the time, I could not fully comprehend, but I knew carrying the status of a male dancer made me uneasy with those both familiar and unfamiliar with this form of artistic expression. Gay male dancers grow up being told heterosexual men have a monopoly on masculinity. The male dancers in this film show they do not. In my experience, gay male dancers get to the heart of defining masculinity, and its performance, like no other artistic form.
Danced Out emerges from my lived experience as a professional male dancer in concert dance. In a world filled with anxiety about masculinity and the policing of its boundaries, this film shares a deep commitment to understanding, exploring, and revealing the multifaceted aspects of gender performance. The implications of this film show the crucial social role and function gay men have in contemporary society. With a nuanced approach to masculinity, gay male dancers impart longstanding survival techniques they use. Danced Out offers critical insights that challenge individuals, institutions, and society that perpetuate gender norms about masculinity.