Remember square-dancing? If you’re anything like me, the last time you do-si-do’d was probably in middle school gym class, and you not only fumbled all the steps, but you desperately prayed to the yee-haw gods above that you’d snag your crush for a partner. Girls danced with boys, and flounced gingham may or may not have been involved. Oh, the good ol’ days.
It might blow your mind to know that there are some people today square-dancing by choice… and they aren’t Nebraskan swingers, either. Last week, some 800 dancers of all ages, gender identities, and sexual orientations came to the Philadelphia 201 Hotel in Center City for the 36th annual International Association of Gay Square Dance Clubs convention – a four-day square-dance extravaganza honoring LGBTQ folx and their allies.
What goes on during such an event? It’s pretty colorful, according to the Inquirer:
The seven ballrooms of the hotel held different square-dancing workshops and themed dancing segments, called tips. Themes throughout the weekend ranged from “pop music” to the risqué “magic underwear” — yes, square dancing in your unmentionables is a thing.
DJ Sandie Bryant hosted the convention and called the figures, which are much more complex than the basic steps you tripped over at age thirteen. All sorts of modern music, from Tony Bennett to Meghan Trainor, was used for the dances. And, perhaps most interestingly of all, partners were everybody and anybody. Men with men, women with women, men with women… and the lady didn’t always follow, either. One participant told the Inquirer that trying to remember if she was leading or not was more complicated than the dancing!
Square-dancing has a fairly long history in the queer community. It became a thing in the early 80s, in the midst of the awakening HIV/AIDS crisis, when a community that was already marginalized by society felt left out from something as simple as folk dancing. These LGBTQ dancers decided to go their own way, and in 1983, the IAGSDC was founded.