Rudy


It’s pretty common for dancers, when they reach a certain skill level, to start learning the opposite part: girls learn how to lead, and guys learn how to follow. It helps you appreciate the whole picture of what’s going on in a dance, understanding what your partner is experiencing. Learning how to follow can help guys be better leaders, communicating more clearly exactly what they want their partner to do. Learning to lead can help a girl be a better follow, showing her what she’s listening for. Learning the opposite part is also important if you want to be able to teach. You need to be able to explain everything that’s going on, even if you’re half of a teaching couple teaching your usual part. Often the two of you might be independently dealing with particular questions, or you might need to keep the class going in its exercise while your partner is off helping that one guy who just doesn’t seem to get it. Consequently you’ll sometimes see two guys dancing together, or two girls. It usually has nothing whatever to do with their sexual preferences. They’re just working on their dancing.

The first time I saw two guys dance together it was at a dance put on by a small college a few hours away. This was the first time I’d ever traveled to a dance, almost nobody knew me, and I wasn’t dancing much. There were a set of twin brothers in the hosting swing club, both good dancers. Towards the end of the dance they danced a song together, showing off all the tricks they knew, and occasionally bickering with one another over who was leading. It was one of the most awesomely hilarious things I’d ever seen. Their dancing was wonderful – athletic and graceful. Because they weren’t being particularly careful with their partner they went for the moves with a gusto that was amazing to watch. The best was watching their faces as they reacted to doing unfamiliar things, and as they argued with one another about who was leading. I loved it, and when they were done, applauded along with other onlookers.

Since then I’ve considered it a treat to see guys dancing together. Beyond the fact that it’s usually only the very good guys who do it (meaning the quality of dancing tends to be very watchable), guys dance differently with other guys than they do with women. They become more athletic, a little more forceful. It’s like the difference between guys playing basketball by themselves, and when a woman joins the game. No matter how much a guy may intend to treat everyone equally, subconsciously they tend to tone things down a little, become a little more gentle when physically interacting with someone they perceive as smaller and potentially more vulnerable. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a committed feminist – but to be honest, I’m rather grateful for this. There are too many opportunities in social dancing for both partners to get hurt. Guys being a little more gentle means I may still have usable shoulders when I’m fifty-five. Still, it’s always been a joy for me to see guys dancing with the gloves off, so to speak.

Two of the best leads in our scene are Trey and Rudy. Both of them have fairly distinctive styles, Trey being more grounded and groovy, Rudy smooth and gorgeously graceful. They are also the only two guys in our Lindy Hop scene who also dance West Coast. Trey knows how to follow, but he’s not super good at it. Rudy can follow like a dream. Sometimes the two of them dance together, especially working on their West Coast skills. It’s always a fabulous show, and attracts quite an audience. The onlookers often comment on Rudy’s following. I’ve heard more than one girl say she wishes she could follow like Rudy. One night a group of girls got together and decided that they should have t-shirts made that read, “I want to dance pretty like Rudy.” I thought this was an awesome tribute, and told Rudy about it.

To my surprise, he thought it was an insult. I was dense, so he had to explain. “Guys dancing with guys… don’t you think some people think it’s a little gay?” I blinked, and let that sink in. To be honest, that thought had never occurred to me, and I had to think a little to figure out why. I know Trey and Rudy. Both of them are completely, sometimes obnoxiously, heterosexual men. Both are involved in committed relationships with their girlfriends. To me they’re so thoroughly heterosexual that even if I saw them dressed in drag trolling for tricks in a city park I would probably sooner assume that they were pulling some kind of prank (or possibly in dire financial distress) than that they were gay. I told Rudy this, and the conversation ended.

Still, the more I thought about it, the more annoyed I got, not at Rudy, but at our society that considers any non-violent contact between men as suspect. When girls dance with girls, it’s hot. But when guys dance with guys people doubt their manliness? That’s just wrong. There are lots of cultures where men dance with each other. Think of Russian folk dancing, with the guys doing what wikipedia calls “traditional squatwork” – that incredible kicking while sitting almost on your heels which requires such awesome balance, not to mention monster thigh muscles. Does anybody call that gay? Heck, no! So why do we have to be all hatin’ on our guys who happen to be fabulous dancers.

Hmmph.

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Today in my Anthropology 150 class, the Professor was talking about various marriage customs around the world.  There’s your good old monogamy (the ostensible custom of choice for most of the Western world, also my personal favorite), and various forms of polygamy, from polygyny (one man married to more than one woman ala harems) to polyandry (one woman married to more than one man).  There can be different benefits to the different kinds of marriage, like having more workers to carry on subsistence farming in the case of polygyny.  In fact, this kind of polygamy is so popular that when we say the word “polygamy,” everyone assumes that we’re talking polygyny.  But there are benefits to polyandry too, and it is the norm in some parts of the world.  In Tibet, where land is incredibly scarce and birth rates must be kept down to ensure survival, often one woman will marry all of the brothers from a family, ensuring that the family land will be inherited intact instead of split up between the brothers.  While to us the idea of one woman being married to more than one man seems sorta perverted, the kind of thing guys write letters to Playboy about, for these Tibetans, it’s a simple matter of sensible economics.

The class was a little boring, and my mind started to wander.  I started thinking, if I were to be married to more than one guy, who would I marry?  It was purely theoretical, so I considered all the guys I know, even the ones who are already taken.  Most of the guys from dancing were immediately dismissed.  Joe was definitely on the list, and Justin, a theology grad student who’s been showing up on my radar lately (he told me the most awesomely geeky joke the other day).  I considered Trey , and then crossed him off.  For one thing, I can’t imagine him living in the same house with Joe and Justin, much less sharing a wife with them.  For another, I still don’t want to have to care in any way what Trey does or doesn’t do.  As a friend, he’s fun.  As one of my primary relationships, he would make my life miserable.  Then I thought of Rudy, the smoothest Lindy Hopper I’ve ever danced with.  He parties a little too much, and drinks more than is perhaps healthy, but he’s been happily linked with his girl through some major ups and downs for a couple of years now.  And he likes to think about things.  And he’s got a lot more maturity under his belt than most of the guys I know.  I think I could get along with him just fine.  And he would definitely be fun to dance with!

So, you know, just in case the world is suddenly transformed into the sort of place where polyandry makes sense, and if the Catholic Church would suddenly decide that this was a good idea, and if they were all suddenly available, Joe, Justin and Rudy are mine.  Dibs!