An interview with festival organizers Maggie Cee and J Michael Winward
Dancers and members of the queer community alike are invited to put on their dancing shoes at the second annual Dancing Queerly festival taking place at the Dance Complex on July 28 and 29. The festival will consist of two nights of performances by queer dancers and choerographers—including Toby MacNutt and LaWhore Vagistan—as well as different workshops and a community conversation offered on the 29th.
The weekend’s organizers and producers are Maggie Cee, LGBTQ activist, solo performer and founder of the Femme Show, and J Michael Winward, director of Steps in Time (ballroom dancing for seniors) and dancer with the company Public Displays of Motion. After producing the dance show A Queer Time and Place together in 2017, the pair decided they wanted to create more space for queer dancers. They started Dancing Queerly to ensure that everyone in the LGBTQ continuum, from artists and choreographers to the audience, has a space to express themselves through dance.
For you, what does it mean to dance queerly?
JMW: For me personally, as someone who is primarily solo based, I tell stories about different topics through memoir and movement. The piece I made for least year’s festival, “Hail Mary Cha Cha Cha,” is about growing up queer and Catholic. So, for me, it’s about solo movement. But there are ways of queering space without being explicitly identity-centric. I think [queer dance] can mean a lot of things, depending on an individual’s self expression.
How are you hoping to celebrate and make visible all the intersectionality of queerness with other facets of identity?
[MC]: There is a really stereotyped image of a gay male dancer or choreographer that people tend to think of, but what we’re interested in is making space for all kinds of queerness and how queerness intersects with other marginalized identities in the dance world. Lesbians, transgender people, queer people with disabilities, and queer people of color have always been part of the dance world but were not always centered or a focus. Part of what Dancing Queerly wants to do is center some of those experiences.
How did you choose which dance workshops to include?
MC: We think about serving two populations: the “nondancer,” queer population who don’t think of themselves as dancers, and also the LGBTQ and straight members of the Boston dance community. The [floor] workshop we have with Toby MacNutt is a pretty modern-dance-, concert-dance-focused workshop but it’s also improvisational and open to all abilities. But I would say the interest in it is more from people who are already engaged in contact improv or modern dance or contemporary dance.
JMW: There’s also the Dance Curious class, which were so successful that we are making it a staple in the festival. We describe it as “speed dating” in the sense that the lessons happen very quickly. You get four dance artists who identify as LGBTQAI and they give their perspective on a given style. We offer this up as a queer-only space; it’s the only offering we have that is like that because we are trying to address what it means for a queer body to be dancing in a traditional dance space that we know can often be fraught for people.
How do you think dance can help people discover or embrace their identity?
MC: Our bodies are such contested ground as queer people, and even more so depending on different people’s identities and experiences. One thing that we know about bodies is that it’s healthy for them to move. A lot of times we are given the message that we should be moving our bodies to change them, or to punish them, or to be healthy, or seen as healthy in these really rigid ways. All of these are ways our bodies can become a battleground.
When I think about teaching dance to other queer people and creating space for them, especially as adults or teenagers, to get into the dance world, I believe everyone should have access to different ways to move their bodies, so they can find one that is likeable for them.
What do you want artists and attendees to take away from the festival?
JMW: I want people to see some aspect of their own experience on stage, or in a workshop, or in just a casual conversation before or after a performance. And knowing this work is never going to be finished—representation is an ongoing process and we are trying a contribute to creating systems that support it as best as possible.
MC:I hope that Dancing Queerly can be one tiny nudge that helps people see more possibilities in what they think they can access or envision for themselves. It’s not that I want ever person in the queer community to try dance, but I want everyone to feel like they have access to things that might bring more joy, more movement, and more embodiment into their lives.
DANCING QUEERLY. 6.28–29. VARIOUS EVENTS. THE DANCE COMPLEX, 536 MASS. AVE., CAMBRIDGE. DANCINGQUEERLYBOSTON.COM