In the traditional world of square dancing, gay clubs in New York and California accept anyone, gay or straight, just as they are.
2015 - 6:56 minutes - HD video - English
At traditional square dancing clubs, opposite sex couples dance in crinoline skirts and cowboy boots. Square dancing movements, called out live, rely on gender. "Boys" are instructed to "swing your partners 'round and 'round." Gay square dancing clubs still use these traditional calls, but with a twist. Sometimes the boys are girls, sometimes the girls are boys.
The rigid gender requirements of dancing in straight clubs can have sad consequences. Straight people without partners, single or widowed, cannot participate. At gay clubs, like the Redwood Rainbows in Sebastopol, California, or the Times Squares in New York City, any single person, gay, straight or otherwise, can show up without a partner and find one when they arrive.
At their clubs, gays and lesbians who know all too well what it's like to be excluded feel part of a community. This inclusiveness comes full circle; straight people who feel excluded from the traditional clubs also feel welcome.
Gay square dancing clubs offer everyone, no matter what their orientation, a place to be exactly who they want to be. Partners is a heartwarming story about community.
"How Gays Saved Square Dancing in the West County." I came across that intriguing headline in a local newspaper a few years ago. It turned out that there were gay square dancing clubs all over the world. One of the largest was right in my backyard.
When I started shooting Partners I thought it would become a simple profile of a quirky, old school activity. I was surprised to find that many of the dancers at the gay clubs were straight people. They'd never felt welcome at traditional, heterosexual clubs for variety of reasons: they were single, widowed, or just didn't like dressing up in western apparel. I discovered that not only had these clubs found a clever way to adapt the rigid heterosexual traditions of square dancing to accommodate same-sex couples, but even straight people were dancing at the gay clubs to feel comfortable and accepted.