Two dancers walked on stage to perform a duet together this past weekend at Towson University’s dance concert. It involved all the components of a strong dance piece with a visible connection to the audience and lifts that involved physical contact to one another.
Who do you think took the stage?
This male and male partnership is not very common among dance duets. Partnering typically involves a strong male who is used to be the muscle of the dance to catch, lift and twirl the female.
“In general they’re playing a role that you would think you’d normally see by a male and a female,” said hip hop dancer Jermaine Melvin.
In a society that rejects anything out of the norm, we have come to assume that any partnership involving contact such as dancing will be between a heterosexual couple.
“I think the stereotypes in our day are what cause a male duet to be unusual,” said contemporary dancer Chris Jehnert. No one watches a male/female duet and assumes they’re just dancing, it’s a couple. So when you see a male/male duet you either assume they are fighting over a love or it’s just guys dancing and is comedic.”
To ensure that the audience is comfortable a choreographer may include humor into the routine such as this one performed by Travis Wall and Benji Schwimmer on So You Think You Can Dance.
“When you add the connotation of male and male being together, that’s when it makes someone uncomfortable,” said dance major Joe Tudor. “If there is a specific reason you are feeling uncomfortable as an audience member, the choreographer planned that. “
That’s not to say that a male duet would even be a homosexual couple. There are many pros to having two males dance together whether it is intimate or not.
“I think it could be interesting, but it might be awkward and uncomfortable for the audience because of the limitations and unusual intimate relationship,” said ballet dancer Lauren Knudsen.
But what about the limitations in a female and male duet? Typically the female is not strong enough to be able to lift the male so it restricts who performs and who is used as more of a prop.
“More difficult lifts could be performed because of the strength of both men,” said Knudsen.
While two men lifting each other up seems unusual, it could create an intense and powerful routine due to the masculine strength of the dancers.
“Me personally, I couldn’t do it,” said Melvin. “I wouldn’t feel comfortable , and it’s not my style.”
There are also pieces involving two homosexual men that are performed to make a statement.
“A very good friend of mine did a piece partnering with another male and while it was different to see, I really enjoyed it,” said dancer and instructor Katie Dobry. “I think with dance styles ever-changing, it’s better to have an open mind and watch the partnership for the talent they have, not their gender.”
This piece, entitled “Desire” is a story of two men (danced by Joe Tudor and Chris Jehnert) who long to be together but one can’t commit because of his fear of being rejected by society. Since being publicized, this dance has received praise for it’s bravery in the message along with negative criticism.
“”Dance is a visual art form, so dance is used to make statements a lot of times,” said choreographer of “Desire”, Tudor. “The piece… is based on male and male relationship, so there are more sympathetic lifts, and the body language is not as strong as say a piece about hatred between males.”