A good conversation flows like liquid. Dance is like a conversation.
Watch / listen / read the transcript to this TED Talk.The topic is GENDER ROLES.
"Dancing With the Stars" is one of my mum's favourite TV programs. In fact, we had a conversation about it on the phone yesterday as she was excited about the new series.
Consider these words in the transcript and answer the questions. (the numbers correspond to the timing on the video.)
2:44But running parallel to this excitement, the excitement that suddenly, somehow, we were cool --
2:54there was also this reservation. Why this and why now?
3:00Jeff Fox: When Trevor and I would get together for training seminars or just for fun, we'd toss each other around, mix it up, take a break from having to lead all the time. We even came up with a system for switching lead and follow while we were dancing, as a way of taking turns and playing fair. It wasn't until we used that system as part of a performance in a small festival that we got an important tap on the shoulder. Lisa O'Connell, a dramaturge and director of a playwright center, pulled us aside after the show and said, "Do you have any idea how political that was?"
3:31So that began an eight-year collaboration to create a play which not only further developed our system for switching but also explored the impact of being locked into a single role, and what's worse, being defined by that single role.
3:44TC: Because, of course, classic Latin and ballroom dancing isn't just a system of dancing; it's a way of thinking, of being, of relating to each other that captured a whole period's values. There's one thing that stayed consistent, though: the man leads and the woman follows. So street salsa, championship tango, it's all the same -- he leads, she follows.
4:10So this was gender training. You weren't just learning to dance -- you were learning to "man" and to "woman." It's a relic. And in the way of relics, you don't throw it out, but you need to know that this is the past. This isn't the present. It's like Shakespeare: respect it, revive it -- great! But know that this is history.This doesn't represent how we think today.
Q1. What do you think about GENDER ROLES?
6:06If you were to take a ballroom dance and translate that into a conversation and drop that into a movie,we, as a culture, would never stand for this. He dictates, she reacts. No relationship -- gay, straight or anything -- that we would regard as remotely healthy or functional looks like that, and yet somehow, you put it on prime time, you slap some makeup on it, throw the glitter on, put it out there as movement, not as text, and we, as a culture, tune in and clap. We are applauding our own absence. Too many people have disappeared from partner dancing.
Q2. Which GENDER role are you willing to play?
8:26TC: So we wanted to look at this from a totally different angle. So, what if we could keep the idea of lead and follow but toss the idea that this was connected to gender? Further, what if a couple could lead and follow each other and then switch? And then switch back? What if it could be like a conversation, taking turns listening and speaking, just like we do in life? What if we could dance like that? We call it "Liquid Lead Dancing."
10:13With this simple tweak, the dance moves from being a dictation to a negotiation. Anyone can lead. Anyone can follow. And more importantly, you can change your mind. Now, this is only one example of how this applies, but once the blinkers come off, anything can happen.
Q3. Do you dictate or negotiate in your relationships?
11:39JF: Now, we've danced Liquid Lead in clubs, convention centers and as part of "First Dance," the play we created with Lisa, on stages in North America and in Europe. And it never fails to engage. I mean, beyond the unusual sight of seeing two men dancing together, it always evokes and engages. But why?
11:57The secret lies in what made Lisa see our initial demonstration as "political." It wasn't just that we were switching lead and follow; it's that we stayed consistent in our presence, our personality and our power, regardless of which role we were playing. We were still us.
12:12And that's where the true freedom lies -- not just the freedom to switch roles, but the freedom from being defined by whichever role you're playing, the freedom to always remain true to yourself. Forget what a lead is supposed to look like, or a follow. Be a masculine follow or a feminine lead. Just be yourself.Obviously, this applies off the dance floor as well, but on the floor, it gives us the perfect opportunity to update an old paradigm, reinvigorate an old relic, and make it more representative of our era and our current way of being.
12:45TC: Jeff and I dance partner dancing all the time with women and men and we love it. But we dance with a consciousness that this is a historic form that can produce silence and produce invisibility across the spectrum of identity that we enjoy today. We invented Liquid Lead as a way of stripping out all the ideas that don't belong to us and taking partner dancing back to what it really always was: the fine art of taking care of each other.
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