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  • (Music)

  • (Applause)

  • Trevor Copp: When "Dancing With the Stars" first hit the airwaves,

  • that is not what it looked like.

  • (Laughter)

  • Jeff and I were full-time ballroom dance instructors

  • when the big TV ballroom revival hit,

  • and this was incredible.

  • I mean, one day we would say "foxtrot,"

  • and people were like "Foxes trotting."

  • (Laughter)

  • And the next day they were telling us

  • the finer points of a good feather step.

  • And this blew our minds.

  • I mean, all of the ballroom dance geeking out that we had always done

  • on why salsa worked differently than the competitive rumba

  • and why tango traveled unlike the waltz,

  • all of that just hit the public consciousness,

  • and it changed everything.

  • But running parallel to this excitement,

  • the excitement that suddenly, somehow, we were cool --

  • (Laughter)

  • there was also this reservation.

  • Why this and why now?

  • Jeff 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?"

  • (Laughter)

  • So 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.

  • TC: 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.

  • So 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.

  • So we asked ourselves:

  • If you strip it all down,

  • what is at the core of partner dancing?

  • JF: Well, the core principle of partner dancing

  • is that one person leads, the other one follows.

  • The machine works the same, regardless of who's playing which role.

  • The physics of movement doesn't really give a crap about your gender.

  • (Laughter)

  • So if we were to update the existing form,

  • we would need to make it more representative

  • of how we interact here, now, in 2015.

  • When you watch ballroom, don't just watch what's there.

  • Watch what's not.

  • The couple is always only a man and a woman.

  • Together.

  • Only.

  • Ever.

  • So, same-sex and gender nonconformist couples just disappear.

  • In most mainstream international ballroom competitions,

  • same-sex couples are rarely recognized on the floor,

  • and in many cases,

  • the rules prohibit them completely.

  • TC: Try this: Google-image, "professional Latin dancer,"

  • and then look for an actual Latino person.

  • (Laughter)

  • You'll be there for days.

  • What you will get is page after page of white, straight Russian couples

  • spray-tanned to the point of mahogany.

  • (Laughter)

  • There are no black people, there are no Asians,

  • no mixed-race couples,

  • so basically, non-white people just disappeared.

  • Even within the white-straight- couple-only paradigm --

  • she can't be taller,

  • he can't be shorter.

  • She can't be bolder,

  • he can't be gentler.

  • If 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.

  • (Music)

  • (Applause)

  • JF: Now, you just saw two men dancing together.

  • (Laughter)

  • And you thought it looked ...

  • a little strange.

  • Interesting -- appealing, even --

  • but a little bit odd.

  • Even avid followers of the same-sex ballroom circuit can attest

  • that while same-sex partner dancing can be dynamic and strong and exciting,

  • it just doesn't quite seem to fit.

  • Aesthetically speaking,

  • if Alida and I take the classic closed ballroom hold ...

  • this is considered beautiful.

  • (Laughter)

  • But why not this?

  • (Laughter)

  • See, the standard image that the leader must be larger and masculine

  • and the follower smaller and feminine --

  • this is a stumbling point.

  • TC: 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."

  • JF: Let's try this with a Latin dance,

  • salsa.

  • In salsa, there's a key transitional step, called the cross-body lead.

  • We use it as punctuation to break up the improvisation.

  • It can be a little tricky to spot if you're not used to looking for it,

  • so here it is.

  • One more time for the cheap seats.

  • (Laughter)

  • And here's the action one more time,

  • nice and slow.

  • Now, if we apply liquid-lead thinking to this transitional step,

  • the cross-body lead becomes a point

  • where the lead and the follow can switch.

  • The person following can elect to take over the lead,

  • or the person leading can choose to surrender it,

  • essentially making it a counter-cross-body lead.

  • Here's how that looks in slow motion.

  • And here's how it looked when we danced it in the opening dance.

  • With 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.

  • TC: Let's look at how Liquid Lead thinking could apply to a classic waltz.

  • Because, of course,

  • it isn't just a system of switching leads;

  • it's a way of thinking

  • that can actually make the dance itself more efficient.

  • So: the waltz.

  • The waltz is a turning dance.

  • This means that for the lead,

  • you spend half of the dance traveling backwards,

  • completely blind.

  • And because of the follower's position,

  • basically, no one can see where they're going.

  • (Laughter)

  • So you're out here on the floor,

  • and then imagine that coming right at you.

  • JF: Raaaaaah!

  • (Laughter)

  • TC: There are actually a lot of accidents out there

  • that happen as a result of this blind spot.

  • But what if the partners were to just allow for

  • a switch of posture for a moment?

  • A lot of accidents could be avoided.

  • Even if one person led the whole dance but allowed this switch to happen,

  • it would be a lot safer,

  • while at the same time, offering new aesthetics into the waltz.

  • Because physics doesn't give a damn about your gender.

  • (Laughter)

  • JF: 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?

  • The 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.

  • And 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.

  • TC: 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.

  • (Music)

  • (Applause)

(Music)

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【TED】Trevor Copp and Jeff Fox: Ballroom dance that breaks gender roles (Ballroom dance that breaks gender roles | Trevor Copp and Jeff Fox)

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    Kristi Yang posted on 2017/02/03
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