Dance and Gay Liberation
To the Editor:
I write in response to your feature in November-December 2006, “Bodies in Motion.” I would like to have seen at least one of the articles pushing theoretical considerations further than acknowledging the links between dance, gender, and sexuality (though Bill T. Jones’ statement links in with some of what I have written about). In an unpublished work, “Dance in Everyday Life” (1998), I wrote: “Dance is shorthand for sexuality in this society [northern Europe, North America]. We, a majority of this society’s constituents who dance—women, black people, gay men, youths—are hailed as sexual objects through our movements. This sexuality may be about availability—sexual objects as subject to the gaze. This sexuality may equally be about sensuality—sexual objects as the Othering of masculinity. We may be desired. We may be imagined. In movement we signify. Through language we are symbolic. Our very movement is used to carry us away from the centre of power, from the gravity of distinction. For us, dance in everyday life places us as a key text on someone else’s behalf.”
This statement came out of research I did ten years earlier in three schools in Leicestershire, England. One of the conclusions of that study was: “It should not be overlooked that a ‘politics’ around the significance of the contribution to dance by the gay community can form part of a school’s overall strategy for the promotion of dance” (“The Promotion of Dance in Secondary Schools,” Unpublished Dissertation, Leicester Polytechnic, 1991). Contesting the way in which we are placed by “dance” is, I would argue, a losing battle because of the hegemonic work being done. Promoting the joy of dance in our lives—whether or not it involves effeminacy for men or athletic prowess for women, etc.—gives us a surer footing (pun intended).
Dr. Bob Bennett,
Coventry University (now retired), the UK
Tennessee in New Orleans
To the Editor:
I am writing with concern to half of the teaser in your table of contents regarding Andrew Holleran’s essay “Big Daddy” [March-April 2007], which reads in full: “Tennessee Williams revealed all—except how he wrote so well.”
Some forty or so years ago I remember running across some literary critic’s description of “the great American novel” as written by a “long daisy chain of failed Queers.” And I remember thinking to myself that Tennessee Williams had broken the chain when he said, “I’m Blanche!” I am aware that novels and plays are not exactly a perfect fit. And, I’m not sure whether or not Williams ever actually did say he was Blanche. But, everybody was pretty sure he was.
The reason that I’m writing is that I once took a walking “gay tour” of New Orleans. The gentleman conducting us ended the tour at a long apartment building immediately behind the Cathedral. He pointed out which end Truman Capote had once lived at; and, the other end where Tennessee Williams had lived with a lover (Merlo). Then, he pointed to still visible tracks buried just beneath the asphalt of the street and noted that they were what remained of the Desire Line.
The gentleman said that friends of Williams and his lover told of their stormy relationship. And, he said that after Streetcar opened they commented that they had heard a number of the lines during Williams’ and his lover’s arguments. Perhaps that can help explain some of his genius!
John Kavanaugh, Detroit