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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Queer partner dance debuts with SWITCH: Chicago
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2017-10-17

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Imagine a safe space for LGBTQIA folks to partner dance free from traditional binary roles. That is what SWITCH: Chicago aims to provide beginning on Wed., Oct. 25, 8-11 p.m., at Voice of the City, 3429 W. Diversey Ave. Subsequent events will also take place at Voice of the City on the fourth Wednesday of every month.

The genesis of this event began with theater artist Jaq Seifert, who was looking for places to partner dance where they felt comfortable as a trans/non-binary individual. Seifert is an actor as well as fight/intimacy choreographer and a movement artist who is currently in Redtwist Theatre's production of Our Town as George. They also produce their own burlesque show, The Buttcracker: A Nutcracker Burlesque, with their own production company: Tom Boi Theatricals.

"I have always loved dancing, even though I never took formal dance classes, and I recently had a lover introduce me to the world of Tango," said Seifert. "One of the parts of Tango that I love so much is the sensuality, the intimacy involved, how you really have to sense your partner and give and earn trust immediately with them. I took a few lessons here and there and in many of them felt quite comfortable as a trans/non-binary Masculine of Center person. The teachers used non-gendered terms for the dancers and respected my pronouns. But then I went to a milonga—a social dance—and felt very out of place.

"I was a beginner, so I did not necessarily feel comfortable initiating the start of the dance with the cabaceo, the traditional way to ask someone to dance the tango, but the general feel of the space was very binary: men danced as leaders and women danced as followers and that was it. I did not stay long. My frustration over the binary roles associated with partner dancing grew on my way home from that dance. That is when idea for a safe space for queer and trans folks to partner dance beyond the binary began. I posted on Chicago Queer Exchange about looking for a space like that and discovered none that were consistent, but based on the number of comments, realized there was a need for such a space. [Voice of the City founder/ Executive Director/Artistic Director] Dawn Galtieri commented on the post that [Voice of the City Vice President of Making Art] Abu Ansari had been interested in something similar. Dawn and I had worked together already on a Intimacy for the Stage workshop held at Voice of the City, and with Abu on board, SWITCH: Chicago was born."

"Abu was interested in using our studio space as a welcoming venue for queer partner dancing and that is how Voice of the City became the venue for these monthly dance events," said Galtieri.

Galtieri ( who is a multi-artist, educator, theater maker, writer and arts administrator ) noted that both her and Ansari ( a founding teacher at Voice of the City, Vaudeville Underground performer, House Theatre company member and Chicago Dramatists associate artist ) had also been discussing this outside of seeing Seifert's post on the Chicago Queer Exchange. She explained that Voice of the City is a multi-arts alliance that builds community through making art and teaching art.

"We unite Chicago artists with each other and with the residents of Logan Square/Avondale—connecting quality experiences to community," said Galtieri.

Seifert came up with the name SWITCH: Chicago because they "love the idea of dancing as both the leader and follower, the initiator and the initiated, regardless of gender identity. There has been talk of creating a class series through SWITCH, where queer folx can learn partner dancing in an environment that feels safe to them, but right now we want to make SWITCH: Chicago successful before we venture out and grow."

Music will be provided by DJ Scott from May I Have This Dance, who will lead a swing dance lesson—this month's dance focus. Each month's event will begin with a class from a genre—swing, tango, salsa and line dancing—and then move into an open dance format.

"We want to keep the format free and open and not really rigid and structured," said Seifert. "The emphasis is on dancing and the social community dance creates, and having it be queer-centered allows for LGBTQIA folks to feel safe asking anyone to dance. We really hope this event, which has been months in the making, is super successful so we encourage everyone to come out," said Seifert.

Galtieri added "We couldn't be more excited about SWITCH."

See www.facebook.com/switchchicago/ and www.facebook.com/events/1517369405017646/ for more information. To purchase tickets ( pay what you can or the suggested $15 admission ) visit squareup.com/store/voice-of-the-city.


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