Ever since I watched Strictly Ballroom eons ago, I became fascinated with ballroom dancing. And since salsa music flows through my bloodstream, it’s not surprising to me that every time I walk into La Bodeguita del Medio, Puerto Vallarta’s famous Cuban restaurant on the Malecón that features live music and dancing, I cringe. You see, I don’t know how to salsa dance. And even if I did, I’m sure more than one customer at mainstream Bodeguita would cringe at the sight of me dancing with another guy (unless I really kicked butt, and wouldn’t that be a kick!). Of course, I could pursue lessons at any local dance studio (I believe JB, another latin dance nightclub in town offers them). But the truth is, and no offense to the ladies: I want to learn how to dance, and practice dancing with a guy!
So the thought of gay salsa dancing lessons in Puerto Vallarta has been lingering in my mind as of late. I’ve even approached a couple of dance instructors in town (one of them is gay) about the idea. Both being Mexican, and not acquainted with the same-sex couple dancing scene in the States, they both gave me a funny look at first. Mind you, in Puerto Vallarta, offering free ideas is seldom enough, people often expecting you to deliver them in a silver platter, complete with needs assessment studies, budget proposals, delivery schedule, time lines, task lists, and so forth. Out of selfish desire, I did a bit of research to develop a case for same-sex dancing lessons in Puerto Vallarta in hope that someone will pick up on this and take off with it.
Same-sex Couple Dancing is a Social Event
Personal experience aside (I was a two-step aficionado back in Boston), it is possible that local dance instructors looking to make a buck trying something nobody else is doing in Puerto Vallarta haven’t realized how widespread the activity is in the United States. A quick visit to Lavender Country and Folk Dancers, an online community for gender role free dancing, reveals affiliate clubs, events and activities throughout most metropolitan areas in the US. Back when I lived in Boston, I loved two-stepping because it was:
- an early evening event
- alcohol-free (not that I’d mind a cerveza or two!)
- conceived as a learning experience
- conceived as a social experience (i.e. great for single guys to find dates and make friends!)
- great exercise!
Gays = late-nite party whores = STIGMA
Yes, there are many gay boys that live here and/or visit that enjoy the late night party circuit. And local gay venues along with seasonal event organizers such as Will Gorges and Gilles Belanger are more than eager to deliver the goods and keep them entertained. But then, there are those of us that are early morning risers, or simply do not care much for the late night shift, but still would like to have access to, and participate in, other socializing alternatives for gays and lesbians.
Gay Salsa Dancing Precedents
It seems as though I would have no problems pursuing gay salsa dancing today if I lived in West Hollywood or London. A quick Google search revealed an interesting article published by The Advocate featuring ballroom instructor Christopher Beroiz, who teamed up with producer Steve Valentine to open a gay ballroom dancing program in West Hollywood. They have also been featured in the Los Angeles Times. Here is a YouTube video that I found with them in action:
Copenhagen has a venue that offers gay salsa lessons and in London, the Welsh Centre offers “Salsa Rosada” dance classes. Another London venue, Salsa Fantastica even feature weekend workshops. Not enough London for you? Try Victor Victoria. Back in 2006, the Orlando Weekly featured a story about Stuart Nichols and Richard Lamberty, a gay couple who traveled to London for a ballroom dancing competition, returning home with a fourth place among 22 couples. A quick Flickr search pointed me to this beautiful photo set of the 2008 EuroGames, a gay and lesbian sporting event where competitive ballroom dancing is featured.
How ironic that a gay boy living in the so-called gay destination of choice in Mexico should have to travel so far from Latin America to learn a Latin American dance and enjoy it in the arms of another gay boy!
Is Puerto Vallarta Ready?
Based on informal surveying, out of the thousands of gay and lesbian individuals that choose Puerto Vallarta as a place to live or vacation, I’m quite certain that a fair amount of us would welcome more socializing and entertaining options that were not necessarily linked to the late-night booze routine. Just about every gay club in town and other venues in Puerto Vallarta’s gayborhood such as the Santa Barbara Theater are not that busy during the 7-10 shift, making them ideal spaces for such an enterprise. And in the case of a gay bar, they could easily do it in an evening in which they would offer Latin music, such that those that wish to stay after the dance lessons, could continue to practice.
If you think same-sex dancing lessons are a good idea, feel free to participate in the survey below or share your comments with me! Hopefully someone will take off with the idea…
Photo by Christopher Walker.