After a week of running, jumping, figure skating and sport dancing, the International Gay Games wrap up tomorrow in Cleveland. But not all is well.
Research shows that in both figure skating and ballroom dance, concern over male performances of effeminacy remains a barrier to leisure participation for LGBT + people. The mobilisation of bromance discourses arguably desexualises same-sex dance partnerships.
1. James Whiteside
In the world of ballet, James Whiteside is one of the most in-demand dancers. The American Ballet Theatre principal is a multihyphenate who also acts, sings, writes and even podcasts about his career in the dance world.
While he’s known for his talent and sexiness, his flamboyance can be unwelcome in ballet, where he has been subject to implicit and explicit pressures to tone down his looks. Despite this, Whiteside has refused to conform and has forged his own path.
The New York-based artist has choreographed for music videos and commercials, as well as ballet, including his most recent piece, New American Romance. He has appeared in multiple film and television projects, as well as Arthur Pita’s dance/theater play The Tenant at the Joyce Theater in New York City. Whiteside is also the author of Center Center: A Funny, Sexy, Sad Almost Memoir of a Boy in Ballet, which was published in 2021.
Like his eponymous book, Whiteside is an explorer of many things. He has a podcast called Front Row, where he interviews high-profile artists about creativity. He has also written a memoir and co-wrote an original musical. He has an extensive social media presence, and his fans can follow him on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. They can also keep up with his latest news on his website.
2. Kaitlyn Weaver
Two-time Olympic figure skater Kaitlyn Weaver has a secret she wants to share: she’s queer. She spent years hiding that part of her identity while competing with partner Andrew Poje in the sport she loves, fearing it could affect their scores. It was a suffocating weight that she doesn’t want to see other athletes carry.
She and Poje walked away from competition after 13 seasons to pursue other aspects of their skating and lives. They have been ambassadors for Right to Play, an international humanitarian organization that uses sports and play programs to improve health and life skills for children and communities in the most disadvantaged areas of the world.
Weaver is also a commentator for the BBC and hosts her own podcast, The Skating Whispers. She and Poje also host Battle of the Blades, an ice dancing show that features up-and-coming teams in which all competitors raise money for Canadian charities. This year, they raised $60,000 for Canadian Tire Jumpstart and Fast and Female.
Weaver recently made headlines for her heartfelt Instagram post coming out, acknowledging that figure skating has a long way to go toward inclusivity with only a handful of out women in the sport. She hopes her openness can inspire other young people to follow their dreams — and, of course, to love themselves.
3. James Chasteen
James Chasteen would’ve never imagined this moment when he first moved to Washington 17 years ago. He found a lively line-dancing scene at Remington’s and joined DC Rawhides, a group that teaches country-western dancing, but outside of the bar’s friendly walls, the social dance scene was not so welcoming. Chasteen, now 70, founded DanceSport Dupont Circle to offer a more-welcoming space.
In mainstream competitive ballroom dancing, same-sex partnerships are banned. Director Gail Freedman’s documentary Hot to Trot explores this community that sought an alternative. The film follows them from the April Follies, North America’s largest same-sex ballroom competition, to the Gay Games where they compete in the inclusive sport of dancesport. You may recognize Paula Moulton and Gary Lyness, better known as ‘Strictly Wheels’, from their TV appearances. The pair are gearing up to compete in the Para category at this year’s Gay Games.
4. Louisy Ghidini
Growing up in Milan, Italy, Alessandro Ghidini was drawn to water sports. He competed in swimming and water polo before joining the varsity Olympic kayaking team at the University of Milan. He also trained in competitive dance, eventually becoming a champion of the Latin category at the Gay Games in Paris last summer.
Now, Ghidini, a 61-year-old obstetrician, and Louisy, a 43-year-old gynecologist, are serious competitors in the relatively new sport of same-sex ballroom dance — known as “dancesport” in this context — having already won two silver medals in the senior competition. They’re currently preparing to defend their titles at this summer’s EuroGames, which are being held in Rome.
While they’re not a couple in real life (Ghidini is married to his partner of 25 years, and Louisy has a boyfriend of more than a year), their relationship as dance partners has turned out to be very strong. They train together six days a week at Terry Chasteen’s DanceSport Dupont Circle, which is run out of an Episcopalian church on P Street NW.
As they practiced the opening to their rumba routine, Chasteen stood beside them counting (“two, three, four, ONE!”), then cut in with a correction to one of Louisy’s turns. Louisy watched with his head cocked to one side, then executed the turn again and again until finally Chasteen let them move on.