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Tips for breaking gender roles in social dancing” – From a nonbinary bachaterx

*The original article was written in English, so the translations to other languages, might be gendered biased, we are still working on it to give you the most accurate translation possible.

Since coming out, I knew my life would change, but I didn’t know it would be so conflicting for me. My name is Zuri Duke and I am a trans/nonbinary bachata teacher and dancer.  As a Bachaterx living in Spain, everything is gendered. Not only do I have the Spanish language that is constantly limiting me, but as well I have the Latin dance community that groups everything into men and women. Apparently, they never seemed to have gotten the memo that gender is a spectrum. That is to say, not all men want to lead, and not all women want to follow.

If I want to lead, I’m seen as a woman who wants to lead, and if I follow, I’m a woman who wants to follow. Because of the way that I look, and how people perceive me, there is quite literally no space for my transness within the social dance scene. 

I’m asked to silence myself as a nonbinary person so that I can learn just like everyone else. It is my right to have access to equal dance education, and yet I’m constantly being asked to choose a side. It feels like a punch in the gut to join a lady’s styling class, knowing I’ll be much more accepted there, than if I  would choose to be at a men’s styling class. 

This isn’t just an issue for trans people. Some might argue that our community is so small, that making changes to our whole dance community, just to accommodate us would be ridiculous. But with this kind of thinking, we alienate all the people who want to explore outside of the traditional gendered confines of dance. For every woman who wants to lead, her sexuality is questioned, and the same goes for men who want to follow.

When we label everything as masculine and feminine, we always leave one out of the other, and those in between are lost in the mix. Not only that, but it ensures that the LGBTQIA+ folk within the dance community stay divided.

Whether we dance for pleasure or passion, these problems affect all of us. We have to take actions to break the binary within the social dance scene as teachers, dancers, and humans.

So here are some simple tips we can all take part in to begin the process:

Change your Language

It’s not girls and guys, it’s leader and follower, and anyone can learn whatever they want! It’s not Lady’s Styling and Men’s Styling, it’s just styling!

Normalize Learning it All

Learn to lead and follow, this will make you a better dancer and teacher! The more people see professionals dancing as a lead and follow, the more they’ll want to do the same. 

Introduce yourself

Both as teachers and dancers we can make it more common to introduce ourselves with our pronouns. As teachers, it’s easy to establish it within your class culture by starting the class by introducing yourself and your partner. In the social dance scene, when you meet someone, you can always ask what they go by and whether they prefer to lead or follow!

These are small but important steps to making a difference in this beautiful world of dance that we live in. When we do this, we become better dancers, and we make more room for other people to discover their passions without the fear of being discriminated against. As the world evolves, so should we. The dance community is a reflection of society and when we choose to be inclusive, open-minded, and considerate, we will find that it only creates more positive outcomes.

Zuri (They/Them)
Zuri (They/Them)

Founder of @Includancebcn
Writer, organiser, dancer, advocate


International Bachata Artists and Instructors Creators/Authors/Owners/Founders of RoleRotation

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