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How two men dancing together is a political statement

Wordstock features workshop on 'liquid lead dancing'
Trevor Copp and Jeff Fox are giving a presentation on liquid lead dancing at Wordstock Sudbury Literary Festival Nov. 5. Supplied photo

When southern Ontario-based ballroom dance teachers Trevor Copp and Jeff Fox would get together, they'd dance together to teach each other moves.

Traditionally, in ballroom dance, the man leads his female partner, but in this situation, the two men would take turns leading.

They eventually started performing together. After one such appearance at a festival, they met Lisa O'Connell, artistic director of Pat the Dog Theatre Creation, an organization that works with emerging playwrights.

“We were having fun with this way we can dance,” Fox said. “She was like 'Do you know how political that is? That's a play, what you just did.'”

They developed a play called First Dance, about a gay man trying to devise a traditional first dance for his upcoming wedding.

The dancers toured internationally with the play. Copp and Fox recently presented a TEDx talk in Montreal, where they spoke about what they've coined "liquid lead dancing."

While it's traditional for men to lead and women to follow in ballroom dance, Copp said this is “completely incompatible” to today's culture. 

“And yet we keep holding it up as a model — this is what a man does, what a woman does,” he said.

In liquid lead dancing, the lead is “negotiated,” and can switch back and forth, no matter who is dancing — a man and a woman, two men or two women.

Each spring, Pat the Dog Theatre Creation puts on PlaySmelter, a local theatre festival featuring new works by emerging playwrights. And, as part of the Wordstock Sudbury Literary Festival, which runs Nov. 3-5, there'll be a “pop-up” version of PlaySmelter.

Copp and Fox will be giving a late-evening presentation on liquid lead dancing Nov. 5 at 10 p.m. as part of the PlaySmelter pop-up. They'll even give people a chance to try out the dance form themselves.

“I think it's going to be incredibly delightful,” said O'Connell. “It's provocative, it's interesting and it's just beautiful to watch as well.”

Also as part of the PlaySmelter pop-up, there'll be workshop presentations of pieces by local playwrights.

The Mourning Show by Matthew Heiti is presented Nov. 4 at 5 p.m. and Blind Nickel Pig by Lara Bradley Nov. 5 at 7:30 p.m. All three presentations are at Sudbury Secondary School's Sheridan Auditorium.

O'Connell said she's thrilled to work with Wordstock.

“All these different forms of writing need to be celebrated and encouraged,” she said. “It's a natural partnership for us to work with Wordstock.”

If you're interested in learning more about Wordstock's lineup, or to purchase tickets, visit the event's website.