Sponsored: I had a strange and unfounded fear in my head when I went for a class at the Gay Men’s Dance Company:
What if they gather in a circle and you go in the middle, in turns, to show off your ‘moves’?
I imagined hip hop gays, ballet gays, ballroom gays united in glaring at my pizza-bloated arse twerking like a Miley Cyrus deer in headlights or my lumpy stomach jiggling as I performed the most dad-like dancing possible.
The reality is the atmosphere is nothing like that. In fact, it may be the safest and most supportive space catering to gay men I’ve ever been to in London.
The dance teacher, Alex Scurr, has an almost jacuzzi-like effect on your nerves. He puts you at ease immediately and sets the tone for the class ahead: it is one of gay dudes learning a few steps, working out, and having fun doing it. It’s pretty simple.
The first class was in September 2015, and Scurr had only one month to plan and organize it all. But he knew it was a good idea when 24 guys turned up to learn some moves.
‘I’ve always had friends who have asked me to teach them how to dance,’ Scurr told Gay Star News.
‘For the longest time I only taught children or in colleges so they could never attend. I had been a professional dancer for years, and then I was only back here doing bar work or promo work or teaching. It just got to a stage where I hated my life.
‘So I thought I’m going to stay in London, focus on teaching, and find something that could make me as happy as possible.’
It was the two-dozen guys in his first class that made him realize the potential of a dance class for gay men.
‘Every single one of those 24 was an amazing person that got behind me and the potential the class had and just helped me,’ Scurr said. ‘It’s the guys that come that push me to do what I’m doing.’
In the class I went to, every guy in the class was as warm and lovely as they could be. It’s a far cry from any judgmental club or bar in the city. And they’re all different ages and from different backgrounds, from around 23 to 60.
If you think you can get away with a couple of box steps, remember this is a serious workout. We stretched every possible muscle you can, there were sit ups and press ups and all sorts before we started dancing. Plenty of guys I spoke to said they used this session as their main full body workout for the week, or they even try to go to a second class as that was all the fitness they needed, and I can definitely see why.
Now I have a vague sense of rhythm, having taken a couple of Latin classes at uni, but apparently my body had completely forgotten any sense of coordination.
But everyone’s in the same boat, and in the beginner class the guys were all up for helping each other out.
For this session it was a salsa/cha cha fusion to Dirty Dancing’s Time Of My Life. Previous classes have included multiple styles from jazz to waltz to tango.
The guys are divided into ‘leaders and followers’, or as appropriate for the class ‘tops and bottoms’, and you are guided through the steps and armography.
But if you think you’re getting used to one partner, you’re encouraged to switch out to ensure everyone has a better idea of the steps. You repeat and repeat it and eventually, at one point, you realize you’re dancing. Was it all in time? Well, you’ve got next week to work on that.
And even though I had fears going in, they were all put at ease when I was having a lot of fun.
After it was over, the guys headed to a nearby pub for a drink. I learned that for many of them, this is why they come.
It’s 50/50 I want to dance and I want to meet new people
‘The main reason people come is about 50/50 I want to dance and I want to meet new people,’ Scurr added.
‘The reason why people stay and come back is because of the people. I hope they love the dancing as well but I know the dancing is almost secondary.
‘It’s about the community we’ve created, it’s about the experiences we’ve had together, it’s about going for a drink afterwards.’
Most people’s highlights of being with the Gay Men’s Dance Company so far was showing off what they had learned to family and friends at last December’s showcase. And for those who have been with the company, performing at Pride in London on the stage in Trafalgar Square last summer.
‘My personal highlight was the Royal Vauxhall Tavern sports day and we won it,’ Scurr said.
‘I never really got into sports at school because I was really small and skinny and I never got picked for anything. That for me was amazing to be stood in front of hundreds of people doing something physical, and to win it.’
While a few guys have coupled up, most are in it for the friendships that the dance company can provide.
‘It’s completely changed my life,’ Scurr said. ‘And I know it’s changed the lives of people who come here. And I’m so grateful to do it.’
For more information and fees, go onto the Gay Men’s Dance Company website.