Lambda DanceSPORT International is very proud to present
The Jorge Guzman and Russell Halley Photo Gallery
The reason for this tribute to our unique
U. S. Champion male couple is three-fold:
(1) Through their incredible dedication and talent in
their dancing Russell and Jorge are an inspiration for others of us in the LGBT
community to become better in our dancing; creating closer relationships and
greater unification between our community's varied and diverse factions through
our widespread love for music and dance.
(2) Russell and Jorge have also played an important role in changing the images of same-gender couples to the non-LGBT community by boldly participating in such events as the MIT Ballroom Dance Competition in Cambridge, MA (see below) and other non-LGBT events where even the most bigoted find it difficult to be not only entertained, but enthusiastic about what they are witnessing on the dance floor. Through their dancing, they are changing the face of our community in the eyes of spectators who haven't a clue about the relationships of same-gender couples outside of the negative, sex-crazed, drug-infested perceptions that the right wing zealots love to portray about us for their own personal gain. Perceptions which none of the rest of us change by safely taking refuge week after week when we safely hide in our strictly gay and lesbian clubs and events so we don't have to deal with the uncertainties of what we might encounter in the outside non-LGBT social world. Russell and Jorge, to the benefit of all of us, have decided to take their talents outside of this secure and sure environment and use them to eventually help create a better life for all of us when the voting public makes their way to the voting booths to decide if we really deserve equal rights.
Can you imagine the apprehension of attending and competing in an all-straight and well-established world class non-LGBT dance competition similar to the annual MIT Ballroom Dance Competition as the only same-gender couple entered? Not to mention competing against a total of 25 other entries in the upper level pre-championship division? How many of us would even consider such a thing? Especially when it wasn't even certain that they would be allowed to compete because they weren't a man and a woman, like everyone else on the floor. My understanding was that one of the judges was totally against their participation, though the rest of the 25 participating couples were all in favor of allowing them to dance; giving them a place on the dance floor along with everyone else.
And then can you imagine the feeling of accomplishment after literally blowing away the crowd and the judges with a stellar performance that put them in second place out of the 26? Remembering all along that as a same-gender couple, they do not have the luxury of going out every weekend to other competitions to compete and gain the experience and practice in a competitive environment as do all of the mixed-gender couples? What a catharsis that must have been. And as one who has experienced dancing as a same-gender couple in many non-LGBT environments on numerous occasions, I guarantee that Russell and Jorge have changed many a once-bigoted opinion toward the LGBT community through this and other such endeavors. I'm convinced through past experience that gay dancing in the non-LGBT social environment can be one of the most effective forms of grass-roots gay activism that we have available to us today. Especially when we're exceptional at what we do and when we change leader and follower roles at the drop of a hat right in the middle of the dance (an action which literally makes the the non-LGBT audience gasp in amazement and brings them to their feet on every single occasion). Such bold and daring activities as these are beneficial to all of us in ultimately changing the minds of the voting public when the decision is finally made as to who will and will not have equal rights, regardless of how many picket signs we carry or sit-ins we participate in or cases we take to the courts. Without the approval and the blessing of the voting public, all of that is in vain when the voting public passes a constitutional ammendment against us. And what Russell and Jorge and others like them are accomplishing right Out On The Dance Floor!! through their bold actions is a highly effective means of insuring that we have the approval that we need on a grass-roots level first; something that too many activists and equal rights groups in our community continually overlook. Their courage in this endeavor is truly to be commended.
(3) The third reason for this tribute to Jorge and Russell is a due to their willingness to share this incredible talent and passion that they have been fortunate to acquire, and to inspire others to also enjoy and reap the benefits of this God-given gift. Many who become as good as they are at what they do tend to keep their talents and enthusiasm to themselves and don't think twice about the pay-back in using this newly found passion and gift to inspire others. (to be continued).
Bio of the U.S. Champion International Latin male couple:
The two members of this "one-of-it's-kind"
American partnership of Russell Halley and Jorge Guzman from New York City have
been dancing most of their lives, in a combination of ballroom, Broadway, TV
and film, and concert work. They began training together in 2001 to compete
in the Gay Games in Sydney, where they took the gold medal in their division.
Since then they have taken fourth place at the Dutch Open, the bronze medal
at the Blue Danube Cup in Vienna, the bronze and silver medals respectively
at the EuroGames 2003 in Copenhagen and the EuroGames 2004 in Munich (the highest
scores ever by an American couple), the silver medal at the Pink Jukebox London
Trophy Open Championships (two years in a row), and gold medals at competitions
in Munich and Dusseldorf. Russell and Jorge are currently the highest ranked
American couple in same-gender International Latin dancing and have been the
subject of features in the New York Times, The London Times and Dance Spirit
On February 19, 2005 Jorge & Russell returned from the The 9th London Trophy Open Championships for Same-gender couples with their first GOLD MEDAL in that event. Our congratulations go out to Russell and Jorge for such a strong showing as an American couple against the incredible talent and experience of the European dancers! Their inexhaustible efforts to promote Gay Dancing (considered by some to be one of the most effective forms of gay activism available to us, today) both in and outside of the LGBT community, are highly applauded. The next stop... Eurogames, Utrecht, 2005 in the city of Utrecht, The Netherlands, from June 16 - June 19. We wish them the absolute best of luck in Utrecht.
The latest photos of Russell & Jorge from the London Trophy Open Championships will be posted below as soon as they become available, as will those of all of the competitors on more favorite photos of same-gender couples dancing around the world.
Success at the 2004
MIT Ballroom Dance Competition, Cambridge, MA
On April 24th & 25th, 2004, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Ballroom Dance Team held it's 2004 Open Ballroom Dance Competition in the Rockwell Gym, MIT Campus, Cambridge, MA. The MIT Open is one of the largest ballroom dance competitions in the Northeast, attracting dancers from all over the country.
The Latin Show was provided by Bryan Watson and Carmen, Reigning World Professional Latin Champions, and the competition featured the current U.S. International Latin Champion male couple from New York City, Russell Halley and Jorge Guzman, who incidentally
Lambda DanceSPORT is honored to include this photo gallery of Jorge & Russell after their success around the globe in International Latin as well as at the MIT competition where as the only same-gender couple, they placed second over-all in the Pre-Championship Latin division out of 26 very talented mixed-gender couples! This is the first ever for such an endeavor in a non-LGBT competition in the U. S. and hopefully will be the impetus to encourage more such attempts by "many more" of us in the future. And if nothing else, to encourage all of us to begin planning and promoting similar Ballroom, Latin, C/W and Swing dance events to encourage dancing for same-gender couples, both within and outside of our own LGBT dance community, across the U. S. & around the world.
Congratulations on a job well done after traveling and winning against some of the top Latin DanceSport competitors all across Europe in 2003, 2004 and now in 2005.
You can also read about New York Times and London Times articles about Jorge & Russell (both of which included photos...) entitled "In the Ballroom, a Redefinition of 'Couple'" By ERIC MARX and "It takes two to tango, but does it step on anyone's toes if both are men?". The London Times debate question which followed: "Is this simply not Ballroom Dancing?"discusses the concerns of some regarding same-gender Ballroom dancing (just as some are concerned about same-gender anything). Visit "Nobody Asked for My Opinion...BUT..." on this web site for details (and, of course, for MY OPINION!...).
Additional photos of Jorge and Russell during various competitions
around the world provided by
of The Netherlands
Gay Games, Sydney, 2002
The Pink Jukebox Trophy, London, 2004
I am "Thrilled" watching these guys dance!!
(More favorite photos of same-gender couples dancing around the world)
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In the Ballroom, a Redefinition of 'Couple'
By ERIC MARX - The New York Times
Published: July 14, 2004 Correction Appended
As the ballroom dancers glided in unison, mirroring each other's pulsating movements to a midtempo Latin beat, a couple in black body-hugging costumes caught the audience's attention.
Screaming "Go 201, go 201," the onlookers cheered the pair on as they whirled across the room in an athletically sensuous display of high leg kicks, grinding hip turns and pirouettes. The couple, one of 24 teams dancing in the preliminary round of a ballroom dancing contest at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, captured second place in the Latin division.
Only the couple's sex — both are men — hinted at controversy. In letting the dancers, Russell Halley and Jorge Guzman, participate in the competition in April, the organizers of the M.I.T. event for the first time permitted two men to dance together at a championship level. Mr. Halley and Mr. Guzman are also pushing against limits set by the United States Amateur Ballroom Dancers Association, which requires that a competing couple consist of a man and a woman.
The two dancers say that the rules are archaic and that they have proved that two men can dance powerfully and still be artistic. Moreover, they ask, if questions of gay identity and inclusion are being engaged in the workplace and in the bonds of marriage, then why not in professional and amateur sport?
"Did you see the people at M.I.T.?" asked Mr. Guzman, 41, a stock trader who has been dancing with Mr. Halley for three years and who both leads and follows. "They were screaming and jumping. They were happy — straight and gay people — because they understood everything that we were doing."
Competitive ballroom dancing is growing in popularity and is even being considered for inclusion as a medal sport at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Among the arguments advocates have used in pushing for its inclusion is that, like ice dancing or paired skating, dance is one of the rare sports where male and female athletes compete together and on equal terms.
For two years Mr. Guzman and Mr. Halley have competed internationally in gay ballroom dance tournaments in Europe. But such competition is virtually nonexistent in the United States, and the two dancers, who live in New York City, say they have neither the time nor the money to keep flying to competitions in Hanover, Munich and London.
"I'd like to have the opportunity to compete," said Mr. Halley, 40, who runs a talent agency that books stylists and makeup artists.
The International DanceSport Federation, which oversees competitive ballroom dancing worldwide, says that allowing all-male couples alters the fundamental nature of the sport.
"Just as the Hopak dancers do not have to start adding other ethnic groups' elements to their dances because to do so would fundamentally contradict what the dance is about, DanceSport does not have to start adding dances about some other relationship," Jim Frasier, who heads the legal commission of the Europe-based federation, wrote in an e-mail message, referring to the Ukrainian folk dance to explain why his organization has sought to restrict same-sex couples.
Citing as an example the pasodoble, a dance based on movements performed during a bullfight with the man in the central matador role, Mr. Frasier added: "It is performed by a man and woman because it is about the relationship between a man and a woman, using the metaphor of the matador and the cape to express one more aspect of the man/woman relationship."
To many Americans, ballroom is still principally a sexually expressive dance hardly associated with the athletic agility and stamina required of sport. It has failed to gain wide media exposure and sponsorship in the United States but nevertheless has increased in popularity over the past 30 years, both at the grass-roots level in communities, colleges and secondary schools and at private dance studios.
The United States Amateur Ballroom Dancers Association, based in Virginia, has been pivotal to that growth, notably through investment in its Youth and College Network. But many of its college groups are in open revolt against the association's interpretation of the International DanceSport Federation's ruling, although primarily because it would leave scores of women on the sidelines, unable to compete at two of the association's national competitions. (In ballroom dancing, women outnumber men three to one, according to some estimates.)
Nevertheless, many of those interviewed at the collegiate level say they see this as an equal rights issue for gay men and women: thus the invitation to Mr. Halley and Mr. Guzman.
Published: July 14, 2004 (Page 2 of 2)
"If we don't start working with our affiliates, they are going to lose all trust in U.S.A.B.D.A. and Y.C.N. and will leave the organization altogether and find another one to join or none at all," Garry Morris, the Youth and College Network coordinator, warned in October in an e-mail message to the association's secretary and president.
Mr. Morris, representing dancers on more than 300 college campuses, proposed allowing same-sex couples to participate in the more prominent nationwide competitions. The association responded by formally changing its policy to allow same-sex entries in national competitions, but only at low levels.
"We don't try to dictate to the colleges," said Archie C. Hazelwood, the association's president, noting that the group had not prohibited same-sex dancing at the regional level, where women frequently dance with other women in what are called "fun" dances.
"They have their own rules and we try to support them," Mr. Hazelwood said. "But when it comes out into the public arena, it's a different matter."
Helen Carroll, coordinator of the Homophobia in Sports Project at the National Center for Lesbian Rights, a San Francisco-based advocacy group, said she believed that the association's stance was colored by the International Olympic Committee's pending review of the sport.
"They've reacted strongly because they don't want anybody to think there could be gay people participating, going into a traditional sport area such as the Olympics," Ms. Carroll said.
"Unless their organization is flourishing and making so much money, they're going to fight it with every ounce of strength with the argument that it will hurt our audience, it's going to hurt marketing," Ms. Carroll added.
Mr. Hazelwood said his organization's hands were tied because of the rules of the international federation. "We have tried to be fair within the restraints imposed upon us," he said. "For our competitors to qualify to go to an international event, we have to comply with the international rules."
The Olympics might well bring endorsements, exposure and respect to a sport that is just beginning to move into mainstream acceptance, said Jack Rothweiler, president of Fred Astaire Dance of North America, the nation's second-largest independent dance studio operator.
But while ballroom dancing has become steadily more popular over the last decade, especially with younger couples and singles, Mr. Rothweiler said that he attributed the upsurge in large part to Eastern European, Scandinavian and Latin American immigrants.
Same-sex couples, he added, "could hurt the image a little in the beginning, because the ballrooming image isn't there to begin with; sometimes it's too premature."
Gary Stroick, vice president of the United States Amateur Ballroom Dancers Association DanceSport division, said that an increase in gay participation might discourage heterosexual men from participating.
"Eventually we're looking at televising the sport and obtaining sponsorship, and there may be implications there," he said.
Still, same-sex couples might be more warmly welcomed if, for example, the governing bodies were to afford them a division separate from male-female pairs — a move Mr. Halley and Mr. Guzman say they would applaud.
"With opposite-gender couples, the females are usually half a head to a head shorter and tend to be lighter, which makes it imperative that the female is the follower," explained Benjamin Soencksen, a former professional dancer and general manager of Stepping Out Studios in Manhattan, which has long endorsed same-sex dancing.
"Yes, they're developing a different dance, and yes, the artistry is changing as well," Mr. Soencksen said.
"But the artistic expression only has to do with the viewer viewing it differently," he added. "You cannot view it with the expectations of what an opposite-gender couple would look like. It's two men dancing, and they might feel the same love and passion but will have to express it differently based on the power structure within the couple."
For Mr. Halley and Mr. Guzman, who are not romantically involved, that means changing leader-follower roles many times during a single piece of music and coming up with choreographically exciting and innovative moves that catch the attention of both audience and judges.
"Women usually do all the extensions; they're flexible," Mr. Halley said. "I happen to have a good extension, and I'll do extensions with my legs that are on par with what some of the women are doing. And that's surprising because they don't expect to see a man stretch his leg over his head and then lean out into a split.
"We did that at M.I.T. in our rumba," he said with evident satisfaction and pride. "The audience went crazy."
Correction: July 21, 2004, Wednesday
An article in The Arts last Wednesday about same-sex couples' efforts to take part in competitive ballroom dancing included an incomplete paraphrase of a comment from Gary Stroick, whose title with the United States Amateur Ballroom Dancers Association is vice president for DanceSport. He attributed to "some people" the view that an increase in gay participation might discourage heterosexual men from taking part; he did not say it was his own view. The article also gave a misspelled surname for the chairman of the legal commission of the International DanceSport Federation. He is Jim Fraser, not Frasier.
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for locations and links for single, one-time and ongoing social dance
events, classes, and venues for same-gender couples and LGBT dancers
in Metropolitan Washington DC, across the U.S. and around the globe.
We want YOU!!...
as same-gender couples...
Out On The Dance Floor!!
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