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To support Florida drag shows, an all-male dance festival harnesses its 'heeling power'

Dancer Yummy Reed performs in Randolph Ward's "Vogue Extravaganza," one of the featured piece in this year's "Men Who Dance" festival.
Roi Lemayh
Dancer Yummy Reed performs in Randolph Ward's "Vogue Extravaganza," one of the featured piece in this year's "Men Who Dance" festival.

For Miami-based choreographer Randolph Ward, Florida's apparent stab at restricting drag shows hits close to home.

"My husband is a drag queen. And I am Black and I am queer. And I also have relationships with trans people," he says.

In May of this year, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a slate of legislation targeting the LGBTQ and trans communities, including restrictions on drag performances statewide.

Six years ago, well before Florida's Republican-dominated state legislature got to work on those bills, Ward premiered his dance A Vogue Extravaganza.

The work pays tribute to the underground ballroom and vogue dance scenes popularized by Black and Latino gay youth in the 1980s.

"There are five men. They're doing movement where they're expressing both feminine and masculine energies. The piece is very bold, very in-your-face. It's exactly how the ballroom and vogue scene is," says Ward.

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It will be among the pieces featured during the 2023 edition of Men Who Dance.

Now in its fourth year, the all-male festival continues its mission of exploring gender roles, as well as confronting — and deconstructing — stereotypes around men in dance.

A Vogue Extravaganza features its male dancers in men's attire from the ankles up — the footwear is all high heels.

So it might have inadvertently skirted (no pun intended) restrictions laid out in the DeSantis-championed law prohibiting venues from admitting kids to “adult live performances.”

While the law doesn’t specifically mention drag shows, it defines an "adult live performance" as one that includes “the lewd exposure of prosthetic or imitation genitals or breasts.”

Last April, after the Florida legislature passed the law, the ACLU of Florida called it "a blatant attempt to erase drag performers and silence the LGBTQ+ community."

Just last week, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to allow enforcement of the law. The justices decided to keep in place a lower court ruling as a legal challenge continues.

In addition to guest artists from around the world, previous and returning South Florida dance companies appearing in this year's Men Who Dance festival include Miami City Ballet, Dance NOW! Miami, Cuban Classical Ballet, Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami, Tango Out, RTW Dance, Arts Ballet Theatre, Florida Grand Opera and New Canon Chamber Collective.

It also includes the debut of a new South Florida-based contemporary company, Syncopate Collective.

If you go:

Men Who Dance

Broward Center for the Performing Arts
Amaturo theater
201 Southwest 5th Avenue
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312
954-462-0222

Saturday, Nov. 25, at 8 pm
Sunday Nov. 26, 2023, at 3 pm

browardcenter.org

Christine DiMattei is WLRN's Morning Edition anchor and also reports on Arts & Culture.
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