top of page

Let's Talk About TRUE Inclusion On The Dance Floor

Breaking Gender-Based Stereotypes in Dance

Pride colours

As far as I'm concerned as a dancer and dance teacher, when it comes to the world of dance, creativity should know no bounds.


ally, dance roles have been categorized into male leaders and female followers, perpetuating gender stereotypes that limit individual expression. However, the evolution of dance has recently started to lean toward a more inclusive and diverse landscape, and I must say:

It's about time.

One of my main focuses as a dance teacher is INCLUSIVITY. I've aimed to help create a world where dancers are encouraged to embrace their authentic selves regardless of their gender identity or expression.

I thought that it was time to break down what TRUE inclusivity on the dance floor can look like!

As I've mentioned, in the past, dance roles have been predominantly defined by gender, with male leaders expected to exude power, and masculinity and female followers encouraged to embody femininity, and delicacy. Recently, the rise of progressive attitudes and understanding has led to an exploration of role fluidity within dance. By challenging these conventional norms, dancers can push the boundaries of creativity, allowing for a spectrum of expression.

Let's dive into a few things that can be found on an inclusive dance floor!

Woman in a red dress dancing with a man in a white shirt


"Masculine" Male Leaders:

In the world of dance, it is crucial to recognize that masculinity does not solely equate to strength, power, or leadership. Masculine male leaders can bring a unique dynamic to their performances, exuding confidence, grace, and athleticism. At CDDC, there is a large focus on making sure the Leader is not domineering, or aggressive on the dance floor. Instead, I aim to teach Leaders to be assertive, understanding and artistically empathetic.

This is the "traditionally expected" leader, and they are expected to demonstrate movements that show strength, authority, decisiveness and gender normativity.


"Feminine" Male Leaders:

Conversely, the concept of a feminine male leader should also be celebrated and embraced. Dance is an art form that allows for limitless self-expression, and a male leader who embraces their femininity can bring a delicate, graceful energy to their performances.

Whether leading men, women or non-binary dancers, I've noticed that Leaders who lean more toward the "feminine" side of the spectrum bring a lot of beautiful, unique and fluid expression to the role of Leader. Dancing with a Leader like this often ends up being an incredibly memorable dance!

Their ability to blur gender-normative, or societally-stereotypical boundaries amplifies the beauty and versatility of the art, while cultivating acceptance and understanding.

two men dancing happily together


"Masculine" Male Follows:

Expanding the notion of gender roles, we acknowledge the possibility, reality, and beauty of masculine males taking on the role of followers. By stepping outside societal expectations, they challenge norms and stereotypes in a very real way, and that's an incredible thought!

These individuals can harness their strength and athleticism alongside vulnerability, resulting in captivating performances that break free from gender biases.

As a dance teacher, I am known for trying to teach each dancer what the other side of the partnership requires, in a real-time "Walk in each other's shoes" method. This has led to many "Masculine" male dancers switching their focus from Lead to Follow, and the results have been incredible to see!

If you're a Leader who wants to really expand your abilities, I can't recommend learning to Follow enough!


"Feminine" Male Follows:

Similarly, embracing the concept of a feminine male follow is an essential aspect of an inclusive dance community. These dancers defy societal expectations (often in the face of societal scorn) to deliver performances that capture the essence of beauty, grace, and emotion.

Their ability to combine strength and fluidity elevates the art form while shattering gender biases, and giving an artistic middle finger to the rigidity of tradition. They embrace the possibilities of what dance can become.

For many males who tend to lean toward the "feminine," being given the opportunity to Follow can make them feel like they've aligned with their artisitic desires perfectly, and any artist knows that when you find the place that feels like "home," the art that flows out of that is beyond outstanding.


"Masculine" Female Leaders:

In the same vein, it is vital to celebrate masculine female leaders. These dancers showcase strength, leadership, and confidence, debunking societal stereotypes surrounding femininity and the role of women.

A masculine female leader can command the stage or dance floor with authority, challenging and redefining what it means to lead in dance.

Much like Feminine Male Follows, Masculine Female Leaders often feel like they are in the perfect fit for their own art to flourish, and in a world where that is still sadly frowned upon by so many, creating that safe space on the dance floor is such an important part of why I do what I do as a dance teacher.

Two women dancing together at a wedding


"Feminine" Female Leaders:

Equally important is the recognition of feminine female leaders. These dancers bring a sense of grace, creativity, and elegance to their performances, inspiring audiences with their unique expression.

A feminine female leader combines poise with command, demonstrating that leadership in dance can be as fluid and varied as the art itself.

Their ability to lead with what can be seen as a "delicate touch" adds a layer of beauty and complexity to the dance, enriching the overall experience, and shows that assertiveness does not need to be hand-in-hand with the aggression often associated with masculinity.

A man and woman dancing west coast swing together on a street


"Masculine" Female Follows:

It's incredibly important to acknowledge the power of masculine female follows. They combine strength and vulnerability, defying limitations and expectations. By stepping into this role, they often challenge visual norms and showcase the versatility and depth of their abilities.

Their performances become a clear statement of empowerment, illustrating that following can be as dynamic and commanding as leading.

I've had the pleasure of working with quite a few Follows who would classify themselves as masculine, and the power that comes out of them is unrivaled. The way that they navigate styling, floorcraft and team support is stunning. I encourage you to create, and nourish a place on your dance floor for these artists!


"Feminine" Female Follows:

Feminine female Follows are the "traditionally expected" form of Follows. Her movements will likely exude elegance, with a focus on seamless transitions and intricate footwork that enhances the lead's directives. This type of dancer brings a unique sensitivity to the partnership, responding to her partner's cues with a refined touch that adds depth and beauty to the performance.

The feminine energy she embodies as a Follow creates a harmonious and visually stunning interaction.

a blurry photo of a social dance from the angle of the floor


Non-Binary Inclusion:

Lastly, but in no way least, we come to the dancers who identify as Non-Binary, and/or the artists who prefer to be, or have trained long and hard to become what I call "Ambidancerous" (able and happy to dance either the Leaders and Follows roles)*.

As with all artists, being able to train in the role(s) that bring you the most joy is vital. I have always worked to ensure that the artist decides the art. It is my honour to have the opportunity to work with dancers who are attempting to step outside of the norm. I'd never stifle that.

The beauty of the spectrum offers an ever-changing dancescape, and one-of-a-kind dance experiences.

*please note that I'm not intending to imply that all non-binary people fall under the "Ambidancerous" placement. I myself do not identify as Non-Binary, and yet would classify myself as Ambidancerous, as I am thrilled to dance either role on the dance floor.

In conclusion, the dance world is continuously evolving, embracing change, and promoting inclusivity. Being inclusive to all artists opens up a world of possibilities, breaking free from traditional gender stereotypes and allowing dancers to express themselves authentically. This celebration of individuality fosters creativity, builds a more accepting dance community, and ensures that dance truly becomes a universal art form, open to all who wish to participate.

While I must say that I believe it has taken a surprisingly long time for the dance world to take steps toward genuine inclusivity, I am beyond excited to see what it does to the artists that I am lucky to be surrounded by.

Dancers in a club

It must be said that not everyone will be comfortable dancing with everyone else, and personal preferences are important to take into account. Approaching dances with respect will keep events safe and enjoyable for everyone, and also ensures that more people are dancing more often.

You may also be introduced to people that you wouldn't otherwise meet, so at your next event, consider if there's anything that can make the dancing more inclusive!

If you're interested in being a part of this environment, check out my upcoming classes and events! I'd love to have you.

Banner for Christifer Duxbury Dance Collective


bottom of page