The world of male exotic dancers is a generally little-known subculture. Backstage, preparing for their performances, the dancers primp, pump, and shave to look their best and meet the expectations of their free-spending patrons. Once they're onstage, the teasing and interest in patrons are all part of a performance mostly for financial gain, on occasion developing into a bond with their admirers. In his show "Tease," photographer Jan Rattia delves into the glamorous nighttime fantasy of a possible sexual fulfillment that is rarely satisfied.
Rattia interviewed, befriended, and photographed many dancers across the country — Atlanta, Miami, New York, Phoenix, Washington, D.C. — to expose the individual men behind these fantasies. "I wanted to give a voice to a subculture that is heavily prejudged," he says. Rattia discovered that each of the dancers has a story, which in a lot of cases is quite mundane. He was surprised to find that many are heterosexual and carry on unrelated careers, although their patrons rarely know the truth. Adopted stage names and personae help maintain anonymity as well as the charged fantasy.
His collection of photographs on view in the Vault Room explores issues of masculinity, outward expression and defining emotions through the portraiture of male dancers. Rattia's show has been extended to this Thursday at Bridgette Mayer Gallery, 709 Walnut St., first floor, Philadelphia.
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