It Takes Two Men to Tango

By Japhy Grant

Originally published on Advocate.com January 28 2008 1:00 AM ET

“There’s something about two men dancing
together that’s so beautiful and powerful,"
gushes Steve Valentine, the creator of a gay ballroom
dancing program debuting in West Hollywood in January.
Inspired by the popularity of shows like Dancing
With the Stars,
Valentine has partnered with
the city of West Hollywood and North American
International Ballroom Finalist Christopher Beroiz to give
amateurs a chance to swivel their hips in the cha-cha,
fox-trot, and tango in a fun and easy environment.

There’s a
bit of a love story at the heart of these classes.
Valentine, a dance enthusiast and publicist, had seen
same-sex ballroom dancing only a handful of times
(often as a novelty) and yearned for the opportunity to
try it. But there’s more to same-sex dancing than
finding a partner.

Ballroom Dancing x395 (Publicity shot) | Advocate.com

“There’s a lot of issues of who leads and who
follows, who's the top and who's the bottom on the
dance floor,” Valentine explains. One day, while
doing errands, he passed by a ballroom class saw
“this beautiful man teaching a straight couple
to dance” and was blown away. After the class
was over, he approached the instructor, Christopher Beroiz,
and they struck up a friendship. Valentine pitched his
idea of bringing ballroom dancing to Los Angeles gays
and Beroiz joined up. The story leads Valentine to
confess, “The truth is, this all started when I was
stalking a ballroom instructor because he was
hot.”

These
aren’t your grandparents’ ballroom classes.
Local celebrity judges (Bruce Vilanch and Maria
Conchita Alonso are confirmed) will be brought in
to judge the competition, and class locations can range from
a club on the Sunset Strip to the outdoor courtyard of
the Pacific Design Center. Classes will cover
beginner, intermediate, and advanced styles, and in a
same-sex-only twist, partners will be coached on who should
lead and who will follow. As the classes progress,
Beroiz will be identifying one or two couples who he
will take under his wing for more intensive training
-- because as much as ballroom is about beauty, it’s
also about competition. The couples that are chosen
for one-on-one training will be the classes' inaugural
entrants in San Francisco’s April Follies, a
same-sex ballroom competition occurring on April 26. Rival
teams are slated to come from several other
cities around the country.

Another step in
the national push to bring ballroom to gay participants
came last October, when 33 same-sex dance partners,
instructors, and organizers formed the nonprofit North
American Same-Sex Dancesport Association (they call it
a “working title”) to promote the sport. It
became the first national organization for gay
ballroom.

It’s
surprising that ballroom dancing, with its combination of
athleticism, glamour, and eroticism hasn’t caught on
with gays yet, but Valentine is determined to spread
his passion for the sport to others. And being a
publicist doesn’t hurt. He’s already been
approached by a number of television producers,
including those of Dancing With the Stars, to bring
gay ballroom dancing to TV in some form. But is
America ready for gay ballroom? Valentine replies,
“When people see same-sex couples dancing,
you’d think their hair might bristle, but once
they watch it, they always comment on the magic of it
-- and it really is magical.”

For more information on Valentine’s ballroom
classes, go to
gayballroom.tv.