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This Queer Troupe Is Changing Latin Dance

Meet the women of the In Lak´ech Dance Academy, who are busting gender stereotypes with style.

Traditionally, your gender dictates what you do in Latin dance. But the leaders of In Lak'ech Dance Academy are changing the roles. Filmmaker Melanie D'Andrea explores how they are opening the world of salsa and bachata to the queer community.

"Born in Venezuela and growing up as Latinx in South Florida, I was always the strange, outspoken one," D'Andrea says. "The one who didn't do well with gender roles, expectations or the machismo that is so common. These mores translate onto the dance floor in Latin dance, where men and women have strict roles, metaphorical of the culture: Men lead. Women follow.

"As a queer femme woman, I remember the awkwardness of trying to figure this out on my own with my ex-girlfriend, as there aren't many examples or places to learn where leading and following is fluid. And what if you are a straight woman that wants to lead? Or what if you don't adhere to the gender binary? Where do you fit in Latin sance?

"You have no choice but to disrupt the system as it stands. That is what In Lak'ech Dance Academy does. I was floored by how they have fused the pride and traditions of the Latin culture and Latin dance with the fluidity of the queer community. More so, it is a space where movement is used for healing, camaraderie, and self-empowerment.

"As a Latinx, I had never seen this spectrum on the dance floor, not only in the queer sense, but also in how anyone could lead, follow, and switch even as the dance was happening. It is no wonder they are at the forefront of evolutionizing the professional salsa and bachata dance space.

"Angelica Medina and Jahaira Fajardo, the leaders of In Lak'ech, demonstrate that in Latin dance, you belong, as you are. In their own words, 'Following and leading has nothing to do with gender.'"

Video Courtesy of Dance On.

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