Saturday, May 29, 1999
'We don't care who is dancing as long as someone is'
Gay country dancers from around world gather to compete
More than 400 lesbians and gay men decked out in chaps and spurs gather
in downtown Toronto tonight for the Checker Ball, the highlight of the
second annual International Association of Gay and Lesbian Country Western
Dance Clubs competition.
Deryk, National Post / GAYS AND LESBIANS IN TORONTO FOR THE BIG CITY HOEDOWN:
Ohio's Columbus Stompers practise at Toronto's Delta Chelsea Hotel yesterday
for the gay and lesbian country dance club competition.
"This is cowboy drag," explains Todd Kaighin, the event's co-chairman.
Same-sex couples in sequined vests and 10-gallon hats will compete as
well as demonstrate and teach the latest techniques to convention delegates,
some of whom have travelled from as far as the Netherlands to attend the
Big City Hoedown.
Unwelcome in straight country bars because tradition requires that dancing
couples be of opposite sex, gay aficionados of the dance are often relegated
to alternative venues, such as church halls.
"[Straight bars] will not allow two women or two men to dance together,"
said Mr. Kaighin.
"We break the rules. We don't care who is dancing as long as someone
Lack of prejudice is the only membership requirement, and straight individuals,
although a minority, also attend the group's conventions.
The Holzes, an elderly straight couple in their '70s, travelled by camper
from the southern United States just to line dance in Toronto.
The couple says they feel completely accepted by the gay community and
Carl Holz is currently president of a Texas-based gay dance club.
"We're just here to have a ball," said his wife, Patricia. "We've been
to so many of these things that everyone knows us by name."
Tonight's main event will showcase some of the world's best gay country
It will also feature a performance from Scooter Lee, the renowned (straight)
In the actual competition, entrants must follow a predetermined routine,
perform legitimate country dance steps and reveal "no bare butts," said
a blushing Bo Bradshaw. The co-chairman admits chaps and nothing else are
often worn to fringe parties, but insists never at the competition.
"This isn't a sex-orientated event. This is about dance," added Mr.
Like most conventions, the weekend will include official organizational
business. This morning, members will discuss new membership requirements
and fundraising initiatives.