During my high school years, my father was very worried about my mother’s influence on me and that I needed to be more of a man. He was convinced that football was the answer, if I could handle it. As I was never one to walk away from a dare, I joined the football team. Despite all his enthusiasm for me to play football, my mom is the only person who has any pictures of me “playing,” that is standing around on the sidelines watching my teammates play. After a year, I left.
I found out later that my coach was really uncomfortable by how femme I acted.
Dance was just never like that. Mrs Dee, who was my instructor when this photo was taken, well, I can’t speak to her feelings for me, but I felt very loved and safe in her studio, a place where people weren’t worried about how manly I was or wasn’t.
I was 9 years old when this picture was taken. We had a recital coming up and that was the first time I got to see my costume for the show. I was self-conscious about my body. Like, I was sucking in my gut. But it also felt like Christmas with the show coming up.
Around this time, my godfather, Eddie Valdiserri, who was gay, asked me which kind of dance I liked the best to which I responded, “When it comes to fun, tap is fantastic. When it comes to expressing joy, jazz is fantastic. When it comes to love, ballet it fantastic.” .
All these years, that’s just one of those things that’s kinda stayed the same, dance has always been some kind of fantastic.
And my way to express joy.
Interviewed & Photographed by: louie a. Ortiz-Fonseca