When I was dancing and choreographing in New York City, I took every opportunity to gain more experience. This led me to a unique chance of choreographing for an all-male strip group. Most were gang bangers, body builders or an amalgamation of both. I was fearful that I wouldn’t be able to convince them of my abilities and earn their respect, but still defiant enough to grab onto all of the courage my insides had to offer.
Because each man brought into the studio a disrespectful attitude and a preconceived idea of what I would be like as his teacher – mostly it was “that little white girl” with the big set of cojones. I wanted to prove my worth as their choreographer – which was no easy task, especially with the ones who deposited their knives and Berettas at the back of the studio. Not only did I need to prove myself as their choreographer, but to my surprise, I found myself also having to be mother, healer and stripper.
On Wednesdays, I had 2 hours to teach a group dance class to these mammoths and then to help them individually with their strip routines as well as empower them with self-confidence and grace. Each following Friday night, at a large, predominantly black and Puerto Rican nightclub, in front of hundreds, if not thousands of screaming women, they’d perform in all their glory and self-admiration.
You never know how your actions will be perceived, but I do believe when your intentions are clear and good, you will earn respect because, eventually, I did earn it from of those big thugs. So much so, that every time we were all together for their nightclub gig, they’d all huddle around me before and after their show, protecting me from men, just like themselves – in case those men might not have had the opportunity to work with someone who gave them respect.