New National Dance Rule Allows Same-Sex and Gender Neutral Couples Participate in Competitions

The National Dance Council of America changed its definition of "couple" so that same-sex and gender neutral couples could compete.

DULUTH, Minn.- People in the dance community are celebrating a big victory this week.

As of September 23, the National Dance Council of America (NDCA) changed a long–standing rule that will now allow same–sex and gender neutral couples to compete against opposite–sex couples at sanctioned events.

Traditionally, the NDCA Rules & Regulations defined a couple in ballroom dance as a male and a female, where the male leads and the female follows.

That rule changed. Now a couple is defined as a leader and a follower, without regard to the sex or gender of dancers.

“When you talk about dancing with a partner, you talk about connection and keeping that connection and having this tension between the two so it’s very clear where the lead is going and that the follow is responding,” Mark Hakes said.

Mark Hakes and Elijah Jensen have been learning ballroom dance together for two years.

“The point of me taking ballroom was to dance with Elijah, so to do competitions without Elijah, it didn’t make sense to me,” Hakes said.

The two weren’t able to dance together at NDCA sanctioned events under the councils old rules that limited couples to being two dancers of the opposite sex.

Since the rule has changed, Mark and Elijah can dance with each other at competitions. They don’t only have to dance with their opposite–sex teacher, Kit.

“It’s been something that the community’s been asking for for a very long time,” Kit said.

Kathleen “Kit” Smart thinks the rule change will help grow the dance community, because now, it’s more welcoming.

“Teachers, students alike because as amateur couples, anyone who wants to compete together now can whether you’re just ladies, just men, male, female, whatever, but also for the teachers, we no longer have to give up students or deny students the opportunity to compete if we don’t have the appropriate sex teacher,” Kit said.

But even advocates of the new rule have some concerns with how other things will change because of it.

“With attire, there’s very strict attire. Gentlemen wear slacks, vests, jackets, whatever. And they have the number on their back of the couple. The lady wears her dress and she’s got the heels. Now that this ruling has been changed, how do the attire rules get changed?” Kit questioned.

Mark and Elijah say the passion in dance is one of the most important parts.

“Being able to create that passionate connection with Elijah is a lot easier than, as much as I love Kit, than it is with Kit,” Hakes said.

Kit, Mark and Elijah think there are more traditional rules that should be reconsidered in the dance world, but this is a good step in the right direction.

“I think the more that we can understand that gender is not a binary and allowing people to use dance as an expression of who they are and to be able to compete, expressing who they are, I think the more that we allow people to do that, that’s really important,” Hakes said.

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