Same-sex couples saying yes to marriage dance tradition

(ABC Radio Brisbane: Hailey Renault) ABC Radio Brisbane

By

Hailey Renault

Updated

February 04, 2018 12:57:46

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Men partner with men and women partner with women at Dance With Me Brisbane classes.
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“When I lived in Korea I couldn’t even dream of being married or being openly gay.”I’ve been very emotional and touched.”

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John and Steve started dance classes to inject more romance into their relationship. (ABC Radio Brisbane: Hailey Renault)
“The church based around Jesus Christ is not about deeming people in certain categories, it’s about welcoming all with love and that’s what we’re trying to do.”Reverend Fysh said he was still unsure whether the broader Uniting Church community would allow him to marry same-sex couples inside his quiet suburban chapel, but he’s already fielding requests.”People will come to be married here or by me because they actually want God’s blessing on their marriage,” he said.”It gives richness to the marriage and richness to the act. Photo:
Kevin teaches group and private lessons for same-sex couples planning their weddings. (ABC Radio Brisbane: Hailey Renault)
Time to perfect all the right movesJohn Cork and his fiancee, Steve Jeong, pay close attention to every instruction during class.They want to master the wedding waltz and cha-cha before they get hitched over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend in September.”We didn’t do it for that reason but now that we sort of feel confident with at least two dances we thought yep, why not,” John said, catching his breath between songs.”We regularly get in trouble for looking into each other’s eyes … A lot of people still want ritual in their life.”LGBTI-friendly wedding services in demandMr Flowers said as soon as same-sex marriage became legal, he started fielding phone calls from couples eager to perfect their first dance as husband and husband or wife and wife.”It’s actually taking off more than regular couple dancing so it’s been really fun,” he said.Four same-sex couples are preparing routines under his guidance and six more are booking one-on-one lessons to nail their performances.”It’s interesting when you get people who are about the same size wanting to do the Dirty Dancing lift,” he said.”I have to negotiate all those sorts of things and sort of say, ‘You can’t be Baby up in the air’.”He said teaching people the role of leader or follower on the dance floor had more to do with personality than gender.”I’ll dance with little women and I’ll dance with large men and sometimes the large men are easier to dance with because they’re not trying to control me.”

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The idea to hold same-sex dance classes came from the church’s former minister. I’m going to be able to have a wedding’.”You can see that excitement coming out in them.”Modern wedding ceremonies have parted with tradition over the decades, but Mr Flowers said the first dance was still considered an important part of the occasion.”With all couples, it doesn’t matter who they are, same sex or not, they like the tradition,” he said.”People think of dancing as being intimate.”

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John and Steve want to master the waltz and cha-cha before they tie the knot in September. Rather than listening to his sermon, the congregation was captivated by couples sashaying around the dance floor in the hall opposite the chapel.The church’s current minister, Reverend Murray Fysh, continues to support the group.He said his congregation, which is made up of people of all sexual orientations, voted unanimously to allow him to perform same-sex blessings well before it was legalised.”We’re not known as the gay church, but we’re known as the church that would be reasonably open to people from that community,” he said. Couples attend this class to impress their family and friends on one of the most memorable days of their lives — their wedding day.The point of difference is men dance with men and women dance with women.Mr Flowers has taught social dance classes for same-sex couples at Brisbane’s Merthyr Road Uniting Church for two years.The weekly lessons have taken on new significance since same-sex marriage was legalised last year. (ABC Radio Brisbane: Hailey Renault)
“I see a twinkle in some of the people that are coming that are seriously dating someone,” he said.”They’re thinking, ‘I’m going to be able to dance at my wedding. Photo:
Reverend Murray Fysh was a face of Brisbane’s Yes campaign. (ABC Radio Brisbane: Hailey Renault)
John and Steve found a listing for the gay and lesbian dance classes in a Brisbane-based LGBTI magazine a year ago.When they flick through the pages of the same magazine now they’re bombarded with services to help prepare for a wedding they only very recently won permission to plan.”We saw another add in the magazine for a boot camp so we’ve signed up for that,” John said.Classes find unlikely home in churchThe idea to hold same-sex dance classes came from the church’s former minister Chris Holden.Mr Flowers said Reverend Holden asked him to start them after he struggled to keep the attention of his congregation one Sunday afternoon. From outside on the footpath, Kevin Flowers’ dance class looks like any other.A group of amateur dancers waltz to dreamy, instrumental music blaring from wall-mounted speakers inside a church hall. (ABC Radio Brisbane: Hailey Renault) apparently you’re supposed to look past the person.”Steve, a trained figure skater, is naturally light on his feet but follows John’s lead on the dance floor.His eyes glisten when he talks about exchanging vows with his partner of three years.”I’ve been on cloud nine since the Australian public supported same-sex marriage,” he said.

Taking up dance as an adult
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