Just like many of us who have competed in the Gay Games, Terry Chasteen, founder of Lambda DanceSPORT DC, experienced a life-changing moment at his first Games experience.
Chasteen headed to Amsterdam in 1998 to compete in same-gender dancesport which was being contested for the first time in the history of the gay games. “I went there with no dance partner,” says Chasteen, “but they ended up pairing me with a gentleman from South Africa.
Without much practice, the duo was able to dance their way into the semi-finals in Latin dance. “Dancesport is huge in Europe and there many same-gender dance organizations such as Equality dance,” Chasteen says. “The ovations the crowds were giving us and the other dancers were amazing and it was definitely a life-defining moment.”
At the Gay Games, dancesport is contested in three different dance disciplines, country, Latin and ballroom. The duos place themselves in one of the five skill levels and are then graded before the competition begins to ensure proper placement.
Chasteen’s path to dancing began through an elective dance class at Ohio State University. That led to giving dance lessons at Fred Astaire Dance Studios outside of Columbus, Ohio. He has taught lessons in the D.C. area for the last 17 years and founded Lambda DanceSPORT DC in 1996. The group offers training in ballroom, Latin, country western, hustle, Argentine salsa and many more. Dancers meet for lessons every Wednesday and Sunday from 3 to 11 p.m. along with an assortment of other days.
“Same-gender dancesport is different from the conventional version,” Chasteen says. “The same-gender dancers have to learn both roles as they switch leads throughout the dance. It really makes you a better dancer knowing both sides.”
The group moved its dance training from the Chevy Chase Ballroom to The Church of the Pilgrims near Dupont Circle in October after the Ballroom came under new ownership. “The new venue is just perfect for us,” he says. “We even have the ability to serve refreshments and desserts during our special events.”
Recently the group offered social dances on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s with more to come this year.
On the competitive side, Chasteen is hoping to send as many as 20 dancers to Cleveland in 2014 for the next Gay Games. In the meantime, there are possibilities of going to Houston for a country western event and Philadelphia for a ballroom event.
The popularity of “Dancing With the Stars” has affected the Lambda group positively. It gets a new wave of members each season. Some call asking to take lessons in the varieties they see on the show. And the group can be a subtle form of activism — members enjoy performing at straight venues where they often wow observers with their ability to dance both parts.
Coming up this year for Lambda DanceSPORT DC is a 12-hour Learn-To-Dance-athon with all proceeds being donated to each dancer’s designated charity. It will include different workshops by different teachers in all dance styles. Following the workshops there will be open dancing and practice in that style for 30-45 minutes before the next session begins.
So, you think you can dance?
Cha-cha your way over to lambdadancesportdc.org and dancesportdupont.com for more information and coming events.