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Social Agenda of Feb. 12

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Friday, Feb. 12

Gay organist David Christopher plays a free recital today at 12:15 p.m. at National City Christian Church as part of its “Magical, Mystical, Musical Machine” organ recital series. Organists Stephen Harouff and NCCC’s Charles Miller, who are both gay, play on the 19th and 26th respectively. The recitals are a half hour each. The church is at 5 Thomas Circle, N.W.

Apex has a Mardi Gras party tonight with a costume contest, balloon drop, prizes and “King of Apex” contest. Beads and masks will be given out. DJ Yainnis spins. Doors open at 9. Cover is $6. The club is located at 1415 22nd St., N.W. Visit www.apex-dc.com for more information.

Women in their Twenties meets at the D.C. Center tonight at 8. The group is a social discussion group for lesbian, bi and trans D.C.-area women. Discussions are followed by dinner at a nearby restaurant. The Center is located at 1810 14th St., N.W.

Saturday, Feb. 13

Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, the District’s largest mostly gay church, has its annual Valentine’s dance tonight at 7 p.m. at the church. Refreshments will be served. A $7 donation is suggested. Call 202-638-7373 or e-mail [email protected] for more information. The church is located at 474 Ridge St., N.W.

“Love,” a concert by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, is today with shows at 5 and 8 p.m. at Church of the Epiphany located at 1317 G Street N.W. Tickets are $35 and can be purchased at www.gmcw.org/tickets, by phone at 202-293-1548 or at the HRC shop at 1633 Connecticut Ave., N.W. The concert will feature a chorus transcription of Brahm’s “Liebeslieder Waltzes” by chorus member Robert T. Boaz and a performance by the Rock Creek Singers, a chamber ensemble of Chorus members.

The 38th annual Scarlet’s Bake Sale is today at the Eagle, which is co-sponsoring the event with Green Lantern, another D.C. gay bar. Cake donations will be accepted from 2 to 4 p.m. They’ll be auctioned off from 5 to 9 p.m. Awards will be given for various categories. Several gay non-profits will receive proceeds. The Eagle is at 639 New York Ave., N.W. For more information, call Stephen Decker at 202-210-7553 or Patrick Grady at 703-863-7295.

DJ Scotty Thompson is at Town tonight and a Universal Gear fashion show will be held. Doors open at 10. Drag show starts at 10:30. DJ Wess spins downstairs. Cover is $8 from 10 to 11 p.m. and $12 after 11. Town is at 2009 8th Street, N.W.

Burgundy Crescent, a gay volunteer group, volunteers from 9:30 a.m. to noon today for Books Plus at MLK Library and later in the week at D.C. Central Kitchen, Human Rights Campaign, National Gay & Lesbian Task Force and more. Visit www.burgundycrescent.org for a schedule of opportunities or to register to volunteer.

Sunday, Feb. 14

A gay alumni group of George Mason University, the Lambda Alumni Chapter, is participating in the school’s homecoming festivities today and throughout the week. Contact Rob Pilaud at [email protected] or 202-258-5476 for more information.

Local drag queen Shi-Queeta Lee hosts drag brunch every Sunday at Nellie’s Sports Bar, located at 900 U Street, N.W. Brunch buffet is $20. Miss Lee performs at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. Visit www.nelliessportsbar.com for more information.

Monday, Feb. 15

A youth support group for gay, lesbian and bi teens meets today from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the GW Center Clinic located at 1922 F St., N.W., suite 103. It’s designed to be a safe space for young adults to discuss coming out, discrimination, identity and other issues. It meets every Monday and is facilitated by Sonia Khan, a psychology grad student. Fees for therapy and the group are on a sliding scale.

Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, the District’s largest mostly gay church, has an HIV-positive support group for people of faith every Monday at the church. For more information, contact Matt Senger at 202-546-2159 or e-mail him at [email protected]. MCC-DC is located at 474 Ridge Street, N.W. Visit www.mccdc.com for more information about the church.

Freddie’s Beach Bar, located at 555 S. 23rd St. in Crystal City, Va., has disco trivia every Monday at 8 p.m.

Tuesday, Feb. 16

The United ENDA Coalition meets on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 6 to 9 p.m. at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force headquarters to encourage LGBT supporters to help pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Training and pizza are provided. The Task Force is at 1325 Massachusetts Ave., N.W., sixth floor. For more information, contact Aaditi Dubale at [email protected].

D.C.’s HIV Working Group assembles safer sex kits with its “packing parties” every Tuesday at EFN Lounge. Those who volunteer their time get drink discounts. The events are held from 7 to 10:30 p.m. at Motley Bar, located above EFN, which is at 1318 9th St., N.W. Visit www.fighthivindc.org for more information.

Cobalt has “Flashback,” a retro night, every Tuesday at 10 p.m. Rail vodka drinks are free from 10 to 11 p.m. Cobalt, a gay bar and dance club, is at the corner of 17th and R streets, N.W.

Wednesday, Feb. 17

Tegan and Sara, a band comprised of lesbian twins, play Warner Theatre tonight. Tickets are $33. Visit www.ticketmaster.com for tickets.

Metropolitan Community Church of Washington, the District’s largest mostly gay church, has Ash Wednesday services today at noon and 7 p.m. at the church, which is located at 474 Ridge Street, N.W.

The D.C. Center has LGBT career development with Washington-specific information today from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at the Center’s new location at 1810 14th St., N.W.

Ladies First night is tonight and every Wednesday at Fab Lounge, located at 1805 Connecticut Ave., N.W. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/ladiesfirst.

Thursday, Feb. 18

D.C. Lambda Squares, a local gay square dancing group, meets every Thursday for square dancing. Those who’ve taken the group’s “Mainstream” and “Plus” classes dance on the first and third Thursdays. “Plus” and “Advanced” classes are on the second and fourth Thursdays. For more information about the group or to find out when beginner classes are available, visit www.dclambdasquares.org.

Friday, Feb. 19

Bet Mishpachah, a gay synagogue located at the D.C. JCC at 16th and Q streets, N.W., holds Ereve Shabbat services every Friday at 8:30 p.m. followed by an Oneg Shabbat social. Morning services are held on the second and fourth Saturdays of each month at 10 a.m. followed by Kiddush luncheon. Visit www.betmish.org for more information.

Gay District meets tonight. The group was formerly known as the Twenties Group but has expanded its age range for gay, bi, trans and questioning men from 18 to 35. The group meets for weekly discussion from 8:30 to 9:30 every Friday at St. Margaret’s Church located at 1830 Connecticut Ave. Members dine afterwards then go dancing. The group is changing its contact information but for now, those interested can visit the group on Facebook under the name “GD: Gay District.”

A new Friday night drag show at Ziegfeld’s has started with a new hostess. The Ladies of Illusion hosted by Kristina Kelly has performances every Friday at 11 p.m. and 1 a.m. Ziegfeld’s is celebrating its one-year anniversary this weekend.

Saturday, Feb. 20

A concert by members of D.C.’s Different Drummers, a gay ensemble, called “Intimate Winds” is today at 2 p.m. in the Adirondack Room at Hillwood Museum Estate. Fischer Tull’s “Liturgical Symphony,” Richard Strauss’ “Serenade,” and more will be performed. Tickets are $20 ($10 for seniors and students) and are available at the door. Visit www.dcdd.org for more information.

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Travel

Quito and the Galápagos on Celebrity Flora: blog #5

Darwin was right, it is an amazing place.

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Celebrity Flora

The last full day of our Galápagos cruise dawned bright, with clear skies. The weather would change during the day. After breakfast we boarded tenders and were told it would be a dry landing. That meant we didn’t have to get in the water to get off the tender. Instead, we got to a very nice dock on the Island of Santa Cruz, in the middle of a bustling town. We were informed by the naturalist with us the population of the Island was about 25,000. We then boarded a bus for the short ride to the Charles Darwin Station, Giant Tortoise Breeding Center. We were greeted by a life size seated statue of Darwin. It was really interesting and we got to see more giant tortoises, and baby ones as well. The Center was really close to town and they told us we had an hour to walk back to meet our bus for the next part of the day. I am sure the goal of the walk was to have us shop at the various stores along the way. Some were really nice, while some were typical tourist shops. While I rarely buy anything on my travels, as I have learned after many years, whatever I buy often ends up boxed up in a closet. But many did shop, and a couple of my traveling companions bought some really nice silver jewelry.

We had been told where to meet the group, which was back at the dock, for the second part of the day. We again got on busses, and headed to a tortoise preserve in the highlands. On the way we stopped for a Scalesia tree planting activity. It is a restoration project supported by Celebrity. We each got boots to put on, two baby trees, and a trowel. Then were led into the forest to plant our trees. On the way back to our bus, my group was stuck behind a giant tortoise, who was meandering along the same path we were taking. It was fun to watch him, until we could finally walk around him, and be on our way. 

Then back on the bus to the El Manzanillo Ranch and tortoise preserve. There are a lot of tortoises on Santa Cruz Island. At the ranch we had a great buffet lunch, and were treated to entertainment, a wonderful dance program by kids in a folk-dance group. They were fun to watch. The program for the day called for us to then take a walk through the preserve. But during lunch the rains began, and they came down in buckets. So many of us chose to pass on the walk, get back on the busses, and head to the dock in town. We had been told the tenders would be running regularly and that we had up to three hours to stay on the Island and shop. I don’t know anyone who did. It was still drizzling and we all decided to head back to the ship. We heard later from the final group that came back, those who chose to take the walk through the preserve, that they nearly got stuck on the farm. There was so much rain it was washing out roads, and they needed to bring out two by fours to get the bus, and the people, out of the mud. Thankfully they did finally get out of the mud, and back to the ship.

We had a nice relaxed evening on The Flora and were treated to a slide show of pictures, taken by the naturalists, of our group, which they shared with each of us the next morning. Sunday morning The Flora headed back to Baltra Island, and we headed to the airport. It was time to say goodbye to the wonderful crew of The Flora. Of course, Captain Patricio who I have written about. But then the ship wouldn’t be the same without John Flynn, Hotel Director. From the moment we stepped on board, John was everywhere on the ship. He was always smiling and ready to answer any question someone had. He clearly kept things running superbly. He is an amazing guy. Then Boris Peralta, a Maître D. He is a really nice guy and it was incredible how many of our names he remembered, always greeting me by name. He was smiling at 6:00 am when I went for coffee, and again at the door to the dining room for dinner. Then there was Guillermo, one of the dining room staff. He was charming and also was always smiling. Always ready to bring a coffee, or anything else you needed. As I mentioned in a previous blog, there were nine naturalists on the Flora. They were all great. One who stood out to me, and answered any question I would throw at him, was Sebastian.  Clearly the competence and professionalism of the crew on The Flora, made all the difference to our great week on the ship.  

At the airport we all checked in to our chartered flight back to Quito. But there, some of the group, were heading to Peru, and on to Machu Picchu, while many of us would spend another day, or two, in Quito, before heading home. Those of us in Quito had dinner in the hotel, courtesy of Celebrity, and then on Monday, a group of us headed to the botanical gardens. It was a really nice relaxed day. But for me it was an early night, as a group of us were going to meet in the lobby of the hotel at 3:00 am to head to the airport for our 6:00 am flight to Miami, and connection to DC. That will be a separate column as I got bumped from 1st class on the Miami to DC flight, and am still debating the issue with American Airlines. So far, I have spoken to four people and got four different reasons for being bumped. Not a great look for American. But that small issue, couldn’t stop me from thinking, all-in-all, it was an amazing eleven days in Quito and the Galápagos. I got to spend time with good friends, and meet some wonderful new ones.  I would recommend a trip to the Galápagos to anyone. Darwin was right, it is an amazing place.

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Sports

Gay figure skater Colin Grafton shares his story and his dream

Boston native is contestant on British television’s ‘Dancing On Ice’

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Colin Grafton (Photo courtesy of Grafton's Instagram page)

For a second year, Boston native and professional figure skater Colin Grafton is carving up the ice on British television’s “Dancing On Ice,” and now he’s doing it as his authentic self. 

“I told my closest friends. I told the people around me and I eventually told my parents,” Grafton, 32, recalled in an interview with PinkNews, in which he discussed coming out as gay. “I was maybe 24 when all that happened. I know there’s a lot of curiosity about my sexual orientation and my love life, but I never actually came out to the public,” said ITV personality. 

“I guess this is me announcing it to you guys.”

Grafton, who has been skating since he was 7, reflected on how watching Tara Lipinski win an Olympic gold medal at the 1998 Winter Games inspired him to pursue this career. But being a male figure skater was “really tough” in the 1990s and 2000s, he told PinkNewsUK.

“I remember feeling so nervous at various points in my childhood,” said Grafton. ”I’d be skating and the hockey players would come and bang on the side of the rink and shout words. That was something all male skaters had to deal with back then. It wasn’t easy but all of it made me stronger because I took it and focused everything on my sport.”

Grafton’s focus catapulted him to competing for Team USA, winning a bronze medal at the Junior U.S. championships in 2012, with his former partner Kylie Duarte. The memory of those who taunted him only fueled him to work harder. 

“When somebody tells you, you can’t do something, or somebody makes fun of you, just prove them wrong.”

Grafton ended his competitive career in 2013 and transitioned to professional skating, leading several European tours, and even becoming a coach. Then came the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I feel very fortunate about the fact that I’ve been able to kind of dabble in so many different areas in the professional world, but tour life is quite hard, all the travel and being away for so long,” he said. “So, when ‘Dancing on Ice’ came up, I jumped on it.” That was in 2023. 

The program is broadcast Sunday nights on ITV’s Channel 3 from studios in Bovingdon, a village in Hertfordshire about an hour northwest of London. During that first season, Grafton made history being paired with “RuPaul Drag Race” star The Vivienne, the first drag performer on the show and the first time “Dancing On Ice” featured a same-sex team. They made it all the way to the finals, finishing in third place.

“Being a part of that representation, being a part of that team, it was just wonderful,” he said. “The support we got from everyone was just fantastic. If I’m honest, I didn’t really understand the impact that it would make in the end.”

And at the conclusion of last season, Grafton finally found time to read the many messages of encouragement from fans, as well as from viewers who wrote, “Seeing us helped them and gave them the courage to either come out or be themselves,” he said. “It was truly something.”

And now, as a regular on the show’s 16th season, Grafton has decided he wants everyone to know who he really is, and in doing so, show others they are not alone. 

“If I’m honest, I never really felt the need to announce it before, but the reason I am saying this now, is because I want to show that there is representation in any way I can”, the TV personality explains.

Along the way to self-acceptance, Grafton revealed he had a lot of “small steps and small triumphs” leading him to finally feel comfortable being himself in the public eye. “It was on my own terms,” he said, and feels “blessed” to have found support among friends. 

“It’s been a long journey but now I am proud of myself and I’m proud of my sexual orientation and I want to let other people know that they should be proud of every part of themselves too,” said Grafton, acknowledging he had concerns about coming out publicly. “I was really nervous of doing that to myself. It was like, ‘OK, if I come out as gay then people are going to think I’m this or that,’ when in reality the human sexuality spectrum is so vast and it’s just one small part of the person you are.”

But appearing in primetime on such a popular TV show means that Grafton is the target of speculation about his personal life. He admits to having “lived and breathed skating” until finally getting in a relationship at age 24, around the same time he decided to come out to friends and family.

While that lasted two and a half years, Grafton’s frequent travel commitments and work on the ice left him no other chance for love. “I just didn’t really have an opportunity,” he said. “You might meet someone while you’re on a contract for six months and after that, you’re both off in different directions, so, I wasn’t really able to hold down a relationship because of that.”

But now that London is his home, Grafton told PinkNewsUK he feels ready to settle down. His perfect match? Someone local and appreciative of his business obligations. 

“We live really crazy fast-paced lives as skaters,” he said. “Personally, I want to meet someone who is also fast-paced and able to keep up with that, but they don’t have to be a fellow skater. I just want someone who supports me and I can support them, too.”

“At the end of the day, we’re all just humans doing our thing on this planet and trying to find love.”

Until he does, Grafton said he is excited to keep skating on television.

“I absolutely love ‘Dancing on Ice.’ Every season that I’m asked to do it, I feel like I’m blessed and I feel very lucky to be able to keep doing the show. I would love to continue doing it while I can or while my body allows me to as well,” he said. And when it doesn’t? Grafton imagines he might try his hand at acting. 

“I think that’s what life is all about,” he said. “Learning new things and pushing yourself to do other things.”

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Theater

Tony Thomas brings ‘Tempestuous Elements’ to DC

Ann Julia Cooper play will be at Arena Stage through March 17

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Tony Thomas (Photo courtesy of Tony Thomas)

‘Tempestuous Elements’
Through March 17
Arena Stage 
1101 Sixth St., S.W.
$56-$95
Arenastage.org

Tony Thomas isn’t shy about his talent. The accomplished choreographer says, “With every show I work on, the artists continue to grow. They leave wanting to keep moving and to expand that part of their artistry.”

Over the years, he’s successfully carved out a niche as a choreographer of plays with music and/or movement. For many of these “playsicals” as he whimsically dubs them, his creative credit reads “choreography consultant.”

Once an actor who danced a lot, he’s now passionate about helping other actors do the same. Currently, he’s serving as choreographer and associate director for the world premiere production of “Tempestuous Elements,” at Arena Stage’s in the round Fichandler space. Penned by Kia Corthron and staged by Psalmayene 24, it’s the true-life story of Ann Julia Cooper (played by Gina Daniels), a Black principal at D.C.’s historic M Street School who, against all odds, fights for her students’ rights to an advanced curriculum. 

WASHINGTON BLADE: Is this a D.C. story?

TONY THOMAS: In part. It’s more a story of its time. Anna understood she was poised to be somebody, but still feel the pushback. Superintendent white doesn’t approve of the classic curriculum she’s created for Black students. Hers is a turn of 20th century Black middle-class life with high tea and much finery. More importantly, Black people are being seen as human beings. It’s an opportunity to really be someone, but the fight isn’t over. People are boxed in another systemic way.

BLADE: And how does choreography work within a play?

THOMAS: With plays, I need to demonstrate the choreography. The actors want to see it. It’s not like with dancers when we speak the same vocabulary. 

I realize energy is one of my selling points. I’ll be 45 in April and apparently my turns and jumps are still on point.

BLADE Is there a difference between beautiful movement and not just actor movement?

THOMAS: There’s a difference. With “Tempestuous Elements,” I taught them a little ballet, warmed them up and imbued them with the dignity needed for the story they’re about to tell. Some of the cast already move like dancers while others understand tempo. When choreographing plays with movement, you have to trust the actors. 

BLADE: Is that tough for a trained dancer?

THOMAS: No, not really. I have a concert dance background — ballet, modern, jazz — and have studied with Debbie Allen, Shawn Cosby and Mike Malone. I don’t expect that level of training from actors. I like the freedom to move and put their characters into it. They’re not like ten concert dancers who need to look like one person. They are moving as characters — students, different adults.

BLADE: For a decade, you stepped away from showbiz? 

THOMAS: I stopped in my mid-20s. I turned Ailey down twice. Then I went to art school and pursued a degree in interior architecture at Academy of Art University in San Francisco. 

BLADE: And you returned theater? 

THOMAS: Now I do both theater and interior architecture, but in 2012 friends dared me to come along on an audition for the Broadway “West Side Story.” Well, I did and I booked a national tour. That got me back in the business. Not long after, I played Richie in “A Chorus Line” at Olney Theatre. And around 2015, I did “The Shipment” with Psalm, and ever since I’ve done all of the choreography and movement for his plays.

            BLADE: Tell me how you connect with “Tempestuous Elements”?

THOMAS: Who was your first teacher? We asked the actors to come to this production with that in mind, and to let that warm their hearts as we developed this original piece.

I grew up as a child actor doing TV, film and theater shuttling back and forth from D.C. to New York, and I took that from my mom who was an actor, singer, and dancer. I watched her teach, dress as a clown and put on parties for kids, and there were all sorts of performance-related things that I learned from her.

BLADE: And does that continue? 

THOMAS: Oh yeah. Increasingly, I enjoy being the process. I’ve grown past the point of just coming in and doing my job. I feel more invested. More and more, I want to be part of the creation process.

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