Look, I’m going to be straight up with you. I recently decided to watch the long-running reality dance competition series Dancing with the Stars and became somewhat obsessed. Because escapism and romanticizing my life are my go-to coping mechanisms, this really doesn’t surprise me. I always dreamed of partner-dancing with fabulous costumes and a roaring crowd, so I immediately wanted to share my lighthearted daydreams with you.
However, this quickly became a vessel for bipanic. The reason it’s “panic” and not just bisexual wonderfulness is because I’ve never really identified that way before. I want to dance with none other than Mr. Captain America himself (do I want to be him or fuck him, you know? yes). I’m not here to unpack my own identity, but I find it funny that I’m discovering a new part of my sexuality through a dance show geared toward middle-aged Midwestern moms.
While I must admit I was a dancer for truly a hot second, I am FAR from capable of the moves on Dancing with the Stars. In my dream world, someone asks me to magically dance to the songs that represent the phases of my queer awakening, complete with costumes I get to design and a partner I choose.
So, may I present, my phases of queerness as told by Dancing with the Stars fantasies.
“Can I Have This Dance” from High School Musical 3
This movie was all the hype in my 8th grade class, and this scene had all the girls swooning over Zac Efron. It’s the perfect alchemy of high school romance: sneaking away, dancing on a rooftop in the rain, a promposal. We all wanted this to be our high school reality. It most certainly wasn’t, but I think it would make 13-year-old Em really happy to live out this fantasy.
I don’t remember having any particular crushes at the time, so I would love to do this with Tessa Thompson. We’d both be dressed as closeted queer teenagers, complete with converse, flannels, and a hint of angst. Oh, and obviously we’d waltz.
“Haven’t Met You Yet” by Michael Bublé
Freshman year of high school, we had to make a music video for our computer skills class. So I chose this song and had one of the most attractive girls in our school dress in masc clothing and act as my boyfriend for the arc of the music video. Nothing gay to see here!
As my opening number, I’m imaging a quickstep with JoJo Siwa. I have no explanation for this. I’m picturing JoJo in a classic black tux while I’m in a white, lacy long sleeve midi-dress decked out in sparkly crystals.
“Past the Point of No Return” from Phantom of the Opera
Sophomore year of high school, I was in the ensemble for our production of Phantom. I quickly realized that Stockholm Syndrome is definitely a kink of mine. The guy I was dating at the time was worried about me leaving him for the guy playing the Phantom, and rightfully so. It wasn’t so much the guy as it was the ominous character he was playing.
This song is sexy and passionate, which is why I must tango with Ariana DeBose. We’re both in something black, burgundy, lacy, and slightly suggestive.
“Come On Eileen” by Dexys Midnight Runners
I discovered this song after the film adaptation of The Perks of Being A Wallflower was released. At this point, I hated reading (hah!), and this was the first book I read that I enjoyed because I could see myself in it. I now have the language to recognize that this was because I, like the protagonist, was struggling with a mental illness and trauma.
However, it’s a fun song, so I’d love to jive to this with my sister or my cousin, just because it would be super fun. We’d be wearing something 80s and flashy, like a neon jumpsuit with sweatbands.
“Dancin’ Away With My Heart” by Lady A
The summer before I went off to college, I fell in love with this white, lanky, but incredibly brilliant cis man. One night, I snuck him out of his house and took him to stargaze in this field by my house. This was the first time we kissed, and I remember feeling so upset that I wasn’t enjoying it at all. How does this make sense? I love doing all these romantic things with him, shouldn’t I want to be physical with him? These are all great questions.
As the song goes, “I haven’t seen you in ages, sometimes I find myself wondering where you are,” which still rings true to this day. I casually browse his IG more than I would like to admit and wonder what would’ve happened if I was sexually attracted to him.
For the sake of closure, I would want to do this dance with him. We would do some sort of slow waltz-like dance where I would be in a stunning, flowing black gown that exposes a little side boob and lower back action. He would probably be in a white tux.
“Hello My Old Heart” by The Old Hellos
This is one of those songs that’s still bittersweet to listen to. One of my closest college friends introduced me to the song, and it quickly became our “we’re-so-stressed-about-our-futures-so-let’s-roll-the-windows-down-and-scream” song. Every time I hear it, I just want to throw my body around and let out all my emotion. The lyrics are about setting yourself free from your own walls, which was perfect because this was about the time I started crushing on this girl and really having to face my queerness head-on for the first time.
This is that one explosive contemporary piece I do alone, barefoot, with a creme-colored boho-y scrappy dress that all people doing contemporary dance seem to wear.
“Sleepover” by Hayley Kiyoko
This became my somber anthem of 2017. That girl I had a crush on in college wasn’t fully out yet (neither was I) but there was this weird unspoken chemistry between us. I was planning to tell her I had feelings for her on our last day of classes, but I chickened out and ended up writing a letter to her months later. She wrote me back and said she had a girlfriend she was in love with.
Ideally, I would do a slower contemporary hip-hop dance with that girl, but I wouldn’t necessarily dance with her now. I’m picturing a random professional dancer playing my fantasy bittersweet love. The stage is set with two twin beds and props to make the floor look like a bedroom. I’m wearing a purple crop-top number with fancy pj-looking bottoms and my dance partner is wearing a darker, shadow version of this.
“I Know A Place” by MUNA
My *official* coming out song. A friend sent this song to me right after I came out to my parents, and it got me through the next few tumultuous years. This dance would be an emotional jazz routine I would perform by myself, because I’ve already done this number a million times in my bedroom. I would wear a shimmery rainbow piece underneath a black Velcro outfit that’s ripped off at the climax of the chorus.
“Lose You To Love Me” by Selena Gomez
This ballad banger is what got me through one of the roughest breakups I’ve been through thus far. The relationship was toxic, codependent, and destroyed my already rocky mental health, so the lyrics, “I needed to hate you to love me” rang so deeply true. Plus, I love my fellow bipolar queen Selena Gomez.
Instead of dancing with my actual ex, I would want a professional dancer to embody her as we do striking, rigid, fight-like choreography dressed in flowy grey-tone dresses.
“Pretty Great” by Fickle Friends
Oof this song is strongly tied to the woman I first slept with post-breakup. I had just moved to LA and matched with her on an app. She’s a super hot lawyer with an “RBG” tattoo on her inner lip. She’s way too edgy for me, but I was still sad when she eventually distanced herself, sensing that I was indeed falling for her.
This would probably have to be a punchy foxtrot. Instead of dancing this with that woman I’m no longer in contact with, I’d probably just have Kristen Stewart dance in an open button-down white top with her classic smokey eye. I’d be wearing some sort of lingerie-inspired pj outfit, symbolic of a one-night stand type of look.
“Wrong Places” by H.E.R.
I discovered this song from the show Songland and instantly fell in love. What can I say, I’m a hopeless romantic, but this time I had done the deconstruction work to actually picture myself in a queer long-term partnership.
Without a doubt I would dance a sweet and seductive rumba with Zendaya. We would both have our stunning hair natural and long, wearing simple coordinating flowy yellow dresses.
“Fooled Around And Fell in Love” cover by Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris, Elle King, Ashley McBryde, Tenille Townes, and Caylee Hammack
Again, I have to admit I discovered the original version of this song from the Guardians of the Galaxy soundtrack. However, Spotify suggested this very gay, much better cover of the song and it became my new “maybe one day I’ll dance to this at my wedding” tune. It represents how much emotional labor I put into rewriting the heteronormative narrative I had crafted for myself. This song allows me to be the gushy romantic monogamous person I am, only gay.
I’d like to close my setlist with a simple bare-bones foxtrot with either the future love of my life or literally Gamora from Guardians of the Galaxy. Either way, leather would be involved.