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GAY SAN DIEGO December 17-30, 2010


NEWS FROM PAGE 2 SQUARES


to start hosting “fly-ins” (square dance speak for “mini conven- tions”) each year in San Diego, welcoming dancers from all over the U.S. The first fly-in was in 1993 and has continued on the second weekend of September every year since then. In 2003, Finest City Squares used their fly-in experience to host the national IAGSDC convention in San Diego.


“This was a real honor and it


was very well attended,” Valdez said. “About a thousand people go to each one.”


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The 2011 national convention, “Gone with the Windmill,” will be in Atlanta in July, followed by Vancouver in 2012, San Francisco in 2013 and, perhaps surprisingly, Salt Lake City in 2014. “We accepted their bid before the whole Prop 8 thing started with so much money coming from there,” said Valdez, who serves as a voting delegate at conventions. “We wonder now what we did to ourselves,” he said with a chuckle, then added, “I’m sure it will be fine—but we do wonder.” Valdez said an important milestone for Finest City was in 1994 when they joined the San Diego Square Dance Association (SDSDA), a group of 10 straight clubs from throughout the county. Membership provided the use of the War Memorial building as a permanent class and party site, plus a chance to join other clubs for dances. “This was the result of a lot


of hard work from Finest City Squares,” Valdez said. “There are people who are uncomfortable dancing with same-sex couples. There are people who will always have problems with it and that


will never change. But because we’re part of the organization, they now realize we’re no differ- ent from anyone else.”


Bob Swee, a Finest City mem-


ber, was elected president of the SDSDA for 2011—the first gay person to hold the office. “I think this is a sign that maybe the (gay-straight) boundar- ies are coming down. When you start dancing you don’t look at someone’s sexuality, all you want to do is dance and have a good time,” Valdez said. “There are times when you rotate around the square and sometimes you touch a woman’s hand and sometimes a man’s. What’s the difference if it’s two men in a row?”


Andy Allemao is conscious of


that difference. As Finest City’s paid caller—the leader who an- nounces dance moves—Allemao said the group’s same-sex orienta- tion has been a challenge for him, albeit a welcome one. “I still refer to the dancers as ‘girls’ and ‘boys’ (the traditional square dance vernacular) because those are the dance positions,” he said. “But because they are more likely to be boy and boy, it’s more difficult as a caller because you can’t use their actual physical gender as a crutch. To be honest, that’s really helped me improve as a caller.”


Allemao has been a caller for


three years and also calls for two other clubs, both straight. He said he looks forward to his work with Finest City because of its distinctive structure.


“The gay clubs tend to be a little bit younger and a little more energetic than some of the other dancers. They are plain fun,” he said. “You have to figure they’ve come to terms with probably the biggest of all of your life [issues]. Most of them came out at a time where it was not acceptable in our society to do so. So they have


www.gay-sd.com


nothing to hide. They just put it out there and have a good time. They’re energetic, they’re smart. They like it complex and that’s a good fit for me because I like to call odd stuff and I like to call pretty fast.” Modern square dance has little to do with what’s taught in awkward elementary-school gym classes. For example, Allemao knows 150 different calls—which creates a nearly infinite number of dance pat- terns—all of which Finest City’s top-level dancers have memo- rized (the club has three levels). He either speaks the calls—a technique called “patter”—dur- ing the music, or he sings them as part of the song. “I’m not what one would consider a traditional square dance caller,” Allemao said. “I’m not stuck on the idea that bluegrass is what people can square dance to.” Indeed. A recent Wednesday found dancers doing the alle- mande to Pat Benatar’s “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” and Had- daway’s “What Is Love,” among other pop favorites.


Finest City members are also quick to point out that they don’t wear costumes or petticoats to square dance. Some say that image is exactly what kept them from attending the classes at first. “It was completely different


from what I thought,” said Tim Gahagan, who has been with Fin- est City Squares for four years. “I went from not liking it to not being able to stay away.” Member Bill Rupp said he joined five years ago because he was tired of the bar scene. “I was just out of a relationship and needed something to do. I like that you can come here and actu- ally see the whites of people’s eyes when you meet them instead of a dark bar,” he said.


Not to mention the health benefits, Neiheisel said. “This is three straight hours


of cardio,” he said. “And totally fun at the same time.” Finest City Squares will host its 22nd anniversary dance on Jan. 8 from 6:30-9:30 p.m. at the Balboa Park Club with guest caller Michael Kellogg. The event is open to the public. For more information about


square dance classes and dances, visit Finest City Squares’ website at iagsdc.org/finestcity.♚;


FROM PAGE 2 HIV


ally receive requests totaling about $ 1 million dollars and we have less than half to give. All of the proposals are vetted to make sure they’re complete. Then they’re reviewed by a community panel, then they’re reviewed by the HIV Funding Collaborative Advisory Committee, and then they forward their final recom- mendations to the SDHDF Board, who has final approval. Freeman said that, as with oth-


er grant programs, just because an organization has received a grant in the past, it does not guarantee they will continue to receive grant funding in the future. “Our list will have some


changes from year to year,” he said. “Each year the priorities are outlined clearly in the RFP. Our process is our process and the priorities are made clear.”♚


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