LGBTQ-ATL dance instructors do a body, and a community, proud

Ballet. Contemporary. Ballroom. Vogue. Flamenco. The world of dance cuts to the core of diversity in Atlanta, and five instructors from these genres show Q how it’s done.

Q contributor James L. Hicks returns to our pages in this week’s photo essay with his eye trained on the beauty and skill these longtime experts bring to their craft.

The gorgeous results of their collabortion of light and movement appear below, alongside their thoughts on their artform, and its interplay with their LGBTQ identities. Keep scrolling after the article for stunning outtake images not seen in print.

Photos by James L. Hicks

Brandon Ellis

Modern Dance

@bettawork69, bellisworks.com

How long have you been dancing?

I’ve been dancing and training professionally since the age of 7. I began taking Modern Jazz classes at The Black Spectrum Theatre in Queens, N.Y., where I was born and partially raised. 

Describe your approach to your art in three words.

Passionate. Technical. Soulful.

What is it about dance?

Dance has always been my first true love that rarely lets me down, it just builds my spirit up and puts my soul on fire. 

If you could only teach one lesson to your students, what would it be?

Never lose sight of that special thing inside of you that made you want to dance. Take care of your gift of dance because with much success comes much responsibility.

How does your LGBTQ identity factor into your dancing?

I get to use all of who Brandon Ellis is and always has been, which is a beautiful gay boy.

What are you working on right now?

Currently building my one-man autobiographical show entitled Get in Line. [It explores I also act, sing, model and do voiceovers. I just finished filming with a major network for a reboot dating TV show, and in a short upcoming film, I play a drag queen.

 

Malita Belloso

Flamenco

@calogitanoflamenco CaloGitano.com

How long have you been dancing?

I started dancing ballet at 3 years old, then at 5 I danced tap for nine years. You had to be 6 years old to dance Flamenco, so as soon as I was, I started that as well.

I never thought I was going to dance all my life! I graduated as a school teacher and worked in Venezuela (my home country) for three years before moving to the states. Here, I also worked as a school teacher for nine years, until one day, I was asked to teach Flamenco. Little did I know, saying yes would result in owning a dance studio in Kirkwood, to house and direct the biggest Flamenco academy in the Georgia.

Describe your approach to dance in three words.

Find. The. Feeling.

What is it about Flamenco that keeps you going?

Flamenco is a dance that lets you express all your feelings and embraces who you are.It is an art form for everyone, for every body type. Because Flamenco has so many layers, if you want to become a real Flamenco dancer, you will eventually need to learn its history and the vast variety of flamenco music, including singing and clapping. I never get tired of learning and exploring its abundance. I also love that Flamenco, while so disciplined, is also interpretive and improvisational.

If you could only teach one lesson to your students, what would it be?

To be brave and love yourself today, right where you are … the more comfortable you are with yourself, the better you can express your feelings and control, with understanding, your movement.

How does your LGBTQ identity factor into your dancing?  

I think accepting myself as LGBTQ makes me a stronger, more confident person. Flamenco, in particular, is a form of self-expression that crosses over with how one feels about themselves.Confidence and courage are and will always be essential.

Anything else you'd like Queer Atlanta to know? 

Come over and dance with us or partake in our events! We bring Flamenco shows to Atlanta every month and are a big, loving Flamenco family! Ole!

 

Valeriya‘Vee Vee’ Malaeva

aka Vee Mugler

Vogue

@valeryveevee

How long have you been dancing?

Almost 22 years 

Describe your dancing in three words.

Authentic. Individual. Truth.

What is it about Dance?

It’s a way to personal freedom, even though you ain’t exactly free in a physical body.

How does your LGBTQ identity factor into your dancing?

My identity is solid and uncompromising. While some have a problem with it, some adore it and get very curious about my place of origin and belonging. While some enjoying putting labels, I enjoy dropping them off.

 

Mark Burns

Ballet

@markburnsdancer, northatlantadancetheatre.com, anthonyburrell.org

How long have you been dancing?

I started dance at the age of 8 and had my first professional job at 16.

Describe your approach to dance in three words.

Striving for perfection!

What is it about dance that keeps you in it?

Dance is one of the few professions where you are constantly learning something new about your craft, and that's what I love the most about it. Perfecting your technique, learning new choreography, finding symmetry with the music you're dancing to. That keeps me wanting more.

If you could only teach one lesson to your students, what would it be?

Through dance I learned to truly love myself because of the passion I have for it, and that is what I teach my students. To always have passion for what you do regardless of if you become a professional Ballet dancer or not. 

 

Armando Vega-Perez

Ballroom

jonesdancesport.com

How long have you been dancing?

29 wonderful years.

Describe your day-to-day dance life.

Learn. Practice. Perform. Basically rinse and repeat. 

What’s your favorite thing about it?

To feel free in the music and become a part of it. The joy that you get when you let the music move you. 

How does your LGBTQ identity factor into your dancing?

It makes you always be strong. Dancing is universal. It has something for everyone across any demographic. Dance can help anyone that it touches.

Photos by James L. Hicks

This feature originally appeared in Q magazine. Read the full issue online here:

Pick up a new edition of Q magazine each week at LGBTQ and queer-allied venues around town.