Tl;dr: Fullout is a great webseries that challenges preconceptions concerning queer women and injury in dance and is definitely worth a watch.
Today I want to write a bit of a review. I don’t really know how to write a review, and I don’t think this is exactly it, but I am giving a recommendation for a thing to watch with some extra thoughts about it.
If you have some free time on your hands and a decently fast internet connection (because vimeo is always a little slower than youtube), I highly recommend Fullout. It’s a webseries, five episodes, available on Open TV. And the cast includes both Nana Visitor and Kaitlyn Alexander. So…with that alone, it sounds worth watching, no?
Fullout is the story of a lesbian dancer trying to make a comeback after an injury has kept her out of dance for a long while. First off, this alone is ridiculously important. There’s this weird assumption that the only people who dance are gay men and straight women. I actually remember one time at dance camp, listening to people discuss how surprised they were that one of the boys there was straight when I knew there were at least two gay or bi closeted girls at the same camp who never even got that kind of consideration.
Queer women in dance are invisible. They are assumed not to exist. This means the struggles these dancers face go completely unrecognized and unsupported. It means organizations can claim to be inclusive by simply making use of this myth that queer women in dance don’t exist and thus, wouldn’t be part of that organization anyways. Dance organizations love to pat themselves on the back and go “yes, job well done, we have loads of diversity and no discrimination here” as soon as they meet their quota in dealing with visible discrimination (yes, all organizations do this to some extent, but I find this attitude particularly prevalent in dance). Or they use the number of gay men in dance as proof that they are diverse and inclusive.
By making the invisible visible, Fullout is showing that yes, queer women dancers exist and face discrimination
If there is any piece of media featuring a queer woman that dances, it’s worth watching, because it is making the invisible visible.
And, above everything else, it is filling the role model vacuum. I remember, at that same dance camp, one of the huge points of gossip among my friends was which counselors were gay. This wasn’t just teenagers gossiping. This was a group of young, queer, mostly female dancers looking at the people that represented what they could become in a few years’ time and panicking because they didn’t see anyone like them.
Fullout is a message to younger dancers that yes, people like them exist. And yeah, there will be challenges, it will be hard, but there is definitely just as much of a chance for them to become dancers as anyone else.
The other value in Fullout (which, to be honest, was a breath of fresh air compared to the messages I experience every day in dance class) was how it discussed injury. Dance teachers, directors, even other dancers, we have the habit of encouraging injured people to “push through” their injuries, to just take pain medication and keep dancing because the show must go on. Fullout is one of very few times where I have seen this attitude addressed as creepy and unhealthy. Even the title of the show, Fullout (referencing the belief in dance that one must always either be dancing “full out” or “marking”, as if there is no in-between place) connects to the damaging idea that dancers must continue to dance at their best, even when faced with injury. The main character’s choice not to continue to form to these expectations is really important. We, as dancers, cannot accept narratives that promote self-harm cleverly relabelled as “commitment”.
Fullout doesn’t. Fullout tells the story of what it is to not be able to fulfill the expectations set out by the Dance World. I’m definitely not completely convinced by the whole story of Fullout and the protagonist’s final choice is somewhat disheartening for us queer dancers that want to see ourselves thrive on stage. But I do believe the use of having more than one queer dancing character (shocker, I know) and the value of what it does show is worth it. It challenges the myth that queer women are not dancers and it forces us to reevaluate how we, as dancers, treat injury. And, for that, I highly highly recommend taking the time to watch it.
Fullout is watchable right here: http://www.weareopen.tv/open-tv-originals/fullout