Everybody likes a dance party. When the beats start thumping, it’s hard not to want to get out there and boogie. But if you picture dance parties as the province of the young and able-bodied exclusively, you’d be wrong.
Twice a year, the Ottawa Senior Pride Network hosts the Vintage Queers Dance Party at the Good Companions Centre, and, as the name suggests, it’s a groovy good time for LGBT folks who have entered their golden years.
Through funding made available by the United Way, the OSPN has been working with seniors’ centres in the city to help them be more inclusive of the LGBT community. Marie Robertson, community developer with the OSPN, spent a year at the Good Companions training staff and volunteers in LGBT cultural competency.
“Everything has been changed to be inclusive of LGBT,” she says of the centre. Now that the training period has ended, the OSPN continues to rent a space at the Good Companions twice a year to hold the Vintage Queers Dance. “It’s called the Vintage Queers Dance because we’re all vintage queers, and also because we only play vintage music, so we play music from the late ’60s to the early ’90s and that’s it,” Robertson says.
“It’s music that was in the bars and at dances when we were all going to the bars and going to the dances, because there’s no place we can hear that music, and that’s our music and it’s a real sweet thing for us.”
The dances attract folks from across the LGBT spectrum, making them truly inclusive events. “It’s not only men and women, but transgender [people] as well,” says Rob Eady, director of fundraising at the Good Companions. Straight allies and those who are questioning are also welcome. “The community itself is quite diverse, and the Vintage Queers dances reflect that.”
The dances are held in the Good Companions’ dining area. “The room there is such that there’s lots of seating area, and if you were seated far enough away from the dancefloor you could easily have a conversation,” Robertson says. “We can meet a variety of needs through this dance, and it’s been incredibly successful so far.”
“People like to have fun no matter what their age is. Whatever their age, whatever community they’re from, they really do,” Eady says. “I think that when there’s a safe environment for people to come and it’s inclusive to everybody . . . I think it makes everybody feel safe."