Dance diva. The two words just work together.
In the media we like labels. We often call the folk artist humble; the rock artist self-deprecating; the indie musician aloof. And the dance music hottie? So often the diva.
Call it stereotyping, but is it stereotyping when it’s true?
Either way, Nancy Rancourt doesn’t care. She’s Toronto’s lesbian dance diva and she’s proud of it.
“I don’t get out of bed for less than a grand,” she says. “I may not be a big major label name, but I’ve done my time. I tour sparingly, but I get paid well for what I do.”
The Toronto-based dance music artist has produced three albums of her own: her debut, I’m Not Anyone You Know, in 1999; her EP Skin and Bone in 2006; and the upcoming release, Ready or Not which launches on Aug 16, just in time for her Capital Pride show.
Three albums may be a modest offering these days with artists often being expected to produce an album a year, but Rancourt has been very busy along the way. Her career began when she was still in high school. At a young age, Rancourt won a scholarship to The Bach Academy for Performing Arts. After a year she was doing session vocals and that progressed into a career in back-up vocals.
“I’ve spent a lot of time contributing to other people’s albums. I’ve worked with Shauna Major, The Changeling and Holli. I’m looking into working with Serena Paris because I’m a huge fan. I’ve also done quite a bit of engineering.”
If the names are unfamiliar, perhaps it’s because dance music just isn’t your thing. It’s not uncommon that those who consider themselves ‘serious’ music fans, look down on dance music. Then there are others, secretly grooving to Britney’s Piece of Me, who at the very least, consider dance music to be a guilty pleasure.
“Dance music isn’t rebellious. I think that’s what it is. It’s good and fun and joyful and celebratory. Rock is rebellious, it’s about making a point and being angry. And it’s cool to be angry. I think some people consider dance music to be too happy.
“I love the energy,” she continues. “I love the intensity. It has this celebratory feeling. We all work hard during the week. We work hard, we live hard and life can be really demanding. But at the nightclub with your friends, you forget about the toughness of that week. It’s freeing.”
Over the years, Rancourt’s music has developed a loyal fan-base. She feels the attraction is in her empowering lyrics and danceable beats.
Rancourt who goes by the name Nann, says her fans call themselves Nan-a-loes which she’s seen on their handmade T-shirts.
“Most of my fans are gay men,” laughs Rancourt. “I think they love dance music for the same reason I do.”
Rancourt is appreciative of her fans, happy to have found her place within the queer community.
“I came out publicly around 2001. But my first attempt to come out to friends and family I was very young, like 12 or 13. It just didn’t go over well. So I figured I had better be quiet about it. Eventually as an adult I didn’t care about the consequences. Truly, my life began at the moment I came out publicly. It was like I was waiting to exhale, waiting to live. It was the moment life began and the moment I became a strong person.”
That strength is something that Rancourt has had to rely on when she discovered that not everyone in the queer family loves the dance diva.
“As a lesbian I’ve had a hard time being accepted. Because in my appearance, I’m a lipstick lesbian. I look like Barbie. And so there has been a chunk of the lesbian community who hasn’t been so welcoming. At first there was a lot of resistance. But once they see me perform and they feel the love I have for my music, that’s when it changes.”