Gather your loved ones, your liked ones, and the ones you want to flirt with: this February 15th, the Buffalo Dyke+ March planning committee is hosting an Unvalentine’s Dance at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo (695 Elmwood Avenue).
Some older readers may feel some deja vu upon reading about the dance: after all, dances at the UU Church were a staple of Buffalo’s lesbian culture from the 1970s until the early 1990s. Women who attended the dances in their heyday remember them as a lively, welcoming, and affirming space for lesbians, and a haven in a world that often put lesbians on the defensive.
“The dances were a chance to check out women that ordinarily didn’t frequent the bars so much,” recalls Robbie Butler, who attended dances in the 1980s, and who is planning next month’s dance. “They were a great place to flirt and dance and feel totally accepted. The vibe was that of excitement and warmth. If you were coupled, it was a great place to bring your partner and meet other couples. And the fact that they were at a church made it easy for closeted and questioning people to go there.”
Although the planners of the Unvalentine’s Dance wish to recapture some of the magic of those earlier women’s dances, they point out that the purpose of the dance is not mere nostalgia. In fact, such dances may be even more important now than they once were, because there are fewer spaces for LGBTQ women now than there were in the 1970s and 1980s. “This is a reassertion of a space that’s totally and safely ours,” says planning committee member Karin Lowenthal. “Not a little space carved out of a straight bar or a gay men’s bar. And now we’re making room for people who are not strictly gendered. It’s a safe place for us to have fun and mingle and make something good for each other.”
The fun begins at 7pm on Friday, February 15. DJ Lamb Lae will be spinning tunes all evening. Drinks are available, and snacks will be provided. Admission costs $5, but all proceeds from the dance will fund the 2019 Buffalo Dyke+ March during Pride Week, so participants are encouraged to donate what they can. The venue is wheelchair accessible, and welcoming to all LGBTQ people and their loved ones.
The Unvalentine’s Dance is a chance to celebrate love in all its forms: love for a romantic partner (or multiple partners), love for one’s friends, love for family and community, and love for oneself. It is meant to include, not exclude. “Valentine’s Day has been mainly coopted by big business,” muses committee member Elizabeth Stone. “The name of our gathering means ‘our celebration, our intentions—we do not want to buy into mainstream commerce.’ I hope that the name appeals to people who want to have fun without some of the usual constraints. It’s a bit in-your-face, a bit renegade, and perhaps a bit appealing to the impishness in us all.”