Metro Weekly

Reel Affirmations Review: ‘Out From the Wings’

Anthony Montoya's informative, remarkably restrained documentary introduces us to queer, transgender, and nonbinary dance artists/activists.

Out From the Wings

In Michael Anthony Montoya’s informative, remarkably restrained hour-long documentary Out From The Wings (★★★★☆, CRITIC’S PICK), one transgender dance instructor/activist expresses outrage over the recent gimmick by a few ballet companies of featuring real, live canines as scene-stealing extras in their professional productions.

All the while real, live trans and nonbinary human dancers and characters remain unseen, even effectively excluded, in traditional dance — which the dance instructor lambastes as “traditionally sexist, it’s traditionally misogynistic, and it’s traditionally discriminatory.”

Montoya’s documentary introduces us to a handful of queer, transgender, and nonbinary dance artists/activists who give personal voice to the many and varied ways that all that tradition — specifically, the field’s “traditional gender role expectations,” rooted in binary gender-specific and -segregated training, as well as general, implicit cisgender, heteronormative biases — has hindered them and their work and contributions to the field writ large, from the classical realm of ballet to even contemporary or modern styles.

Chief among this queer cohort is the filmmaker himself, who we learn started out in the field several decades ago as a female, lesbian-identifying dancer before transitioning to become a trans-male dance educator and researcher.

Developed with assistance from several different New York arts and education associations, Out From the Wings is filmed in a largely naturalistic and unpretentious educational style that may put you in mind of the kind of PBS specials elementary school teachers may have once assigned you to watch.

But the movie has been developed primarily to serve as a call to action and teaching tool for those already in the field advocating for greater inclusion and diversity in terms of expression and representation of gender and sexuality — or, in short, #queertheballet. It does get a bit didactic at points, although not so much that the average viewer is likely to lose interest.

Particularly noteworthy is Montoya’s approach to interviewing, engaging his subjects in a conversational style that helps encourage them to elaborate as they share their personal histories and experiences in dance, with a focus on how they managed to overcome the many obstacles encountered.

Their perseverance, Out From The Wings goes on to suggest, stands in marked contrast to the untold many of their would-be queer peers, those who gave up on dance a long time ago, not seeing a place for them. As one interview subject says she hears all the time from those who were also once aspiring dancers like her: “I loved dance until I came out.” 

Out From the Wings is only playing in the virtual festival through Sunday, Oct. 23, at 11:59 p.m. Click here for more details and to purchase passes.

 

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