Andre is a mid-twentysomething Queens native shaking up the world for the better through the power of dance.
An artivist since junior high, Andre has had an unparalleled and rich understanding of not only his own spirituality but, the power that comes with discovering your calling at an early age, thanks to his mentor, Mr. Lamont O’Neil, the head of a church-affiliated step-dancing ministry called Nubian Gents, which taught people about God through dance and the reason he’d tour both Europe and Australia for two consecutive summers, before being accepted to study contemporary dance at the University of North Carolina’s School of the Arts.
As he embraced his identity as a queer man, Andre would eventually be forced to make a heartbreaking realization about religion and its unwillingness to accept him. As he explains, “The same place I learned to be a vessel to God pushed me out due to my sexuality…
I had to find my relationship outside of religion to then learn I was enough and that God could use me in right standing outside of the attachment of any group. I’m thankful for this rejection because it is the same protection I use today. I take my spirituality with me everywhere I go.”
For Andre, dance is more than dance, it is freedom. He describes it more eloquently saying,”“[When I dance], it feels like I am infinite, and that’s what I love mostly about allowing my body to move. I don’t feel flesh and bones, I just feel a rippling and a wave through my body. And that feeling…allows me to be my most authentic self without it being forced.”
Perhaps that’s why he’s so invested in making sure “people learn to be themselves. That there’s room for them to be who they are, especially being men.” In doing so, he is changing the world for the better by “bring[ing] men together outside of judgement, religion, race, and sexuality.”
All in the name of showing we are bigger than the limitations placed on us by ourselves, and most importantly, the world.
Andre proves that #WhenMenDance they liberate themselves and others, lighting the path for us all by showing creating a safer world that embraces and celebrates our differences.
Andre’s Full Story
I was one of those kids who went to a regular, local junior high school. It just so happens there was a step team that was led by a beautiful man, his name is Mr. O’Neal. He took inner city kids and we taught people about God through step.
Once I traveled around the world and [had] seen what God can do with dance and spirituality, I just knew that that was what I was to do. That was the first time I was able to worship maturely through my body, as opposed to just my mouth. It was the beginning of working from the inside out.
I think dance has taught me to trust the unknown and trust what my body can do without the limitations of my mind telling me what I can’t do. The mind and body is one, but it also can be, of course, a battle between the two because there’s something that you’re receiving from yourself, and there’s a greater you inside of you that is being slowly developed and expressed through your own voice.
[Dance] feels like freedom. It feels like I am infinite, and that’s what I love mostly about allowing my body to move. I don’t feel flesh and bones, I just feel a rippling and a wave through my body.
And that feeling, that worship for me, that spirituality, and the fact that it’s a language I don’t have to say anything but it’s felt, allows me to be my most authentic self without it being forced. Or without me trying to be something in society.
We are athletes, we lift bodies, not weights, and society is constantly distracted by the tights worn oppose to the strength beneath the garments. Hip Hop and B-boys are the acceptable “get out of jail free” card for men who dance. And based on American culture, when you are in the commercial dance world, in order to be a popular brand to advertised, you have to fall under those two categories. But I feel I’m trained to be ambiguous so that I can reach humanity, not just sell a brand.
Your sexuality is seen before the art of the anatomical body. And, although I’m gay, my straight friends who trained with me constantly had to defend their sexuality and machismo, because they had the ability to engage with a more gentle quality of movement outside of masculinity. Their vulnerability was chastised and seen as a sign of weakness, instead of a sign of strength.
I want people to learn to be themselves. That there’s room for you to be who you are, especially being a male. Although we’re all men, we all want to be a different type of man and be strong and it’s just like, just be what your heart offers. And don’t try to look for something but just be able to receive everything through a medium from man to man.
My masculinity has had no effect in my contemporary/modern realm but, the same place I learned to be a vessel to God–the church–pushed me out due to my sexuality.
I had to find my relationship outside of religion to then learn I am enough and that God could use me in right standing outside of the attachment of any group. I’m thankful for this rejection because it is the same protection I use today. I take my spirituality with me everywhere I go and I find my transparency speaks louder than my physical sex. Art is perception. And if you are open to experiencing it, you will see more than the filter of the physical.
Honestly, I’m here to be an example for gay men who think they aren’t loved by God. Who think that you have to fit in a box. Art has shown me a lot about God’s beauty and how He is acceptable is accepting of everyone.
Often, the homosexual journey in Christianity is never discussed in victory. But I’m here to bring awareness; I’m going to dance like David danced and no one can ever rob me of that relationship. In the performance world, we attach God’s sovereignty to praise dance but, it’s way more expansive than than stereotypical white dress in front of the congregation.
I want to bring men together outside of judgement, religion, race, and sexuality. We are bigger than that, we are MAN! And I believe the #WhenMenDance campaign embodies those core values.