The dirt road to the Yard dance studio in Chilmark was lined with rainbow flags. Inside, the dance floor was literally bouncing as about 60 fifth to 12th graders, decked out in bright colors, glitter, and temporary metallic tattoos danced the Nae Nae to the sounds of rapper Silentó.
The occasion was the first-ever True Colors Ball: a celebration of dance, acceptance, and inclusion of gay, lesbian and transgender youth, sponsored by the Martha’s Vineyard Charter School in partnership with the Yard and organized by a recently formed group called the Genders and Sexualities Alliance.
“The dance event came together really quickly, in less than a month,” Brit Wells, organizer and assistant teacher at the Charter School, said. Brit was born on the Vineyard and schooled in Natick. She spent much of her teen years attending the Boston Area Gay and Lesbian Youth dances, and wanted to begin a similar annual ball on the Vineyard. A little over a month ago, Ms. Wells reached out to other teachers and community members to find a way for all children to socialize and express themselves in a safe environment. Sam Greene and Becca Conner, teachers at the Charter school, and the Yard’s Leah Crosby all felt the event was much needed; they wanted to facilitate, and include the kids. When the Charter School GSA was formed, the teens took a leadership role on the committee.
“The GSA is student-led, and when Brit suggested a dance, the kids were super-excited. It’s important to have Pride events for young people. A dance is a great way to be yourself in a safe setting, while socializing and showing support and having a really fun time. We teach acceptance. It’s important to put that idea into action with events like this,” Ms Greene said.
The Charter School GSA reached out to the high school, who published news of the ball on their school website. An invitation was also extended to Falmouth Academy’s GSA community, and both schools had students attend.
A highlight of the evening was the Charter School’s own Max Dankert, who performed three different drag sets to music by Katy Perry, RuPaul, and “This Girl” by Kung. Max received standing ovation after standing ovation, and loud cheers as his dance routine culmimated in an impressive jump and split. “I was given the opportunity to express the talents that come from the LGBTQ community,” Max said.
Keith Chatinover and his girlfriend Yolani Doddy agreed: “It was a good time, and it gave people a place to be themselves,” said Keith, age 17.
Also in attendance was Miss Lesbian Rhode Island, Ashley Delgado, a special guest and inspirational speaker.
The Scottish Bakehouse and Isola donated pizza and treats, and there were temporary tattoos, and a photo booth where kids could get unicorn-themed pictures taken against a backdrop that said “You are magical.”
Director Bob Moore was on hand to oversee the event, and was happy with both the turnout of students and the energy they brought to the night. “It’s great,” he said; “it’s always great to see kids enjoying themselves, to be themselves, to socialize and feel comfortable with who they are and to respect each other.”
It was a sparkling, vibrant, coming of age for the True Colors Ball.