Dance is a powerful, personal form of self-expression. A new film tells a story about dancers overcoming prejudice and fear to express themselves with a style of dance called “bucking.”
That movie, called “When the Beat Drops,” opens this year’s Out on Film Festival.
Bucking was derived from moves developed by the Jackson State University Prancing J-Settes dance team, and adapted by gay men around the Southeast. The documentary focuses on the bucking scene in Atlanta from the 1980s to present.
Dancer Anthony Davis is the primary subject of the film and recalls seeing the J-Settes for the first time as a member of his school’s marching band.
“To see the grace, the dynamics, the agility of these young ladies doing things that I knew that guys were not supposed to do was just extraordinary,” Davis tells City Lights host Lois Reitzes, “and I loved it from the first day that I seen it.”
Bucking became popular in Atlanta among gay African American men. The documentary features archival footage of dance battles taking place at the now-demolished Club Traxx, as well as at the Atlanta Eagle. “When the Beat Drops” details the multi-faceted lives of the dancers and the ways the community around bucking acts in some ways as a second family.
Director Jamal Sims explained that the stigma that still surrounds gay life meant that his subjects took some convincing to be in the film.
“They were like ‘no, some of us have jobs, some of us are in the military, some of us are attorneys.’ And Anthony was one of them who was like ‘I’m not really interested in you telling a story that could possibly make fun of us or make us seem like a joke.'”
“‘That’s not what I’m here for,'” Sims says he assured him, “I think that you guys have started a movement and people need to know where it came from.”
“When the Beat Drops” opens the Out on Film Festival Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. at the Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.