Photo by Phile Deprez

WHEN YOU THINK of a dancer, you probably picture a woman. When you think of a dance duo, chances are, you picture a man and a woman. The man is the strong one, the picture frame. He is there to hold and lift and throw and catch and point at the woman, who is the graceful and beautiful one, lighter than air, the "dancer." It's romantic. They're wearing leotards. You're yawning.

What you're not imagining is two kinda hairy dudes tearing each other's clothes off. Right?

Why not?

For ages, this is how it's been, from ballet to modern dance to tap—Fred and Ginger. And that's mostly still how it is. We still live in a patriarchal, heteronormative society; that doesn't change overnight. But social change has been happening more rapidly recently with respect to gender roles and sexual identity politics: Same-sex marriage is now legal in 13 states (and DC), openly gay citizens of any sex can now serve in the military, and general awareness and acceptance of nontraditional gender presentations are on the rise. Gayness is basically mainstream. People know what transgender and transsexual mean. But we're still not seeing much change in the dance/performance world in this direction. With some notable exceptions.

At 2011's TBA, Kyle Abraham brought us his solo performance Live! The Realest MC, a Pinocchio-based identity piece about the challenges of reconciling homosexuality with the hyper-masculine ideals of black hiphop culture. And this year, we'll see Still Standing You, a very physical performance by choreographers Pieter Ampe and Guilherme Garrido based on their intimate friendship. Ampe and Garrido are Belgian and Portuguese, respectively; they're performing within a world (dance) that has its own fairly rigid standards of masculinity. But they don't care. And that's exactly why they're performing at TBA.

This festival exists to spotlight risk-taking contemporary art that "takes a personal approach and examines the intersections of art and real life," in the words of TBA Artistic Director Angela Mattox. So of course they brought in the goofy and touching and surprisingly intimate male dance duet Still Standing You. Because it's based on an actual friendship, and it's not a beefy man in a leotard holding up a skinny lady with perfectly pointed toes. It's real life, staged.