In 1990, filmmaker Jennie Livingston captured ballroom dance culture and its performers ― many of whom hailed from the black, Latino and queer communities ― for posterity in the documentary, “Paris Is Burning.”
Some 28 years after that award-winning film, choreographer Jamal Sims examines a different, albeit similarly subversive, dance-based subculture in “When The Beat Drops.” The documentary, which premieres March 11 at the 2018 Miami Film Festival, takes a behind-the-scenes look at “bucking.” Just as voguing was pioneered by members of the ballroom scene, bucking is thriving among displaced troupes of black gay men across the South.
HuffPost got a sneak peek at the movie, produced by Jordan Finnegan and World of Wonder’s Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey, via the clip above. In it, some dancers explain the divide between their day-to-day lives and their bucking personas.
“If they knew that I did what I do now, if someone found out, I might lose my job,” one dancer, who works full time as a schoolteacher, explains.
Bucking began in the early 1990s in response to the exclusion of men from majorette routines at historically black colleges and universities, according to the film. Since then, “the boys who buck” have practiced their wildly athletic moves in LGBTQ nightclubs and other safe, but underground, spaces.
Sims, who has choreographed for Madonna and Jennifer Lopez, told HuffPost he sees “When The Beat Drops” as a testament to the pioneers of a contemporary dance community, as well as an exploration of their personal stories and struggles.
Though the men in “When The Beat Drops” identify as gay, Sims said he believes their sexuality is just “a small part of what makes this community interesting.”
“They rise up against people who might have counted them out even in their own community,” he said. “They are willing to risk it all for the love of dance.”
Calling the documentary his “passion project,” Sims said he “definitely felt the pressure” to portray the bucking community “with authenticity and verisimilitude” in the film. He said members of the bucking community had also been approached for other films and television shows, but passed on all of them.
Ultimately, Sims said he believes “When The Beat Drops” succeeds in ways that nixed projects about bucking may not.
“Passion and community can weather any storm and overcome any obstacle,” he said. “I hope that our audience walks away with a better understanding of acceptance, and [incentive] to follow their passion, even if it is unpopular.”
“When The Beat Drops” premieres March 11 at the Miami Film Festival.