By Elizabeth Halvorson
Director Ben-Alex Dupris delivered a virtual lecture following the screening of his film “Sweetheart Dancers” Nov. 9 in collaboration with Grand Rapids Community College’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to celebrate PRIDE OUTside the box; an initiative to emphasize the necessity for open-minded and empathetic thinking in regards to “socio-political, economic, and identity issues.”
Dupris, a Miniconjou Lakota and an enrolled member of the Colville Confederated Tribes, spends his time creating artwork to honor traditions and challenge the social confines faced by modern Indigenous people. Dupris’ “Sweetheart Dancers” focuses on “two-spirit” couple Sean Snyder and Adrian Stevens.
“The term two-spirit arose in the late 1980’s, early 1990’s and is an umbrella term based on sexual expression, which embodies both the masculine and the feminine,” Dupris explained.
The film highlights the struggle faced by “two-spirit” couples like Snyder and Stevens when it comes to celebrating and participating in “powwows” in Native American culture. Powwows are gatherings in which Indigenous people come together to share their traditions in the forms of singing, drumming, and competitive dancing, among others.
Throughout the film, Snyder and Stevens find themselves at odds with the social structure of these powwows, specifically the “sweetheart dance” where rules strictly state that couples must consist of one man and one woman. No same-sex couples were allowed to compete. Despite facing disqualification, they persisted and forged the way for themselves and other LGBTQ+ people in Indigenous communities.
The trailer for “Sweetheart Dancers” as well as an educational pamphlet to go along with the film are available to view in the provided links. Technical issues occurred during the recording of this lecture and a playback is not available to view at this time.
This event closed out the fall 2021 Diversity Lecture Series. Nikole Hannah-Jones will present “Crossroads: Academic Freedom (and) the Ivory Tower” to start ODEI’s first of five lectures in winter 2022. The lecture will be on Monday, Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. Viewers can RSVP here.