Kevin Platte calls his country-western dancers to their places. “You stand here,” he tells one dancer, “and you over here.” The dancers listen earnestly and oblige, knowing that next week, they’ll be performing for thousands. The CD player starts to crank out John Michael Montgomery’s “Cowboy Love,” and the tough-looking cowboys grab their refined and submissive partners, swinging them around so forcefully that they elicit exaggerated sighs and embarrassed “ooh”s. It’s all part of the act. A routine that Platte, founding artistic director, compares to the Will Rogers Follies.
Except in this troupe, the boys line up on one side, and the other boys line up opposite. Platte’s DC Cowboys is one of only a few all-male gay country-western dance outfits in the world. Since 1994, the Cowboys have been wowing the competition and dazzling audiences across America with their high-energy, often campy repertoire. This Sunday afternoon, in a Capitol Hill studio, they’re preparing for an appearance at the following weekend’s D.C. Pride festival.
As the “Cowboy Love” number progresses, so does the ass-spanking, hip-gyrating, and lassoing. All the dancers wear tight-fitting jeans, cowboy boots and hats, and tank tops a size too small, revealing a collective obsession with body-building. But make no mistake, these guys can dance with the best of ’em.
When Platte first considered creating an all-male dance group, western-style dance seemed perfect for the gay and lesbian community, he says. “I wanted something that would combine Broadway and western dance, but with a sexy, masculine flavor,” he adds. So, after posting ads in the Washington Blade and around the Capitol Hill bar Remington’s, he managed to attract a collection of competent and fit dancers. With his professional dance background, Platte put together a few routines, and soon the group began touring the country, attending gay rodeos and roping a few awards along the way.
With past appearances at the New York Pride celebration and a recent victory at the International Association of Gay and Lesbian Country Western Dance Clubs’ annual competition in Toronto, the DC Cowboys are having to cope with a higher profile: This month, the group starts selling a 16-month pinup calendar to help finance future travel. Platte also hopes to expand the appeal to a wider audience, perhaps bachelorette parties and family-style hoedowns. The director is also in the process of developing a relationship with local country-western radio station WMZQ. “We could change our choreography to make us look like just a bunch of sexy guys,” he says, “instead of [he gyrates his hips] two-man couples.” —Guy Raz
The DC Cowboys will perform at the D.C. Pride festival this Sunday. For more details, visit their Web site at www.dccowboys.org.