Let’s be real here: gay bars are not for everyone. And while it’s wonderful that Nashville has great spaces for queer folks to get their groove on, sometimes one just wants to grab some friends, cut a rug, and not have to find parking on Church Street.
Enter QDP: a Queer Dance Party of Nashville’s very own. QDP is a regular monthly dance party at The 5 Spot in East Nashville. QDP features a dance floor and great DJ’s who “always strive to play your jam and get you on your feet,” says the QDP committee, made up of Alex Caress, Jordan Caress, Ashley Cole, Jason Harris, Keith Johnson, Tiffany Minton, Rachel Rogers, and Laura Taylor.
In fact, the committee says, "We intentionally leave the stage clear as part of the dance floor during QDP, because we feel it makes the party seem more about the people that are dancing than it does about the DJs. "
Dancing is in QDP’s DNA, but there are also spaces to sit and talk, as well as a photo booth. At every QDP, the photo booth has excellent photographers, different handmade backdrops, and fresh new props.
“We’ve been lucky to have amazing talented photographers at our photo booth,” says the committee. “We usually have Steve Cross working his magic behind the camera, but we also love Diana Lee Zadlo and Jonny Kingsbury (from Generation Domination). We have the most fun after every QDP looking through the photos and seeing new faces, seeing the regulars up their photo booth game… it’s very exciting.”
After each QDP, photos spread like wildfire over social media. “Photos are our best form of advertising,” the committee explains. “Browsing through the pictures on Facebook shows how much fun people are having and social media makes it easy to share those photos, thus the word spreads naturally.”
Besides the monthly dance parties, QDP also throws parties on special occasions like Halloween and Pride. Last year, QDP hosted the Nissan Local Stage at Pride, which featured bands like Tipper Whore, Catfight, Heidi Burson, Mr. Trout, and Carol Plunk. They also threw kick-off and after-parties.
“Our first year at Pride we just walked around in a small group with a boom box dancing to Robyn and passing out flyers, so we’ve come a long way,” the committee says with a laugh. “We were so stoked to be included in Pride last year and are already talking about how we can be involved this year, though we don’t have any specific details we can share just yet.”
Last year, QDP hosted the first-ever QDProm: a huge event with live bands, DJs, and a terrific Robyn flash mob. “Throwing a big queer prom was a dream for us early on,” the committee says. “We can’t believe we did it after only a year and we can’t wait to do it again!”
This year’s QDProm is February 15 at Mercy Lounge. The committee is tight-lipped about what’s in store this year, but they promise another party band and more time for QDP DJs. Like the 2013 QDProm, this year’s event is 18+.
“We love to have 18+ events,” the committee says. “Any time we can have an event that allows younger people to be there, we do. We definitely think it’s important for queer youth to have a similar safe space like the one we’ve created with QDP.”
To that end, QDP keeps the admission to their monthly party just $1 and are committed to local organizations supporting the queer community. In December, QDP donated their profits to Just Us, a program at Nashville’s Oasis Center that provides support and advocacy for LGBTQI high school students. Says the committee, “We really appreciate the work they do.” They’ve donated to Rock Camp, IDA’s Work Hard/Stay Hard organization, and had a fundraiser for one of their loyal party-goers who was hospitalized after a hit-and-run bike accident.
“We are grateful that our party has put us in this position to be able to contribute to causes we care about,” explains the committee. “We hope to provide more donations to deserving groups in the coming year; we really look forward to that part of our organization growing.”
QDP’s growth is partly due to its ability to adapt and improve. “Through alterations like gender-neutral bathrooms and posting our “QDProtocol” – a short FAQ we created last year – we keep tweaking the party to make it the best it can be,” the committee says. “There are always opportunities for improvement and we hope to continue to foster an environment of inclusion and care for our QDPeople in a traditionally straight environment.”
Indeed, most of QDP’s events do not take place in gay or lesbian bars. “Although we all love Blue Gene’s karaoke, catching a drag show at Play, or a wild night at Lipstick, we feel like we shouldn’t have to go to a gay bar to feel comfortable dancing with whomever we want,” says the committee. “Our mission is to take over a typically straight venue and make it a queer space for the night – a place where anyone can feel safe, respected, and free to bust a move.”
“It’s great to see the confused looks on the faces of regular 5 Spot patrons when they try to figure out why there are men in the women’s bathroom,” continues the committee. “Having our party at a bar that isn’t a gay bar shows that we are a part of the fabric of Nashville and we can be accepted and welcomed without being separated from everyone else.”
What started off as a small monthly dance party has expanded into an important force for good in Nashville’s queer community. “QDP grew more quickly than we ever could have anticipated,” the committee says. “Our heads are always spinning with new ideas and possibilities. We really want to ramp up our online presence. We would love to throw different kinds of parties, bring queer dance acts and artists to Nashville, raise money for local organizations… any excuse to throw more parties, because we like to party.”
It all comes back to having a great party for QDP. “We just concentrate on throwing the kind of parties that we would like to attend,” says the committee. “We consider ourselves incredibly lucky that other people enjoy the same things we do.”
QDProm will be held February 15 at Mercy Lounge. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door. Buy tickets at bit.ly/QDProm14