Diary of a Male Dancer in Manhattan
By David Puente [Reprinted from LatinTrends September 2014]
In our culture, to say that sex sells is an understatement, and Latino sexiness is even more a commodity. Manhattan is home to one of the few all-male strip joints in the country, and there we found Latino brawn on full display. The dancers, however, are often secretive. It wasn’t easy to talk openly with a Latino male dancer who strips for gay customers, until Joey (not his real name) opened up. Joey dances at the Adonis Lounge in midtown and we wanted to hear his story. Check out our one-on-one Q&A below and learn about this sexy secret world in Joey’s own words.
How long have you been dancing?
I have been dancing for eight years. A Latino friend introduced me to Splash (a downtown gay bar that is now closed). We were hanging out and he asked me what I was doing and suggested I join him to see him work as a dancer. The first night I went I was just hanging out and watching and I liked how I was treated at the club. Both the customers and managers were respectful. It wasn’t my first time at a gay bar, and I’ve always liked to dance, but before then I’d never thought about dancing at a gay bar for money. That night was how it all began. I really enjoy it, and it leaves me a lot of spare time, which I use to study English. My goal is to go to college and eventually work with computers. I don’t plan to dance forever. Maybe two more years.
How much does it pay? And what do you spend it on?
The money I make from dancing is not a regular income. It varies a lot week to week. On a good week I can make over $800. Sometimes, as little as $100. I try to save as much as I can for school and use the rest to take care of my rent and expenses. Most dancers just spend and spend and forget about everything. Sometimes people think it’s easy money but that’s not true. Sometimes you can be in a club for hours without making any tips. Sometimes customers are not respectful. It can be tough. It’s hard work when you are sober and the customers are drunk. Like every other job there are good days and bad days.
Is it a secret that you dance? Or does your family know?
It’s not a secret. I tell people I do this and I don’t care what people think. My family knows. They know I dance for men. They know I take off my clothes. My mom and dad are both very open-minded. When I first told my mom, she took me aside and said, ‘Just be careful, and don’t do anything you don’t feel is right.’
Do other Latino dancers you know keep it a secret?
Many do keep it a secret. I have a lot of friends who dance and no one else knows what they do. Most are straight. They have relationships outside of work with women. Their girlfriends or wives definitely don’t know.
What makes a good dancer?
If I were to give a dancer tips on how to be a good dancer I’d say first be patient with customers. The customers are there to have a good time. They are drinking all night so sometimes they get drunk and they don’t speak right. A good dancer needs to be patient and treat them nice. Treat them the way you want them to treat you especially because you want them to come back.
It’s also important to not get overexposed. Especially when you start you shouldn’t work every night, start slow. Start by working two or three nights a week, if you work too much then you will get tired fast and the customers could get tired of you. If they see the same dancer everywhere all the time, they get bored quickly.
When a customer gets well acquainted with you over time, it’s different. Today, I have a lot of customers who come to see me and we talk and catch up, pick up where we left off the last time, you know? We have real conversations about what’s going on in our lives. But new dancers don’t have that history yet. They need to build a relationship with the customer slowly.
Are you in a relationship outside of work?
Honestly, it’s too hard to have a relationship. My daytime is night, and my night is my workday. My last relationship was two years ago with a man. During the first three months there was no problem but then the jealousy set in. We fought a lot. I have to do my thing. I want to be with someone who recognizes that I work hard. And that’s important, we all want to feel respected for the hard work we do.