Artist Shaun Leonardo‘s clever and thoughtful twist on the Tiki Tiki Club, a popular Queens nightclub phenomenon, explored the possibilities of gender role reversal within a convention that reinforces the cultural glorification of masculinity. Traditionally, Mesera clubs are a waiting game for the women who are chosen and paid for a dance. The idea stems from the exchange of companionship for the length of a song. But at Friday night’s Tiki Tiki Club, Leonardo allowed women to choose their dance partner, paying $2 for the thrill and experience.
This event at the former Bank of Manhattan Clock Tower hosted by “No Longer Empty” shifted both men’s and women’s perspective on the power of social monetary exchange from a traditionally male point of view toward empowering women to choose if they want to dance and with whom. What started as a conceptual challenge became a wonderfully energetic and passionate dance party.
The lights dimmed, the host set the mood and the DJ unleashed the carefully crafted playlist of music to lure the ladies to the dance floor. Handsomely dressed men awaiting prospective customers and occasionally sashayed down the dance floor as a group to spark an interest. At the start of the event, women were encouraged to get up and choose a partner while the host repeatedly called out “only $2 for a dance!”
As song after song played on, from ’80s pop music to Bachata and Merengue, with a sprinkle of requests, it was apparent that the women of the party were enjoying the evening, enthusiastically taking up new partners dance after dance.
Ultimately, the evening was a testament to the universal yearning and desire for a dance. Perhaps one day cultures across the world will deem that gift priceless. Leonardo’s bold role reversal may just be taking some of the first baby steps in that direction.
This article was written in part by Catherine Mondkar. To learn more about Shaun Leonardo’s inspiration for the Tiki Tiki Club, check out our interview.