Biographical / Historical
"History of the DC Cowboys Dance Company - Celebrating diversity through dance"
The DC Cowboys Dance Company, an all-male, gay dance company, entertained audiences around the world from 1994 to 2012. Internationally acclaimed, the DC Cowboys specialized in providing exciting, high-energy, jazz-style, dance entertainment which spanned all musical genres, from contemporary country to club dance party, pop, to classic Broadway numbers for all types of occasions. Shows were customized to the venue—both gay-specific and mainstream events—and featured anywhere from one song to multiple sets of three to four songs each. Combining a little traditional country-western with jazz, musical theater and a masculine sex appeal, the DC Cowboys' high-energy choreography made the company one of the most-sought after gay dance groups in the world.
Founder and Artistic Director Kevin Platte started the dance company in August 1994 after seeing a similar gay, country-western dance group in California. Platte recruited 11 dancers—mostly friends—from a Washington, D.C., gay, country-western bar named Remington's. He approached the best dancers based on watching them two-step and line-dance at the bar. The dancers formed the troupe for the sole purpose of performing at the Atlantic States Gay Rodeo Association's (ASGRA) annual rodeo in Washington, D.C., in September 1994.
Platte thought the performance would be a one-time event. But based on an overwhelming reception, the dancers decided to continue the group. This required weekly rehearsals, the creation of a dance "repertoire" and a larger commitment from the dancers. Of the original 12 members, only six were up to the task. These six original members then had to find more dancers and identify other performance venues. Mainstay venues soon included the Capital Pride Festival every June and the Atlantic Stampede Gay Rodeo event every September.
In September 1995, Metro Weekly placed them on the cover of their magazine, giving them greater exposure and more clout. The Cowboys used this coverage as a catalyst to build the brand and identity. All the while, the DC Cowboys remained volunteers and amateurs, performing solely for the love of it. Each dancer maintained a "day job," and the group only rehearsed in the evenings once or twice a week. As the warmer months seemed to be their busiest, the dancers would use the colder months to build up the repertoire and practice. Every year, rehearsals would cease for the months of November and December for the existing dancers. However new recruits that were successful in the annual auditions attended "bootcamp" rehearsals during those months to learn some of the existing repertoire. In January, the existing and new members started rehearsing together as the new season began.
During the early years, the dancers paid for all expenses out of their own pockets, and monthly dues were collected to pay for group expenses. The group would often pay for the opportunity to perform. To supplement these expenses, the group began fundraising through a monthly bar night at different gay nightclubs. Once their reputation grew, venues and events began to pay for the company's entertainment services and patron club members donated funds to support the organization and their mission. These funds allowed the organization to pay for all of their expenses including dancer costuming. In addition, the group sold merchandise which included T-shirts, performance DVDs as well as their sexy DC Cowboys calendars. Three of the more popular calendars featured the dancers without clothes in artistic poses and included the "making of the calendar" DVD.
In 1996, Platte added a charitable element to the organization. He created a mission statement which said the company would provide free entertainment to any HIV/AIDS charitable organization. Over the years, the company also directly raised funds for HIV/AIDS organizations by sharing the profits of their calendar sales. The DC Cowboys raised millions of dollars through performances for national and local non-profit organizations such as: Washington, D.C. AIDS Ride; Washington, D.C. AIDS Walk; Chase Brexton Clinic of Baltimore, Maryland; Northern Virginia AIDS Ministry; Human Rights Campaign; Whitman Walker Clinic of Washington, D.C.; Food and Friends of Washington, D.C.; Mautner Project; Gay Latino Benefits in Metro D.C.; Harford County AIDS/Cancer Benefit, Maryland; NYFD Benefit for the New York City Fire Department.
In 1996, the company received a grant from the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts, honoring the company for its valued contribution to the Washington, D.C. arts community. The company always maintained a tax-deductible status as a 501c3 non-profit organization with a small board of directors.
During their 18-year tenure, the DC Cowboys provided an outlet for gay artists and performers in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. The company included 85 dancers, eight choreographers and three stage-managers. The company performed at 458 events in five countries. The DC Cowboys' crowd-pleasing, sexy dance style had been described as "Will Rogers Follies meets Bob Fosse." The group famously described themselves on America's Got Talent in 2008 as "Think Brokeback meets Broadway," which became a popular line echoed around the world. Their growth and popularity were attributed to their unique and high quality entertainment which was often copied in other cities but never equalled. In addition the dancers were talented, good-looking men who were friendly and approachable to their many fans. Their farewell season tour in 2012 visited all of their favorite performance venues and locations around the world and was dedicated to their fans who were instrumental to their success.
Typical performance venues included Pride Festivals in New York City, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and Charlotte, North Carolina; Headliners on the Gay Rodeo circuit in Washington, D.C., Las Vegas, San Diego, Atlanta, Chicago, Calgary, and Texas; Halloween in New Orleans; Mr. Gay All-American Finals; Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, Washington, D.C., concerts and events; Whitman Walker Volunteer Appreciation at Constitution Hall, Washington, D.C.; PFLAG's Gala Dinner, Washington, D.C.; HRC (Human Rights Campaign) Leadership Dinner cruise aboard the Spirit of Washington, Washington, D.C.; Human Rights Campaign National Dinner, Washington, D.C. - special reception for major donors; Annual Chef's Best Dinner & Auction for Food and Friends, Washington, D.C..
Performance highlights included America's Got Talent television show, season 3, NBC, semifinalists (2008); Closing Ceremonies of the Gay Games VII at Wrigley Field in Chicago (2006); RSVP's Caribbean Fantasy gay cruise (2005); Arts grant recipient from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts (1996);The Sziget Festival in Budapest, Hungary (2009--012); Dales' Great Getaway television show, ITV London, England (2012); The Podge and Rodge television show, RTE, Dublin, Ireland (2010)."
This history of the DC Cowboys Dance Company was supplied by its founder, Kevin Platte.