"Movin’ Out" finds new meaning for gay dancer

by Scott Kearnan

Bay Windows

Friday March 20, 2009

Despite a name that might suggest otherwise, there's not much that's gay about Movin' Out. ABBA: stringing together hit songs to construct a narrative, in this case a rock ballet that focuses on Long Island teens coping with the 1960s reality of the Vietnam War. Set before Stonewall, Movin' Out doesn't include much in the way of LGBT issues - and no, dear reader, the fact that you once saw a Provincetown drag queen perform to "Uptown Girl," doesn't count.

But for gay cast member and professional dancer Julius Caesar Carter, Movin' Out has a salient title nonetheless. After coming out to his parents at age 17, Carter was forced to pack up and ship out from their traditional evangelical Christian home.

"It was definitely not accepted. They didn't quite know how to handle it," says Carter, now 23. After his parents kicked him out, Carter was adopted by another family in Des Moines, Iowa, and built a relationship with a mentor who did work with gay youth in the city. Together, they helped identify scholarships to send Carter to college. It was there that Carter discovered his other love that nearly didn't speak its name: dance.

"I was sort of a late bloomer [as a dancer]," he laughs. Carter initially pursued pre-law at the University of Iowa, but soon discovered that he'd rather enjoy the spotlight on the stage rather than in the courtroom. "I needed an elective and my advisor suggested I take a dance class to keep me moving," he explains.

Keep moving is exactly what he did. After kick-starting his career in Chicago, Carter has moved from the Midwest to Movin' Out, where he performs as an ensemble dancer and understudies two leading roles. For one, the Drill Sergeant, he's able to call on another bit of family history to inform his performance: his brother's experience fighting in the Iraq war.

"My brother is based in Germany right now, and we talk back and forth through Facebook," says Carter. "I'll ask him what it's like, and he tells me that the worst is to not know what's going to happen next. You see so many of your friends get shot. ... He tells me it's something he hoped he would never experience. He's a very intelligent person, very rational about everything, but you know, he thought when he joined that it was something to get out of high school early, they were going to pay for college. ... He didn't expect to go off to war and hold a gun, shooting for life."

Carter's brother also helps him understand the heterosexual romance he needs to capture in the show.

"He's straight and married, so I ask him about his relationship with his wife ... it's a little different than in a gay relationship. ... Though my boyfriend has seen the show a few times, and his favorite [role] is when I'm the Drill Sergeant," he laughs.

When it comes to understanding, Carter hopes that one-day the rest of his biological family will warm up to his sexual identity as his brother has. But he's not sure if they ever will.

"You always have the optimism that they'll change or come around," he says of his parents. "I think every parent, regardless, has to go through their own experience in terms of understanding the gay community. Unfortunately, my parents are really rooted in their Christian tradition.

"I know they'll always love me, but I also know I'll never be able to bring my partner to meet them."

Movin' Out... and moving on.

Broadway Across America presents Movin' Out for five shows only, from March 20 to March 22 at the Colonial Theatre (106 Boylston St., Boston). For more info and tickets, visit: broadwayacrossamerica.com

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