Your Daily Dose of Dance Joy: Meet DivaDance Chicago’s Cesar Phillips

cesar phillips during class at DivaDance Chicago

Here at DivaDance, we are all about community, inclusivity, and celebrating our authentic selves — and that includes all things PRIDE MONTH! From workshops to special classes, we’re proud to celebrate with our LGBTQ+ members and allies. This month’s Community Time podcast features guest host and DivaDance Austin Senior Instructor Trey Maxwell, who recently sat down with Cesar Phillips, a member of DivaDance Chicago.

We can’t get enough of Cesar (and his beard… and his dance moves), who is a graphic designer by day and dances by night. He’s been slaying in Chicago for about six months but has been dancing off and on for 10 years. Cesar’s summer sip of choice? “A little bit basic” — vodka soda with a splash of lime (aka “gay water”), but if he’s feeling risqué, he’s all about a spicy margarita. But perhaps the most fun fact about Cesar is that he’s lived in six different countries and three different continents. His fave? Canada — Vancouver, to be specific. Read on for more about Cesar and his experience with DivaDance!

cesar phillips walking down rainbow-hued stairs
Photo courtesy of @scera_tonin.

Trey: So, tell me more about your DivaDance journey.
Cesar: I’ve been with DivaDance for about six months now, since January. I was just looking for a dance studio to fill in as a hobby, as I hadn’t really found this big sense of community in Chicago. Somehow by sheer good luck, I found DivaDance. And that’s what started giving me that sense of community and that sense of purpose I didn’t realize I was really missing and craving. And it was just sitting right here in my backyard! It’s been amazing. I wanna give a quick shout-out to Lexi, who’s the owner of DivaDance Chicago. She’s one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. She’s been so inclusive, fun, and a great time. And she’s done a wonderful job of not just creating a place for you to express yourself in terms of dance, but also building friendships and relationships. And again, really building that confidence and that sense of community that’s completely changed my life.

Trey: You know, you just hit everything we’re all about here at DivaDance. Building confidence and creating an inclusive community. Now, we’re gonna get a little personal here. Can you share more about your personal experiences as an LGBTQ+ individual or ally in the dance world and what you’ve really noticed so far?
In terms of my personal experience, I feel like dance and queerness, it kind of goes hand in hand. They’re both forms of self-expression and show authenticity. I identify as queer, and I think that there’s something to be said about feeling comfortable in a space that’s designed to push the boundary of confidence and being uncomfortable. But also being aware that me as a male presenting person, knowing that I make sure I’m not stepping on any toes or overstepping my privilege when I’m interacting in those spaces. That doesn’t mean I feel ostracized or outed for the fact that I’m a male in the dance space, but you know, we’re all here to have a great time, have some fun choreo, and obviously shake some booty.

Trey: I love that. Dance is an entertaining outlet for us to be able to really just be extra and be our true authentic selves. When I’m dancing, regardless of if I’m doing something a little bit more masculine or if I’m being a little femme, twerking or the splits, whatever it is, people are receptive to it because it is entertaining. I don’t necessarily want to call it a mask, but in a sense, it’s a little bit of a mask, being able to dance.
Cesar: It is kind of a mask; it’s almost like drag. It’s why I like to call myself Sceratonin. It’s because it helps me feel confident in my skin. I like to dance in these knee-high boots and little shorts — I have this whole outfit, this whole theme, and you know, people come up to me and they’re like, ‘You’re so confident.’ But really it is a little bit of masking. It’s portraying this confidence that you want to feel on the inside. So, when I catch my dance videos or I see myself in the mirror, I see myself more accurately. I see myself being more confident because I look at myself and I’m like, ‘Oh my God, he looks amazing.’ And then I realize, like, that person’s me. So, Sceratonin is kind of like this alter ego that lets me embody these aspects of myself that I never felt comfortable expressing up until now.

cesar phillips during class at DivaDance Chicago

Trey: I’m really interested to learn a little bit more about Sceratonin. So, who is Sceratonin to you?
Cesar: Sceratonin really obviously is inspired by Drag Race and RuPaul and the drag world. It is my dance persona, which is kind of like my drag persona. If I had to give myself a tagline, it would be, “Your daily dose of dance joy.” It’s just an alternate version of me that I wish I could be every day.

Trey: Yes! Everybody should be celebrated as they are. It’s unfortunate because as a community, we’re going through some tumultuous times. What are some of the challenges or obstacles you’ve encountered as an LGBTQ+ dancer?
Cesar: Whenever you put yourself out onto the internet as your authentic self, you’re putting yourself up to the opportunity for criticism and trolling. It’s more important now than ever to be visible and to advocate and to be unabashedly queer. But if I sat here worrying about what every negative person would think of me, I would never post a video or a picture for the rest of my life.

Trey: So, what advice would you give to young LGBTQ+ individuals who aspire to pursue a career in dance?
Cesar: I think the biggest piece of advice I could give would be to find your supporters and allies and let them be your biggest advocates, as we normalize being able to exist in these spaces. DivaDance is an amazing ally to the LGBTQ+ community. All are invited and welcome to partake — to not take yourself so seriously and come have a good time. It’s all bodies, all adult ages, and all genders.

Catch more of Trey’s interview with Cesar on the Community Time podcast!


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