Melbourne gay and lesbian dance studio Dance Cats is the subject of a new documentary set to air on ABC TV in November.

Ballroom Rules follows gay and lesbian ballroom dancers from Dance Cats as they battle homophobia, injury and personal dramas in pursuit of their dream of competing in the world’s biggest same-sex dancesport competition at the Gay Games in Cologne, Germany.

The film is produced by Waterbyrd Filmz, the team behind 2007 documentary Vivian Bullwinkel: An Australian Heroine, in association with ABC TV.

Director Nickolas Bird told the Star Observer he’d been looking for a new subject for a documentary and knew he had something when he saw his first same-sex dancing competition.

“I went to a competition during Midsumma and I said, ‘This is fantastic’,” he said.

“It was quite confronting seeing two men dancing together. It was odd — and I’m gay. I knew it had to be shared.”

The documentary not only chronicles Dance Cats owner Anny Salerni and her students during training for the Gay Games, but gives an insight into the dancers’ personal lives and struggles.

Bird said it took nearly two years to complete the project, with a lot of that time spent getting the dancers to trust him enough to open up.

“It’s about trust. Just because I’m gay doesn’t mean I’m a nice person. It took a lot of filming in order to get them to reveal their stories,” he said.

The project also had to contend with what Bird perceived as homophobia from DanceSport Australia, the governing body of traditional ballroom dancing in Australia, after it had initially agreed to take part in filming.

“We’d spent thousands of dollars on shoots with them and they refused to sign consent forms at the end, saying they didn’t support same-sex ballroom dancing,” he said.

INFO: Ballroom Rules is on ABC1 on Tuesday, November 8 at 10pm.

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