Ryan Heffington of RuPaul's Drag Race Talks KURT and Chez Deep Drag Sisterhood
Photo by Kevin Scanlon
The small back room -- where ambiguously gendered performers threw themselves on the floor, climbed speakers, spit out fake blood, and smooched those in the front row -- was packed with gays and girls, some of whom made even that questionable a style-statement look like the right thing to do.
Among those in attendance was Ryan Heffington. He's the choreographer made pop famous by RuPaul's Drag Race, and whose dance dedicated to Nirvana-frontman Kurt Cobain will be performed tonight at Kurt, a multi-discipline exhibition with Thurston Moore and Adarsha Benjamin. In from Los Angeles, Heffington explained that he choreographed moves for five dancers to accompany a piece composed from recordings of people's breath by The Entrance's Guy Blakeslee. He called it an "abstract, beautiful, surreal musical piece. It's really fucking intense, cause it's so visceral."
The night's performances at Villa were also totally human and stimulating. Hosted by No Name, a monthly night dedicated to electronic music, the New York-based Chez Deep brought heart and skin to the stage.
Heffington knows the boys of Chez Deep through friends. "I'm a big supporter of the queer community and performance art," he said. The dances last night didn't bear many similarities to traditional notions of what drag is.
"It's the evolution of a culture." Heffington observed. "Simply, the aesthetic of drag is changing. What we deem important is changing. Like any culture. The freaks are shining these days! It's a sign of the time. Individuality is shining. It's not so classic, but it's progressive."
Colin Self of Chez Deep, a lithe blond in a white spandex bodysuit, seemed to agree. "Drag is a blanket term that the majority of the public can understand. It's not a word that encompass everything that happens, but it's a facet of what pulls us together. You're born naked, the rest is drag." Their "drag sisterhood" is an expression of feminine energy and power, spirituality, and art. Their purpose is, Self said, "to set an example of a community. What can happen when people are brought artistically together, and how important it can be."
Heffington supports the underground drag movement and is seeing it flourish in Los Angeles. "A lot of queers have voices as performative artists, and we long for theses venues. They're popping up everywhere in Los Angeles." He called it, "a beautiful supportive environment."
We asked the choreographer about his job, which seems pretty fantastic. "It's the best job ever in the world," he laughed. "Get to travel around the world, create dance. I think I facilitated an amazing community in Los Angeles through dance classes. We do performances in clubs, museums, onstage for rock concerts. It's kind of ever-changing. It's kind of like the perfect artist lifestyle. We get paid, I get to be on TV. We get to travel to Hong Kong. It's pretty fucking brilliant."
He's producing his own show Ktchn next spring in LA and planning a monthlong run. It'll be an interactive experience about "queer culture, celebrity culture, loneliness, fabulousness." Meanwhile you can catch Chez Deep performing in New York on pagan holidays and at Santos Party House.
KURT. With Thurston Moore, a dance performance by Ryan Heffington, and a short film by Adarsha Benjamin. Presented by the Friends of Gusman-Red Curtain Series, Olympia Theater, and Onward Forward. Thursday, December 6. Gusman Center for the Performing Arts, 174 E. Flagler St., Miami. The event begins at 8 p.m. and tickets cost $25 to $50 via tickets.gusmancenter.org. Call 305-372-0925 or visit gusmancenter.org.
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