BBQueer Fest returns to spotlight queer artists of color

The second annual BBQueer Fest will feature events in several different venues in Santa Cruz and Watsonville.
(Via Geneva Rico)

The event, kicking off Thursday and running into next week at venues in Watsonville and Santa Cruz, promises live dance, music and spoken word, plus a burlesque show and workshops including an anti-racism discussion, all featuring “a really beautiful lineup of artists,” curator Angela Chambers says.

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For the second consecutive year, Santa Cruz is poised to be the stage for artistic expression for queer people of color at BBQueer Fest, taking in place in various venues beginning Thursday.

From workshops to performances, the slate of events is designed to elevate the often marginalized work of queer artists of color (“BBQueer” has nothing to do with grilled meats; the “BB” stands for “Black and Brown.”)

In fact, the festival kicks off in Watsonville, with “A Little Bit of Salsa!”, a dance workshop by Alex Santana and Valentina Velasquez, with a workshop at 6:30 p.m. and an open dance an hour later in the recently opened Watsonville Center for the Arts, 375 Main St., just across the street from the Watsonville Plaza.

On Friday, the focus shifts to downtown Santa Cruz with an ambitious and diverse performance on the grounds of Santa Cruz City Hall titled “Poética.” The free event will feature a number of live dance performances with live music and spoken word.

“It’s a night of a full spectrum of the arts,” said the event’s curator and director, Angela Chambers. The festival’s signature event took place in 2021 at Motion Pacific, but other than a change of venues, the spirit and aim of the event is the same, said Chambers, who also works as the programs manager and a teaching artist at the Tannery World Dance & Cultural Center.

Gregory Dawson of dawsondancesf is among the featured BBQueer artists.

“It’s the same idea, but it’s not the same lineup,” she said. “We do have one featured artist who we bring back pretty consistently at the Tannery, and that’s Gregory Dawson of (San Francisco-based) dawsondancesf.”

Dawson will perform with a number of other artists from Santa Cruz and from the Bay Area, including Mak Nova, Will Kahn, Summer Red, Kat Factor, Maya Daodu, Alexandra Mannings and the Xochipilli Dance Company.

“And we’ll also have a couple of youth dancers from Santa Cruz who identify as Black, brown or queer who will be performing,” said Chambers, “so it’s a really beautiful lineup of artists.”

On Saturday is BBQueer Fest’s only ticketed event, “The Body Erotic Reveal BurlyQ Show.” The event at Motion Pacific is a burlesque show — like the Sin Sisters troupe that performs locally several times a year — but with a queer orientation, featuring about a dozen performers, both local and from out of town.

Also Saturday is a series of afternoon dance workshops, at the Tannery and at Motion Pacific, a movement workshop featuring Gregory Dawson, burlesque technique and style featuring Ray Gunn, and a “BurlyQ” workshop featuring Alotta Boutté.

On Sunday, workshops continue with a dance workshop from Luna Bey, and a discussion about anti-racism ideas and practices called “Showing Up for BBQueer” for white people. Workshops will continue next week with performer Isaiah Esquire presenting a workshop for performing in heels on Tuesday and advanced jazz on Wednesday.

All events at BBQueer are free, except for “The Body Erotic Reveal BurlyQ Show,” and all require registration. To register for any of the events or workshops, or to learn more, go here.


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