The following content originally appeared in FRONT, an amazing Portland newspaper devoted to sharing dialog from the contemporary dance world. Many thanks to Robert Tyree, Kaj-anne Pepper and Feyonce/Wayne Bund for allowing STANCE to share what you’ve been up to. We were excited to see the intersections of interest in exploring queerness, process and performance. Link to the must read publication here

In a culture that enforces a stoic code of masculinity through both abstract and concrete violence, your work addresses the construction of gender in queer bodies. Imagine you’re the leader of a three-hour workshop designed to give its students various insights into embodying alternative masculinities: What’s that class like?

BIO: Kaj-anne Pepper is a multi-modal performance artist working with dance, theatre, installation and video. Kaj-anne lives in Portland and is quite fond of nectarines.

You can NEVER have enough lipstick on. You gorgeous creature!
You can never have ENOUGH lipstick on. You gorgeous creature!
Repeat, Replay, Pretend and Prance.

In my class we acknowledge a queer construction of identity which spirals and circles with fierce cooperation. So, from here on out it’s OUR CLASS, and in our class, we fail. We fail at being anything other than “other”. And we accept other as all, hence we become each other after all.

We will fail at our idealism and equality. We will fail at dropping the filters and expectations of “class,” “race,” and “gender.” Instead of letting the “-isms” live in denial in our bodies (like cubicles defining what work we can and cannot do) we will summon up the courage to look at the boxes for what they are, get up, walk outside and replant our feet into rediscovered soil.

Let’s treat each other as teachers, lovers, challengers and warriors. Let’s work with championing aggressive presentations of self, while dropping competition from our goals. We have to get real, feel and invite each other into our bodies, our stories in order to co-create new narratives to unwind us from dominant culture.

In our hearts, we can’t pass for normal and won’t stand for it when you attempt to either. So we’ll warm up on our backs. Twisting, thrusting, shouting and screaming. We’re serpentine sirens wailing and drenched in the sweaty release of shame. We grieve as our willingness to participate in sexism collapses within us, along with our ability to remain composed, polite…civil. We slither. We are slapping the floor with our sissy asses, our amazon thighs, our big beautiful femme daddy feet. We use authentic movement as a platform to witness our unique bodies’ realness as it is, in this moment. Some eyes closed, some eyes open, all participating in the creation of group consciousness. We are the I am, and I am enough.

Eyes closed standing up, we walk across the room. Our first steps are heavy with grief. We are grieving the gift of sexism from our fathers and mothers, and their fathers and mothers. We’re giving our selves PERMISSION to exorcise the static and unyielding restraint in our bodies. The places held back because a binary of he and she…. and it isn’t enough room for our whole beautiful selves to show up. We will dance the story of how to show up as our whole selves.

Staring into each other’s eyes. We invite each other in. We take off our human clothes, we stare in each other’s eyes until we’re truly naked. We intercourse through knowing looks. The safest sex.

Energy doesn’t know male/female, leave your shell at the door. Leave your expectations of getting a good workout and get ready to work it out. What happens if we slip up and tell the truth?

YOU CAN never have ENOUGH lipstick on. You can NEVER have enough lipstick ON. A queer KOAN from the sissy zen tradition of limp wristed divas. We watch what is, what is happening, and what we project. We challenge engendered language purposefully pluralizing pronouns. In groups of two, we repeat over and over THEY. THEY, THEY, THEY. A witch’s unwinding chant. Spinning to the left until space and time are a blur of sensation. We become counterclockwise culture, removing our selves from purchased over the counter language rituals. WE US THEM THEY! HE SHE IT YOU. ME. YOU. US. repeat!
All language is queer language. Werq that out for your SELF!

Deconstructing gender is disidentifying with gender’s glamour. And glamour is old and more than sparkle and allure. Glamour is REALNESS. And realness is being so fake you’re beyond fake.

We catch the sparkle in each other’s eyes. How much of me is he? How much of myself will I see in them? Where are we hidden within each other? Will my laughter be enough of an invitation to get you out into the sun, the rain, the storm? We’ll be whatever we need to be to show up and gaze. We are more than just bodies. We are more than just eyes. We are electric connections between storms of bioelectric glamour. Make the invitation. Come to the dance party. The gesture will tell the whole story. Reach that hand out, open those lids. Slap your skin. Heat it up. Keep your eyes on… (me?). We are ready to dance.

(1 and 2) Give face DAHLING, give me back, legs, muscle, blood!
(3 and 4) Take my hands hands, give me claws. Take my feet, give me paws.
(5 and 6) Give me glamour! On all fours! Spine and spotlight, take the floor!
(7 and 8) Stretch me out. Break my mask. Take my FRONT just give ME back!

Lets fill each other.

// Kaj-Anne Pepper -> Feyonce (PDX):
Feyonce is known for being a diva. A lip-syncing, dancing and bearded diva. Feyonce represents both the masculine body and the feminine glamour. What is the relationship between your male presenting body and the glamour of the female assuming character?

BIO: Wayne Bund is an interdisciplinary artist, based in Portland, whose work resides within the act of performance. He uses photographs, videos, installation, and performance to explore notions of persona and authenticity. Creating an arsenal of characters from Pan, the Greek god of lust and debauchery, to Feyonce, a queer appropriation of pop diva Beyoncé, his use of elaborate costumes, fantastical sets, and suggestive props point to the thin line between the self, persona, and the other.

The relationship between these two parts of myself, or rather, between the natural and hirsute state of my body, and the expression of my desire for diva-hood can all be reduced down to agency. Agency, as in making real the space between the expectations I see that others and the world puts upon me for how I am supposed to express my gender or my desire for diva-ness and my own ability to choose what range of fabulousness I can and will express to myself and the world. Or perhaps the space between my childhood yearnings for fantastical diva-ness, and my ability as an adult to parcel out my influences and create an ongoing conversation with feminism, pop culture, and queer identity.

As a child, I was raised on the Sound of Music, MTV, and video games. I spent hours watching my mothers pre-recorded VHS tapes of music videos she had hand selected: Madonna’s “Vogue,” George Michael’s “Freedom,” Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation,” Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” just to name a few. I would watch the choreography of the dance videos and try to practice them and learn them and make them my own. Growing up in Boring, my television was my gateway to the world. A key memory included watching VH1’s Behind the Music: Tina Turner and being amazed by her strength and power, but also feeling a beginning awareness of wanting to be able to assume her ability onstage.

My first time I did drag, in my memory, I was 5. I wanted to borrow Kid Icarus, a Nintendo game, from my older sister’s friend. My sister used her friend as a negotiating chip to dress me up. I put up no protest. Jump forward 23 years, and I am at a Radical Faerie Gathering at Breitenbush Hot Springs. It is winter, and feet of snow form channels and pathways of discovery outside. I asked two friends to learn “Single Ladies” with me for a No Talent Show, and somewhere in the mix Feyonce was born.

As an adult and as an artist, I approach making through the acting of performance. I have been performing for the stage since I was in 4th grade, and in undergrad I was a theater major, first and foremost. Traditional theater ended up failing me and my desires, and I turned to art making. When I was in grad school for art making, I turned back to performance, appropriately enough, and here we are.

I never meant to be a drag queen. One of my dancer friends, Jesse Hewit, doesn’t even think what I do is drag, and suggested Feyonce’s lack of full attachment to female presentation is closer to transvestism.

Feyonce for me started as wanting to recreate the dance music videos and powerful diva songs that continue to bring me so much joy as an adult: Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies,” Tina Turner’s “Proud Mary,” anything Elizabeth Berkley touches. I began to follow step into a drag queen routine of dancing and big dresses and lip synching, and found myself saying, “I never meant to be a drag queen.”

So I shifted things up and made choices. My approach to drag is minimal, or some say lazy: control top pantyhose, wig, heels, and a little lipstick and maybe a fabulous dress. I leave the chest fully exposed and all the body hair, the result of Romanian genetics and testosterone coursing through my blood, visible. I don’t shave. And I have conversation on stage with myself, Wayne Bund. Or Judith Butler. Or the Nothing from The Neverending Story. And I re-appropriate Chloë Sevigny YouTube monologues, which are in themselves appropriations of something else. And I talk about theory, onstage, as a drag queen.

Part of this relationship does come from my desire to make my drag Brechtian, to expose the puppet strings of Feyonce, to make strange the fabulousness I present, to unravel the pathways through the labyrinthine and procrastinated process of performing that I weave on stage. And yet it is my hope that the magic of Feyonce captivates a house of willing fans into a place of submission, so that the separate elements of my male presenting body and my female assuming character, the yearning of my childhood and my adult desire for an intellectual conversation, are no longer discrete but blur together into a chimera of wonder.

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