PuSh fest breaking gender boundaries
When local artist Ralph Escamillan takes the stage, it’s in a full-bodied sequined costume, complete with a face covering--and the ambiguity is the point.
Escamillan, who uses the gender pronoun “they,” has choreographed HINKYPUNK, a dance performance that questions gender binaries as part of the PuSh performing arts festival, which is on now through Feb. 4.
By masking their identity, Escamillan says they hope to get the audience to focus more on the story being told through the performance, and less on the dancer’s gender or skin colour.
“How do we, as an audience, see dance when there is so much already informed by someone’s gender or ethnicity when we see them (and their face) on stage?” Escamillan asks.
PuSh is a mid-winter performing arts festival that showcases a mix of dance, music, theatre and multimedia performances. The festival is all about breaking the mould, said Joyce Rosario, director of programming for PuSh.
“I think it’s in those spaces of marginalization that you find space for experimentation because you want to break out of those boundaries that are built around you … that’s what our programming is really all about,” Rosario said. “Trying to find spaces for things that aren’t included, find spaces for experimentation.”
Escamillan says their generation is increasingly questioning the gender binary, or the idea that there is only two genders, and the festival gives them space to explore. Their performance incorporates elements from ballroom, vogue (a style in which dancers strike exaggerated, model-like poses) and drag.
“With this whole idea of trying to categorize people ... and finding new labels to put on others, the irony of it is that it also separates us even more,” they said.
“If we didn’t have this binary, we wouldn’t need these labels, we could just be who we are.”
Escamillan will take to the stage on Friday, Jan. 26, 9 p.m. at The Fox Cabaret.
ralph escamillan is a Vancouver dancer who is breaking out of the gender binary with their latest piece, hInKyPunK, as part of the Push performing arts festival.