This expansive thematic show that uses House music as both an allegory and an art form ends this weekend. It’s worth spending time moving back and forth through the rooms to hear, or rather feel, how the soundscape informs works that are deceptively benign but loaded with signifiers of oppression / liberation creating intersections where labour meets love.
Today, Saturday, October 29 Toronto talent Esie Mensah will be performing between 2 – 4 pm.
“Chicago-based artist Theaster Gates takes over the fifth floor of the AGO’s Contemporary Tower with an immersive exhibition exploring the potential of the house museum—historically important landmarks that have been transformed into legacy sites. Gates proposes new ways of honouring and remembering Black experience and explores the potential of these spaces through music, dance, video, sculpture and painting.”
It was a late night tweet from one of Toronto’s finest MP Kristyn Wong Tam that put MIXED BAG MAG onto this exuberant project – WAACK REVOLT A Dance Film.
Watching the video I was sold on the fact that this team has tons of talent.
Waack Revolt’s Diana Reyes aka Fly Lady Di (above) and Emily Law aka Em Fatale (left).
Already familiar with dancer Diana Reyes aka Fly Lady Di (MIXED BAG MAG almost had her as part of the MASHUP STYLE shoot – next time Diana 😉 ) and Emily Law aka Em Fatale from the incredible Toronto dance troupe Kaha:wi (check out MIXED BAG MAG’s post on Kaha:wi’s The Honouring) it seemed an easy decision to get on board to help spread the word!
MIXED BAG MAG’s interview with WAACK’s Director / Writer Sonia Hong was in a word ‘soulful’. At a time where there is ubiquitous imagery representing a too-cool-for-school vibe we often mask our deeper human qualities like vulnerability and the yearning we all have for connectedness behind that chill exterior. I appreciated that Sonia was an open book and ready to share her history as to how she became a film artist who focuses on LGBTQ issues.
Bullied for not fitting in, somewhere along the way and at a young age, Sonia reached in to that spiritual place that we all have inside to find her source. From hiding her light to shining bright, Sonia had done such a remarkable turnaround with her confidence that a teacher who noticed shared this with her then asked her to be the valedictorian at her Grade 8 Graduation.
She built on that confidence and started to attend theatre summer schools where she said improv helped her try on new characters, play around with identity, and continue to grow more comfortable in her skin.
She also spent time working at Legal Aid alongside her mother. “If I hadn’t of gone to film school I would have gone to school for social work.” A keen sense of social justice, she takes her role as an artist seriously developing projects that can help kids struggling with their identity and place in the world.
Writer / Director Sonia Hong (right) with Producer Allia McLeod(left).
“Community building and creating an inclusive community is what I have always been really passionate about. I want to help young people feel empowered and to know from an early age that it’s ok to be yourself.”
Somewhere in the interview we got to speaking about girl culture – for me coming of age with Madonna and Sonia coming of age with the Spice Girls. Whether we agree with it or not, pop culture is what meets kids where they are at. As a female, Madonna taught me that my sexuality was for me alone to own and to be aware of it and my decisions around it but not without having fun – Express Yourself!; for Sonia the Spice Girls belted out the message that she understood to mean be yourself in the most bombastic way you dare – Zig A Zig Ah!
Our musical tastes have matured (I think?!) but for both of us the concern is that in today’s hyper-sexualized Britney-Miley-Nicki world sexuality now is only about an act of ‘performance’ for another’s gaze (mostly young girls for the validation of males) and something is getting lost in the delivery along with the chance for youth to develop a strong sense of self.
WAACK REVOLT takes all that on and promises to be sexy short with a definite message regarding understanding, owning and standing up for your sexuality. Commissioned by the Reel Asian International Film Festival as a collaboration between dancers and filmmakers, WAACK REVOLT will be premiering at this year’s festival.
“This cheeky love story, WAACK REVOLT. A DANCE FILM, sets the stage for a playful journey that opens during an audition in 1940s Hollywood. It is here that our two lovers first meet and begin their love affair with one another – which centers around their shared passion for “Waacking”. Outraged by their “Waacking” dance style, a visual metaphor for their unconventional love and identity, the public exclaim that they aren’t permitted to “Waack” in public, and must keep it behind closed doors.
In response, the couple escapes to different iconic time periods, sliding and interchanging between genders, ultimately blurring the lines entirely as they “Waack” their way to a full, vivid expression of themselves and their love.”
Using dance to challenge traditional gender roles and stereotypes.
The artistic medium of dance has given Sonia the perfect vehicle to investigate gender as it refers to sexuality.
Sonia goes deep into the exploration of how gestures sub-consciously communicate the assertion of power or an act of oppression and she explains that when they are thinking about the choreography they don’t want the dancer playing the male role to come across as a predator or the dancer embodying the female character as not without movements that communicate empowerment.
“I am really exiting about gender-bending with the actual choreography as music and dance are very gendered.”
Waack itself is a form of dance that evolved during the disco era and much like Voguing was embraced and developed by communities on the fringe of the mainstream as a way to own power around race, class and sexual orientation.
“To me, as a 12 yr old girl, the Spice Girls’ “Zig A Zig Ah” could mean anything you wanted it to much like this style of dance. You should be able to be yourself anywhere and you should be able to WAACK wherever you want.”
Emily Law aka Em Fatale
Professional dancer and founding member of the Toronto house dance crew Warehouse Jacks. Emily has been nominated for a Dora Mavor Moore award and a Gemini for her work with Kaha:wi Dance Theatre.
Diana Reyes aka Fly Lady Di
Multi-disciplinary artist, who has appeared on several progams including MuchMusic’s “RapCity”, and CBC Music’s “How to Dance to Classical Music”. Diana is a member of b current’s prestigious rAiz’n ensemble – home to some of Canada’s most successful performing artists, playwrights and producers.
A dynamic and multi-faceted artist, based in Toronto, Maylee’s music combines organic and electronic forms, including elements of boogie, bossa, space funk, psychedelia and soul. She’s shared the stage with the likes of Janelle Monae, Lee Fields, Aloe Blacc, Little Dragon, and The Budos Band. SOCAN has recently nominated her for the coveted songwriting prize. Get into the ‘Waack Revolt. A Dance Film.” groove with some of her funky tunes. www.mayleetodd.com