The Heels On Wheels Glitter Roadshow is off for another tour beginning April 6th. You can check out their schedule and their beautiful website here: www.heelsonwheelsroadshow.com .
I have had the remarkable pleasure of getting into an awesome conversation with Damien Luxe (www.axondluxe.com) and Heather Acs (www.heatheracs.com), the organizers of HOW and also performers in this glamorous tour de femme, along with Gepetta, Shomi Noise, Lizxnn Disaster, and Najva Sol.
I first witnessed this show in New Orleans in 2010. It had everything: music, performance artistry, audience participation, and even a ‘church’ service. This cabaret is entertaining and also nourishing. It seems to me that we are living through times of rapid change and many of us are seeking new ways of not only being but of experiencing ourselves. Many, many people are claiming themselves in radical and powerful ways, taking up space in the streets, inside ourselves, and on the road from town to town, making music and artful displays of human experience.
The Heels On Wheels Glitter Roadshow is one of these vehicles. Here there is great intelligence, an exuberance for discovery, and a desire to make connections with people of femme persuasion in all it’s multiple possibilities, extending the reach of what it means to take up space in feminine bodies and express feminine qualities. Right in front of your eyes these femmes create entertaining and poignant acts of beauty and resistance. We are all invited to become part of the excitement of our own lives, to engage the power of resistance, and to fearlessly search for what a world we truly desire might look like according to who we might become within it. Now is the time. Today is the day. All of us can do this: make the subject of our lives the power of life itself.
Damien and Heather engaged this conversation in tandem (which was really cool for me) and I will represent them here as HOW. Enjoy these words and go to the show if you are lucky enough to have it roll through your town. ENJOY!
ME: I saw the Heels On Wheels Glitter Roadshow in New Orleans a couple of years ago. It is definitely glitzy and eclectic. You guys had everyone’s attention, even the folks who just stumbled into the bar for another shot. I thought that was terrific. Tell me about the seed thoughts/conversations for this show. Where did the ‘dream’ originally take root?
ME: The show is great fun, high energy, and fast paced. In my mind you speed along the highway at 100per, with Le Tigre up to 11, and glitter gushing out the exhaust pipe. This is a completely accurate vision, right?
HOW: Oh yeah, my 4000lb van zooms — the speedometer only goes up to 85mph. Actually, she chugs, but she can drive over the rockies and ya know, I believe in quality. Plus there’s a TV/VCR and we can watch porn or Formative Lesbian Movies as we go, so that’s pretty cool. You’re bangon about the Le Tigre tho. We also have a DJ who tours with us, and she makes us an annual mix CD, so we blast that. This year the lead song is MIA’s Bad Girls, obv.
ME: Awesome. Now I have the perfect visual. HOW explores the way femme representation/identification works to create more ways of being woman and/or the expression of feminine qualities/values in the larger context of tacitly misogynistic cultures. This is a big deal. Expanding the expression of femininity, means moving in a clearly opposite direction from dominant culture. The simple suggestion is Resistance. Can you speak to a few of the ways that rigid femininity constructions inform, and too often defeat, our movement and creativity in the social world? What is something we learn about ourselves that is simply wrong?
HOW: Great question – too often we internalize What’s Possible due to all kinds of factors –our ages, our gender, our class, our race, our first language, our perceived ability, etc etc. Heels on Wheels is about highlighting one aspect of that-which-creates-difference and making it very fucking clear that difference, in this case, feminine gender(s), are not determinist to ability. Obviously in a sexist, woman-hating, “sissy”-hating, “no fats no femmes” kind of world, this is completely against existing norms. It’s also important to draw a distinction between determinism and a determining factor — and my sense, having worked with many artists over the years is that difference can actually beget capacity. The act of creating resistance creates capacity to fight. So, you get these wild and amazing tours that absolutely drip creativity and politics, even when these are delivered via false eyelashes and rhinestones.
ME: Yes! Immediately I think of a quote from Dr. Waziyatawin, she is speaking toward the liberation of indigenous ways of being and it speaks toward all liberation: “Colonialism has set the parameters of our imaginations to constrain our vision of what is possible.” Using our imagination, putting our back into it, and exploring these possibilities is creating resistance and, as you say, that gives us capacity to fight, we see ourselves more clearly and see ourselves becoming within the struggle. So, let’s think of a couple of ideas for creating resistance, extending the power of struggle to one another. I’m going to say, looking one another in the eye and saying I know you, works toward this creation. Okay, your turn.
HOW: Yes! Acknowledging each other is powerful — and so is hearing each other. Whether it’s a story you’re familiar with or identify with, or one you are hearing for the first time that’s expanding your worldview, witnessing someone else in their power is a learning moment — and so, being in our power is a teachable moment. It definitely takes creativity to partake in resistance. It’s easy to just, you know, watch TV and “like/retweet” your life away — it’s harder to think up what you want to do or be or say. And frankly the powers that be are counting on our exhaustion if not our refusal to be creative in our resilience.
ME: What has your experience been doing performance that announces a pro-feminist, pro-queer, pro-resistance agenda before the curtain even goes up?
HOW: We want to get our message out as clearly as possible in part because, in the past when we have not been as clear, people have been really confused by a tour that features fancy creatures that’s not explicitly about the sexual objectification of said fancies. And, some of our artists are sexual onstage, they talk about, encourage, or emanate sexuality, but it’s the assumption that our show is going to be sexual because there are “pretty women” involved that has made us decide to be more overt.
We’ll see how it turns out, perhaps we need to be more duplicitous in describing our show just to get people in the door. But, in the past, when people haven’t been clear about the politics behind the show, we’ve seen people get angry — for example, since we weren’t stripping at a show in Asheville, NC, some audience members got upset, left, threw things…it’s pretty amazing how entitled folks felt to seeing our bodies because we happen to be femmes.
ME: I love that you are doing this, promoting the show in it’s true fullness. It feels so rich and exciting to know this is what I get to see. It’s a glitzy cabaret that comes into your town and helps you burn down the walls in your mind.
HOW: I think this is the Best Thing Ever Said about our show! Thank you!
ME: A line I think of often from the HOW performance I witnessed is: “A femme is someone who may or may not have razor blades in her hair.” Love this. Makes me think of June Jordan: “I must become a menace to my enemies.” It is a sublime experience to take-up space, to expand and claim the territories of not only our bodies, but the space around us, to lay our hands on the tools of creation and learn from this the desire to defend the right to do so. What are some of the most deeply powerful qualities of femme/femininity?
HOW: I love that you brought JJ in, and that poem especially, as it activley confronts the idea that as femme-spectrum folks we’re supposed to focus on caretaking. Fuck that — part of caretaking is seeing WHERE we have POWER. And for me — and I think Jordan in that poem — it’s about using the tools, gifts, and priviledges we have accessible to us in order to carve out, demand, and take safe[r], creative, resilient space for ourselves and our communities.
ME: It is nourishing for me to see ‘working-class’ and ‘poor folks’ included in the values of your performance. Why is it important to you?
HOW: (This is Damien) For me, i came up in a working-poor background, and –surprise!– stayed poor for most of my young adult life. Economic reality informed a lot of what I believed possible in my life and of myself for a long time, and that is to say for a long time I really thought I could never live my truth or a life I wanted, because of the scarcity that surrounded me; it was not innate knowledge that I could choose magic for my heart even if I couldn’t have groceries for my body. I want to quote Heather’s line in her piece when shes channeling her mama and her working-class background, its the “there’s never enough” sense that is terrifying and limiting, but, to now quote Marianne Williamson, “as we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Seeing other poor and working class folks creatively rising up out of the fears that scarcity generates told me that I, too, could choose to create magic in my life. Writing a piece for Michelle Tea’s Without A Net was my first part of shared reality with other working class/poor artists, and The Mayworks Festival of Working People In The Arts in Toronto was my first experience of performatively participating in that reality.
ME: What have been some of your most powerful/moving reactions from audience members after a show? What kind of feedback are you getting?
HOW: We get feedback that our show is inspirational to other femmes and that’s really important to me, as a DIY/DIC [collectively] person. After an early show, one femme wrote “Somehow, I feel in awe like “yes! I want to do that thing too” and not like “oh my god they are so good how could I ever live up to that??” That’s femme girl magic.
ME: It is indeed. Creation is powerful. Self-creation and self-identification are especially powerful in a milieu in which ones culturally given identity is a label that points a neon sign at your body/being indicating ‘this is a good place to take out hostility, force silence, and engage dismissal.’ What is something you have gained inside your own understanding of yourself as you have worked to create performance for HOW?
HOW: Well, each piece is really exciting to me for different reasons. Heather’s piece starts in the grime of a NYC evening and ends up in the galactic nebula from whence we all come. Shomi has a fucking killer singing voice that she weaves brilliantly with storytelling. Najva is going to embody an anthropomorphized polaroid. Geppetta haunts us with gorgeous puppets accompanied by Lizxnn on violin. And I’m sharing an aerobics routine designed to combat dissociation. Plus we have local performers with us at each show, so, basically, it’s going to be magic from start to finish.
ME: I can’t wait to see you in Baltimore! And we will have to get together and talk some more about combating dissociation and compartmentalization and . . . well . . . there are so many conversations ahead. Thanks guys and have a great tour.
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