Discovering Self, Choosing Family

This article was originally posted on ffdnorth.com as part of FFDN Insights, a series of articles that dive into the creative impulses, processes and dance histories of Fall for Dance North (FFDN) festival artists, commissioned by FFDN from dance writers from across Canada.

Getting to know your Fruit is the manifestation of Sara Porter’s ongoing process to understand the form of memoir and the stories she tells about herself, particularly her Queerness, through a collection of assorted fruits (both literal and symbolic). 

Porter has extensively researched what she calls “memoir and movement”: how our bodies both hold and communicate our memories. In this piece, the narrative retelling is interdisciplinary: Porter recounts the stories through spoken word, while her dancing is a physical expression of the memories, images and sensations the story brings up. While not entirely improvised (Porter is detailed in her framing of the performance, being intentional about character, colour, rhythm, space and shape), there’s still an element of spontaneity.  

“I give [my body] suggestions and see what happens,” she says. “My body gets saturated with live images of memory, and the dancing goes from there.”

The solo is deeply personal, with Porter telling stories about growing up in the church and coming out to her mother. And she leans into the vulnerability that comes with memoir, motivated by a desire for people to be more open with each other so they might care more about one another. 

“I have to love the audience and trust that I don’t need them to love me back,” she explains. Under this tenet, it becomes easier to be honest in the moment of performance.

While Getting to know your Fruit explores Porter’s personal Queer history, Danah Rosales’s The Grand March of the House of Siriano pays reverence to decades of Queer resilience, offering a taste of Toronto’s kiki ballroom scene. 

Ballroom culture is an underground Queer subculture rooted in Harlem and shaped by Queer and trans Black and Latinx folks. At balls, performers compete in different categories that challenge hegemonic notions of gender and class. Many participants in ball culture belong to groups known as “houses” who not only compete together but also live as chosen families, with house “children” led by “mothers” and “fathers” who offer both competitive and emotional guidance.

Rosales, a.k.a. Maldita Siriano 007, Mother of the Toronto Chapter of the Kiki House of Siriano, likens The Grand March of the House of Siriano to an opening ceremony. A traditional custom from the world of ballroom, a grand march takes place at the start of a house ball and formally introduces the house and its members to the community. “We parade our DNA, our commonality, our uniqueness,” she explains. 

Informed by her biological motherhood, Rosales choreographs her house members in a collaborative and loving way. “That’s my role, to learn and to listen,” she says. For Rosales, the true richness of this experience lies in collaborating with her house family.

In this sense, The Grand March of the House of Siriano showcases not just the talents of the house but the deep bonds between its members and a long history of creating an inherently Queer, nurturing space. Ball culture isn’t just about performance; it’s “how we survive,” Rosales says. This means a certain amount of risk in sharing ball culture with an audience outside the Queer community. Rosales invites the audience to recognize this and appreciate the “beauty, pain, depth, passion and will to live” expressed in performance. 

For both Rosales and Porter, then, love is a guiding force. Through this double bill, histories of acceptance, truth and resilience converge – shared with love, in the hopes that the audience can open their hearts in return. 

 

Catherine Abes (guest writer) is a writer based in Toronto. Her work explores the intersection of arts and identity. Catherine’s sibling recently started training with the Toronto Chapter of the Kiki House of Siriano.    catherineabes.carrd.co/#  TW: @catherineabes

 

 

Photo of Sara Porter by Kendra Epik

Photo of members of the Kiki House of Siriano by Jeremy Mimnagh

LIVE ON INSTAGRAM

THANK YOU TO OUR FUNDERS, SPONSORS & DONORS

Donors are the heart of our season.

We acknowledge the Toronto/Tkaronto as One Dish One Spoon Indigenous territory. We honour the ancestral caretakers of this land: the Haudenosaunee Confederacy, the Wendat and most recently the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation who have a Treaty relationship with Canada. We are grateful to have the opportunity to work in their community, on this territory. We pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future.