The Performance Festival Centering LGBTQ and Feminist Voices

This Radical Queer Out-FRONT! festival—spread over ten days and two venues—offers dance, film and performance art that moves, delights and inspires.

A woman in a purple dress claps while standing on a stage with a colorful backdrop
Ogemdi Ude Maria Baranova

As I recently wrote in my article about The Joyce Theater’s eighth American Dance Platform, there’s a lot going on here in New York with the annual performing arts presenting, touring and booking industry conference (APAP/NYC) happening this week. That’s great news for arts-loving city dwellers but can also be overwhelming: What shouldn’t be missed? Who are the rising stars? Where can one see them? Let me help you out.

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One of the many exciting events on now is the second edition of Out-FRONT!, curated by Pioneers Go East Collective and presented in partnership with The LGBT Community Center and Abrons Arts Center. This Radical Queer dance, film and performance art series, which begins today and runs through January 20, centers LGBTQ and feminist voices through the work of ten multigenerational, multicultural artists.

When I spoke with Gian Marco Riccardo Lo Forte, Founding/Artistic Director of Pioneers Go East Collective and one of the four curators of Out-FRONT!, he was contagiously enthusiastic about the upcoming performances. The festival aligns perfectly with his deepest soul mission: to hold space for queer artists and champion their voices.

SEE ALSO: Melanie George Presents Jazz at The Joyce and More

Lo Forte, a gay immigrant of Italian/Middle Eastern descent and a writer, director and filmmaker, founded the collective in 2010 as a “radical queer laboratory” for performing and visual artists to reflect and empower the LGBTQ experience. The Collective has grown over the years and is now led by Daniel Diaz, Joey Kipp, Lo Forte and Philip Treviño (all LGBTQ-identifying, BIPOC and immigrant artists and cultural organizers).

During the pandemic, The Collective decided to try producing a festival to celebrate radical artmaking and create more opportunities for under-presented artists. At the time, they already had a strong relationship with The LGBT Center, and its Curator/Manager of Cultural Programs Richard Morales urged them to think of the space as their home for presenting works. They were thrilled to accept the offer.

A dancer wearing a voluminous golden costume spreads their arms wide
Hunter Stergis. Richard Rivera

Last year, Out-FRONT! Fest. became both a critical and popular success. This year, the curators (Lo Forte, Diaz, Hilary Brown-Istrefi and Treviño) realized they needed to expand to another venue, so they reached out to Abrons Arts Center, which has a larger theater is ideal for several of the projects. The 2024 lineup—spread over ten days and the two venues—offers a variety of performances that promise to move, delight and inspire.

“I’m really excited about everyone,” Lo Forte said, and so am I. Here’s what to see at this year’s Out-FRONT!

If you’re new to Radical Performance and want to dip a toe in 

Perhaps the most accessible show in the festival is Jason Anthony Rodriguez’s dance performance Take a Good Look / Meet Me in the Moon (Jan 10&11). You might know Rodriguez as Lemar Wintour from Pose and/or Enrico from The Deuce. Rodriguez is not only an accomplished Dominican American actor and voguing star but also a classically trained dancer. Take a Good Look is all about vogue and Meet Me in the Moon is in the style of contemporary dance.

The world premiere of choreographer Annie MingHao Wang’s had my mouth (Jan 18&20) will also have wide appeal. The performance is an exploration of the human invocations of animal energies within Chinese culture, specifically in the lion dance and martial arts. The full-length work is set to music by Eldar Baruch and performed by Wang along with Catherine Chen and Ching-I Chang.

Two dancers perform on what looks to be the floor of a performance space
Annie Ming-Hao Wang. Iki Nakagawa

Paz Tanjuaquio / TOPAZ ARTS Dance Productions’ evening-length dance Silweta (Jan 19&20) promises to be a bright spot and unique performance. It is based on silhouette images of traditional dance forms of the Philippines (“silweta” means silhouette in Tagalog) and is inspired by the short story “Dead Stars” (1925) by Paz Márquez-Benítez (her namesake). The piece, created in collaboration with sound and visual artist Todd B. Richmond, examines issues of immigration, displacement and connection. It also incorporates a digital dance of silhouettes made by multi-media artist Onome Ekeh.

A dancer wearing a gray top and black leggings poses with one leg and pointed foot in the air
Paz Tanjuaquio. Todd B. Richmond

If you want to dive in and celebrate Queerness 

One of the shows that those who are immersed in the dance-theater world are most excited about is Naked Vanguard (Jan 17&19) by Arthur Avilés and Collaborators. Avilés is a Bessie Award-winning gay New York-Rican dancer/choreographer who was a member of the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company from 1987 to 1995 and is the Artistic Director of Arthur Avilés Typical Theatre and Co-Founder of BAAD! The Bronx Academy of Arts & Dance. Naked Vanguard is a series of nude solo dances that celebrate the body, queerness and Latinx and Black cultures. They will be performed by Avilés, Nikolai McKenzie Ben Rema and Hunter Sturgis. (Note that due to nudity, this show is for ages 18+.)

A muscular dancer wearing dance briefs poses
Nikolai McKenzie Paula Lobo

Another show that is highly anticipated is the world premiere of Joey Kipp’s Tracing Lorraine (Jan 11&12). The solo dance-theater performance, made in collaboration with Pioneers Go East Collective (including Lo Forte, who directs), is both an homage to Black playwright Lorraine Hansberry and an embodiment of her evocative, under-appreciated work. Kipp, a queer Afro-Latinx-Brazilian Brooklyn-based artist, examines Lansberry’s (and his own) experiences of artmaking, erasure, and queerness.

If you’re looking for something to talk about

Ogemdi Ude’s Hear (Jan 13&14) is a solo work about the rituals we create in the aftermath of loss. It sounds heavy, and is, but is also thought-provoking and cathartic. Ude is a Nigerian American dance and interdisciplinary artist whose work focuses on “Black femme legacies and futures, mourning, and memory.” Hear, part of a trilogy first performed at Abrons Arts Center in 2022, incorporates sound by multidisciplinary performance entity slowdanger, movement, text and installation. It asks: How can we connect to people who aren’t here anymore?

Christopher Unpezverde Núñez’s YO OBSOLETE (Jan 14&15) is sure to be another heavy hitter. Lo Forte told me, “The work is not only a visual experience, but also an auditory experience, and an experience about the space, the energy.” The solo show incorporates movement, poetry, songs, storytelling, and installation. Núñez is a Bessie-nominated visually Impaired choreographer and multi-disciplinary artist. The work, set to music by Alfonso Castro, examines memory, intergenerational trauma, escapism, and fantasy. It asks: How can imagination save us?

A performer appears to have fallen backward onto their rear on an empoty stage
Christopher Unpezverde Núñez. Yvonne Portra, Courtesy of Festival of Latin American Contemporary Choreographers FLACC

If you’re here for the film series

The Out-FRONT! film series (Jan 13) includes three powerful films. Interdisciplinary artist Fana Fraser brings her queer Black Brown Trinidadian femme perspective to us with a new short film. Omega X & Danni, trans and nonbinary artists and parents, share a new abstract portrait film about the experience of queer parenting. And filmmaker and activist Tourmaline highlights the experiences of Black, queer and trans communities in the animated film The Personal Things (2016).

All festival events are free with a suggested donation of $25, but reservations are required.

The Performance Festival Centering LGBTQ and Feminist Voices