Fresh Meat Festival gives a stage to queer performers

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“I’m not trapped in the wrong body — the world is trapped in wrong-headed assumptions about gender and bodies,” Dana Morrigan proclaimed to a packed audience at Z Space in the Mission. Morrigan spoke at the Fresh Meat Festival, an annual event created so that queer and trans* artists could showcase a variety of their talents. “I have a family that loves me unconditionally; it was not the family I was born with,” she continued. She read off two hard-hitting yet humorous poems dealing with her experiences as a transgender woman, including one called “Teach Me, Queer Yoda.”

Now in its 13th year, the festival is as innovative and groundbreaking as it was when Artistic Director Sean Dorsey — the first out transgender modern dance choreographer — founded it in 2002. Dorsey’s own dance crew performed in the festival, demonstrating their unique brand of interpretive dance.

There was also a performance from two members of the AXIS Dance Company, which was featured on the FOX show “So You Think You Can Dance.” Dancer Joel Brown, who is disabled, and Sebastian Grubb, who choreographed the piece, danced in harmony at times and in conflict at others. Grubb mimicked Brown’s movements by sitting in a chair beside Brown’s wheelchair, and they danced in unison before moving to opposite ends of the stage and charging at each other.

Other performers included musical duo Coyote Grace, who “were once sweethearts but are now best friends.” The band consists of transman Joe Stevens on guitar and Ingrid Elizabeth on bass. They describe themselves as the “indie rock alt folk band you’ve been waiting for all your life,” and their work definitely lives up to the hyperbole.

Trans* singer-songwriter Shawna Virago also performed some of her original folk songs and premiered new material. “This is what happens to aging punk rockers: We become folkies,” she said before strumming her guitar. “I used to hold bullhorns and yell at police. Now I feel like a rebel when I eat gluten.”

Another highlight of the event was Las Bomberas de la Bahia, an all-female Boricua drumming band. This style of music originated among those who were enslaved in the sugar cane fields of Puerto Rico. “Yo la quiero, y no lo niego,” or “I love her, and I don’t deny it,” the drummers belted out defiantly as dancers moved to the rhythm in the foreground.

While the performances consisted of a wide array of talents, they all came for a similar purpose: to express their extraordinary talents on a platform that is rarely provided to them.

Contact Rene Hernandez at [email protected]