This month at the Central District Forum, I saw Showing Out: Contemporary Black Choreographers: Part Two, a mentorship and performance event curated by Dani Tirrell. Showing Out’s purpose is to showcase black choreographers from around the Pacific Northwest that often don't get a spotlight for their work. The show featured the work of Keelan Johnson, Michael O’ Neal Jr., Saira Barbaric, Brian J Evans, Neve Kamilah Mazique-Bianco, Kyle Bernbach alongside Gilbert Small II, and Markeith Wiley. Each raw, original performance could have had a multitude of meanings. Through each performance, I found myself uncomfortable, intrigued, and at times lost.
The opening performer was Keelan Johnson, leading member of the Emerald City Kiki Sessions. They opened with “Octavia,” a Kiki-Ball inspired choreography that incorporated burlesque attire. Alongside them were two dancers who were unlisted on the agenda. (The “Ball” in Kiki-Ball is short for ballroom, a tradition of celebrating queerness and transness, originating from black and brown people in New York City during the ‘70s.) Their high-energy performance was amplified by commentary that took a stand on the stigma around the LGBTQ+ community. This opening was shocking in its provocativeness, but did a great job of setting the tone for the night.