For Boston’s LGBTQ+ community, Nightlife is a vital space where queer people of all identities can celebrate and support each other. Since clubs and bars are going to be slow to get back to regular hours to prevent the spread of COVID-19, all-dancing, drag, and celebration of Pride must be done while social distancing — a never-before-accomplished feat.
In a very generous conversation, local underground queer dance party Boudoir spoke with us about what it’s been like to bring the extravaganza online, and about their passion for Nightlife as an art form that celebrates queerness and encourages everyone to live freely and joyfully.
About one year ago, artists and collaborators Matheus Cabral, James Cerne, Richard Nordin, Adam Fearing, and Brendan Denommee came together with a shared idea: a unique party landscape by and for Queer people in Boston with a foundation of theatricality, good music, and self-expression. As a group comprised of multi-talented DJs, designers, visual artists, and performers, the team has been specific from the beginning about creating a stimulating and liberating experience for everyone in the LGBTQ+ community, explicitly welcoming and centering trans and nonbinary people of color.
“We wanted to create more than a party, more than a conventional night out with lights and a dance floor.”
Their events so far have been a blend of live music sets, performances, daring outfits that create a spectacle built on storytelling. DJ Matheus Cabral said, “We wanted to create more than a party, more than a conventional night out with lights and a dance floor. We Incorporated a set for every party and tried to keep it unique to the theme each time.” The curation of the events has also included eye-catching posters from Fearing, Cerne, and Denommee.
View this post on Instagram
When COVID-19 shut down bars and nightclubs, the team quickly realized that their work was needed to provide the same celebration in a new format while everyone is self-isolating at home. Like most other art right now, adapting to live stream was a learning curve. Still, as DJ James Cerne said, once they began to get into the groove, some exciting new moments were happening during these online events: “Now all of a sudden, there were people from all over the world in our zoom room. There’s a feeling that we’re crossing into a new reality and new horizons are opening up for what queer socializing can be.”
Without a space to gather in physically, the online space allowed for attendees to celebrate themselves by curating their boudoir — a glamorous and spectacular respite from the rest of the world, where one feels most themselves. So far, they’ve seen at-home partygoers leap at the opportunity for this new format of self-expression, including folks who showed up with decorated bedrooms, in a T-rex costume, and on roller skates under a disco ball.
“Nightlife is fulfilling for the Queer soul… We wanted to help people be ok, to be their support systems.”
As Cabral said, their focus remains on creating community: “Nightlife is fulfilling for the Queer soul. We wanted to find the urgency of it being taken away by COVID and recreate something so common that we almost took for granted. We wanted to help people be ok, to be their support systems.”
Leading up to their Cyber Pride First Fridays event at the ICA, the Boudoir team is ready to throw the most-needed queer party of all-time! This event includes a stellar line-up of drag performances, endless tunes, and even a mixologist prepared to help folks make a new favorite cocktail. This celebration, while being mindful of current civil unrest against racist police brutality, is not ignoring current events. After postponing Cyber Pride out of respect, the team landed on a future date of July 3. Cerne says, “Celebrating our country is going to be a complicated thing right now for our community. This is not going to be a 4th of July celebration; it’s going to be a queer celebration.”
The team is hopeful that their online celebrations will continue to flourish and evolve as Boston moves through the reopening phases of the pandemic. They’re also optimistic that Boston’s arts and culture scene will develop, too: “A lot of Queer people would identify that seeing other Queer people around them is completely essential. With that new appreciation for queer spaces and Nightlife, there will come more enthusiasm and support and openness,” Cabral says.
Brendan Denommee adds, “Working with the ICA lends everything that we’re doing a sense of legitimacy and helps people see [our work] as art and culture and something that people will stay in Boston for, for a community that is always under threat.”
Thinking of this work as community service has been helpful for Cerne, who asks the question, “As artists, how can we leverage whatever voice we have to turn the spotlight so others can benefit and get through this?”
As long as Boston’s queer community is full of support from hard-working artists like the Boudoir team, there is a lot to celebrate.
Elena Morris (she/her/hers) is ArtsBoston’s Patron Services Manager. She is a dramaturg and arts administrator passionate about forward-thinking in the arts. Elena holds a BFA in Theatre Arts from Boston University, focusing her studies on dramatic literature and movement.