Many of us have probably heard of culture nights held on campus such as Vietnamese Culture Night, Taiwanese Culture Night and Korean Culture Night. Some of us may not be familiar with Queer Culture Night. When we think of culture, we think of an ethnic group. The queer community however, is a community of people with its own unique culture.
The 11th annual Queer Culture Night consisted of performances that included several student dance acts and a special guest artist that showcased the different kinds of identities and orientations that exist within the queer community Thursday at Northwest Campus Auditorium. The auditorium was filled with students, alumni and admitted students who were at UCLA for Bruin Day weekend.
The night opened with a solo dance performance that told the story of how the performer came to terms with their gender queerness. For me, the piece conveyed the message that not everyone falls in one of the two traditional gender categories, as there are many other gender identities with which one can identify.
The second act was a dance performance by Timna Naim that involved the use of masks. “The use of masks is to investigate what is layered onto the body to connote identity and also to create ambiguity in how the body is read. I am looking into my own experiences with gender for inspiration and finding ways to challenge the audience’s perception,” said Naim, a fourth-year dance student.
Taste the Rainbow, a queer dance group at UCLA, performed an upbeat hip-hop dance that electrified the audience. One of the performers from Taste the Rainbow, Jenna Aya, a fourth-year civil engineering student, said Queer Culture Night is about expressing oneself with confidence and showcasing the fierceness of the LGBTQ community as well as promoting sex positivity. Aya said she believes the event provided an avenue for performers to express queer culture through dance and enabled people to be confident about who they are and whom they love.
“Seeing the other performers really validated the queer experience in performance,” Aya said.
The final performance of the night was by music artist AB Soto. The pieces that AB Soto performed included Cha Cha Bitch, Club Lonely, Fuk Dat, Banjee Power and others. AB Soto, along with two of his back-up dancers, provided an energetic end to the night with good music and flamboyant dance moves.
During his performance, AB Soto dedicated one of his songs to Orlando. This made me sad as I remembered the tragedy that happened at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida last June.
Despite the solemness of this, the event had a great turnout and received positive feedback from students.
“I thought (Queer Culture Night) was an amazing, energetic and beautiful event that really exemplified how close and how rich the queer community at UCLA is,” said Brianna Sosa, a third-year psychology student who attended the event.
“LGBT encompasses a lot of groups of people and different arts speak to different people, and it was interesting to see what spoke to who,” said Kendall Kaufmann, first-year civil engineering student who was also present at the event.
Kaufmann believes that Queer Culture Night granted members of the community the freedom to express themselves, to do what they want and to show what is suppressing them.
As a member of the audience, I found it heartwarming to see the queer community express itself through performance art. Unlike other culture nights, Queer Culture Night is different in the sense that there is no set culture that constitutes “queer culture.” Despite individual differences in experience, people in the community are capable of uniting as one to showcase the unique nature of what it means to be queer, regardless of one’s race, gender and sexual orientation.