A Mirage of Moments: Cxnt Vol. 1

Worship dripping in Ballroom divinity – Cxnt Vol. 1 disputes the expectations of Bible camp. Joshua Iosefo attends a Queer manifestation of intergenerational mana.

Life is a mirage of moments – which the Queer cxnty cast and crew of Cxnt Vol. 1 understand and execute with absolute precision. I use the word mirage because the otherworldly elusivity of Queerness is a theme felt and explored in the work. With time benders and travellers who understand how to manipulate focus, tension and elements, Cxnt Vol. 1 feels familiar enough as it draws from common memory, and unfamiliar enough through vulnerable and victorious exploration of censorship, Queer bodies, communion and religion – exactly how the show begins.

Like soldiers returning from winning the constant strenuous war that is decolonisation, Logan Collis (Mother of Cxnt), Nathan Gacusan (Bruja), Peni Fakuau (Naughty Little Kitty), Lyncia Muller (Dom Top) and Cypris Afakasi (Fang, the Father of Coven-Aucoin), begin their victory parade in the carpark outside Basement Theatre. Commanding our attention and awe, the legion of artists arrives in their chosen chariot – a Hummer. The crowd cheers as futuristic beats pulse in the background as each cast member disembarks from their chariot to reveal their costumes in another worldbuilding moment. Dripping in dystopian, cyberpunk, futuristic, militant, metallic skin-worshiping attire, the cast walk through the roaring crowd until Logan, also known as Honey, the Mother of Givenchy, invites everyone to follow them inside.

Photo Credit: John Rata

Once inside, I am greeted by the vivacious, joyous Jonjon Cowley Lupo, the Godmother of Cxnt, who hands us all cxnt dollars. After I am seated on what feels like a church pew, I begin to understand that this is more than just an invitation to their show – it’s an invitation to their sacred place of belonging and worship. A sacredness that Samara Alofa knows and foretells through melodic waves and haunting hums. Through their familiar island drums and ballroom beats fused with dilapidated electric sounds, Samara’s craftwomxnship with music and spatial awareness reminds me of the drummers who sit at the back during cultural performances. So Cxnt Vol. 1 becomes a celebration of culture – Queer intersectional culture. All of these chosen moments add to the world created by Honey with the mentorship and guidance of dramaturg Moe Laga (also known as Mistress, the Mother of Coven-Aucoin), with Lucia Diamantis as the creative producer – a world described as a place where “binary constructs are disregarded & middle fingers are pointed at censorship & the policing of queer bodies”.

It’s an invitation to their sacred place of belonging and worship

It is at this point that I would like to share my positionality as a reviewer of this work. There is a common question asked in the ballroom community – “Do you speak the language?” Meaning, are you dialed into our frequency? Do you know our culture? Do you know our history? And although I haven’t mustered up the courage to walk a ball myself (yet ;)), I have grown up in the same generation as the girlies who were dipping on the concrete floors of Kelston Boys’ and De La Salle. And as a child of the Queer Pasifika diaspora, I have seen the cosmic connections flung through time return to themselves over and over again. Going to the same high school as Logan and Jonjon, being mentored by the same MIT tutor as Moe and Cypris, working with Lyncia at Rainbow’s End, as well as spreading Xmas joy at Wheke Fortress with Samara – we are all connected. And this connection is important to note, because you need to understand the journey that has led to this time-shattering moment that is Cxnt Vol. 1.

The ‘x’ in cxnt describes the intersectionality of this work perfectly, as the layers of Queerness in growing up in the ‘Bible belt’ are explored and examined. Nuances are personified by liberated Queer bodies who know how to move and transcend as if they were born to do so… Nah, defs born/reincarnated to do so. The choreography shown in each piece displays and showcases various elements of vogue and other dance-fusion motifs. See: the precision and fiery passion of hands embodied by Cypris, the beat melting and solidifying movements of Lyncia, the in-sync group performances and dynamic dramatics of Peni and Nate, the dips and soft and cxnt-liquidating lines of Honey and finally – the oratory and trust spoken and earnt through the chants and words of JonJon. Each member of the Cxnt Vol. 1 cast is unique (cue Beyoncé) and connected.

Photo Credit: John Rata

Samara – the first person we hear speak – shares the story of Logan and them, attending the same church camp, and being the only ones who truly saw each other on a kindred, rebel-with-a-cause type of level. A space where the war of colonisation was felt amongst a camp full of close-minded ‘Johns’. I, too, had the misfortune of attending such camps and the feeling of isolation is most definitely mutual. This sacred solidarity is felt within the show.

When we receive the cxnt money from JonJon at the door, I can’t help but find it oddly familiar, as if I am walking into a Sunday church service, greeted by the delegated welcoming committee. It isn’t until Act 2, when JonJon leads the audience into a mega-church-esque altar call, that it clicks. This show is the church we yearned for when we were at Bible camp. The church all Queer kids wished existed. The church where we all… speak the language, and the deities that we worship are Ourselves.

This show is the church we yearned for when we were at Bible camp. The church all Queer kids wished existed

‘The future’ is pushed further in the last half of the show as the cast run the audience through the laws and commandments of this futuristic world – The Church of Cxnt.

Thou shall love thyself, thou shall sleep and rest, thou shall not hurt others – quite literally spelling out the recipe for us all to thrive.

This closing heralds a manifestation fuelled by intergenerational mana – a hope and a stake in the ground for Queer communities and others. A future where binary constructs of gender, sexuality and life itself are washed away. And the only things left are yourself, your people, and a dimly lit mattress – upstage left with a jubilant audience in a standing ovation.

Who are you at the core? At the cxnt? Queer bodies have already answered these questions eons ago, and the cast and crew of Cxnt Vol. 1 are ready to roll out that victory parade.

The revolution isn’t coming.

It's here, it's queer and it's cxnt.

Header Photo: John Rata

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The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

The Pantograph Punch publishes urgent and vital cultural commentary by the most exciting new voices in Aotearoa.

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