When Helen Ceballos first saw dancer Edrimael Delgado Reyes perform his voguing piece, she said it was like “seeing a body that was transforming before her eyes.”
In “Juegos de Cariño,” the Puerto Rican performer and father of the Kiki House of LaBori showcased a queer body experiencing colonialism while in the Bronx. This Friday, Miami can take a note from Delgado in a workshop he is hosting in Opa Locka during Art Basel.
“Black queer folks usually are outside the art spaces,” he said. “It’s going to be epic.”
A part of Ten North Group’s “Art of Transformation,” Delgado will be performing solo pieces and then leading a free voguing workshop with guests at The Pavilion on Dec. 8 from 7 to 10 p.m. with DJ Pressure Point. The group worked with Plataforma Eje, where Ceballos serves as executive director, to uplift Caribbean artists and explore the African diaspora.
“The work that Edrimael is doing is very political and gives a space for liberation and also intersecting so many identities in the space, and that is very rare to find that on the island,” Ceballos said. “It’s putting the microphone in the hands of artists that are experiencing displacement directly on the island with these different identities, in this case of a queer Caribbean identity.”
Delgado, who lives in San Juan, is a self-taught voguer. A visual artist, he started dancing at 18 and was told that his style contained elements of vogue — a modern dance style with roots in the 1960s Harlem ballroom scene. Madonna gave it a platform in her 1990 “Vogue” music video, and it was the focus of the documentary “Paris is Burning.” Most recently, the television show “Pose” dramatized the world of ballroom culture and its competing houses. Delgado was enamored with voguing’s gender-bender qualities, and while the culture is nothing new for Puerto Ricans in New York, it was almost nonexistent on the island. Five years ago, he started teaching it to local dancers and collaborated with dancers in Mexico City and New York.
“Mexico City has a very huge kiki ballroom scene,” the dancer says. “Two years ago, I went to New York for the first time in my life and I started connecting with Puerto Rican people who were doing ballroom since the ‘80s; the icons and founders of houses.”
Infusing your personality, style and story into your performance is the essence of voguing. For Delgado, he mixes elements of traditional Puerto Rican la bomba, a traditional dance hailing from enslaved people as a form of rebellion. Colonialism is also a relevant theme for him, as he wants to share the strained relations between Puerto Rico and the United States.
“Trying to make that connection with the diaspora in this time of crisis in Puerto Rico is very important,” he says. “There are a lot of Puerto Ricans outside; they don’t live here and they have no idea what goes on the island because they’re so removed from it. Not all of them, but there are people who have a superficial idea about what Puerto Rico is facing.”
Delgado choreographed “Juegos de Cariño” while in residency at the Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance, a 40-minute piece mixing basketball and dance. It was here that Cebellos saw his work and wanted to bring it to Art Basel; he’ll be performing an abbreviated version of the piece. The two have long collaborated together, and Cebellos will be hosting a free discussion panel, “Cartographies of Displacement: A Curatorial Practice” on Dec. 8.
“I want people to be happy with themselves, that they find beauty in themselves,” Delgado said about what he hopes participants take from his workshop, before giving OutSFL a preview of his dance moves. “Say, ‘This is who I am. I’m beautiful, I’m present, I’m here, look how beautiful I am, you are not, you cannot, you could never!’ That's powerful.”
For more information as well as the full run of events during The Art of Transformation, visit tennorthgroup.com/art-of-transformation.
A special thank you to Isabella Marie Garcia of Ten North Group for assisting with translations.