New BBQueer Fest dance and arts festival co-produced by UCSC dance professor Gerald Casel

Four-day event created in response to Santa Cruz County resolution that racism is a public health crisis

Santa Cruz bbqueer dance and art festival banner
UC Santa Cruz associate professor of dance Gerald Casel (Photo by Crystal Birns)
UC Santa Cruz associate professor of dance Gerald Casel (Photo by Crystal Birns)

Beginning on September 30, Santa Cruz will host the first annual BBQueer Fest—a four-day dance and arts festival organized by and for QTBIPOC artists and community members. 

Comprised of 12 public events, the festival is designed to be a place where artists can share their work, celebrate their identities, and learn about their communities in a safe and public place. 

UC Santa Cruz associate professor of dance Gerald Casel is helping to co-produce the event, along with his own dance company. He explained how the festival came about.

“It is a collaboration between my company, Gerald Casel Dance, Motion Pacific, and Tannery World Dance and Cultural Center” said Casel. “We wanted to create a space where Black, Brown, and Queer people were centered, affirmed, and celebrated.” 

“It is also a response to Santa Cruz County’s resolution that racism is a public health crisis,” he added. “Instead of fighting over resources, these three dance organizations are building a coalition of inclusion and belonging so that QTBIPOC people feel safe and seen in this town.”

Casel noted that the festival will be a mix of performances, workshops, discussions, and outdoor events that highlight the vibrancy of dance artists in Santa Cruz, as well as from the Bay Area. 

“It also offers community-engagement in the form of public gatherings that address issues of racism that BIPOC folks experience while living here,” said Casel. “The festival is for all people, but there will be a few workshops dedicated to cultural affinity groups—an all-BIPOC workshop led by Melissa Wiley/Vyxen Monroe, and a white affinity group discussing white allyship and support,” he added. 

Casel’s dance company is scheduled to perform on Sunday, October 3, at 2 p.m., outside on Pacific Avenue in downtown Santa Cruz. He said he will be creating and performing a ritual/procession/dance featuring an all-BIPOC cast with live sound design by Roco Cordova. 

Casel will also be teaching a movement workshop and facilitating “Dancing Around Race”—a community-engaged participatory process that creates an opportunity for people from various dance/art/performance communities to discuss issues around systemic racism, power, and equity. 

“Participants will be invited to join in a candid conversation that acknowledges and challenges the role race plays in dance performance, production, and education,” said Casel. “We ask: What does it look/feel like to have racial equity in dance? How can we collectively confront racial capitalism, heteropatriarchy, white body supremacy, and settler colonial logics in dance? What does the future look like and how do we get there?”

Other highlights of the festival include a performance by Gregory Dawson’s company on Friday night, as well as a burlesque show and dance party on Saturday night led by Vyxen Monroe. Performers from ballet, folklorico, and post/modern dance will all be featured.  

"We want to lift up our communities of color and center healing and joy, so expect lots of dancing on and off stage and in the streets," said Casel.

“All of the workshops look amazing and the best part is that all events will be free of charge, thanks to a grant that we received from the California Arts Council’s Impact Projects, as well as Santa Cruz County and many community sponsors," he added. 

More information and the complete schedule of events can be found on the BBQueer Fest website.