Did you know that there are three distinct styles of voguing? I didn’t, and, in my ask-a-bunch-of-stupid-questions approach to interviewing I found out all about them when I sat down to chat with Gerard Reyes – choreographer, dancer, teacher, video artist, somatic sex educator, intimacy coordinator and Montreal’s kiki ballroom scene pioneer.
We caught up to talk about Citibar, which, prior to its closing in 2014 served as a meeting point for t-girl sex workers and the men who loved them. The venue was also the initial inspiration for Gerard’s choreographed piece, The Principle of Pleasure, and in our chat he shared what was special to him about the place.
Find out more about Gerard at his website.Transcript
Gerard Reyes 00:00
I have a special place in my heart because I really feel like it was my introduction into the trans community.
K Anderson 00:11
Hello, I am K Anderson and you are listening to lost spaces, a podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode I talk to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories they created there and the people that they used to know. Gerard craze is a choreographer, dancer, teacher, video artist, somatic sex educator, intimacy coordinator and Montreal’s key key ballroom scene pioneer. We caught up to talk about Montreal’s city bar, which prior to its closing in 2014, served as a meeting point for tea girl sex workers and the men who loved them. The venue also served as the initial inspiration for Sharad choreographed peace, the principle of pleasure
Gerard Reyes 01:37
city bar was a place that I would go to, in Montreal, north of the village that was like my local bar. But it was also trans bar. And for trans woman, and I would go there with my then boyfriend, and often times our friend Patsy. And it was a place that it was a unique place in Montreal, it was the only trans bar that I knew of. And and it had a clientele that was like, trans female sex workers, and straight men who like the trans woman, and then Not really. So it wasn’t like your typical. It wasn’t your typical straight bar. It wasn’t your typical gay bar. It was it offered like a it was for another client. And so that made it very unique in Montreal.
K Anderson 02:52
And so do you remember the first time you went?
Gerard Reyes 02:56
Yeah. Well, actually, it was, it was my boyfriend who showed me this bar that I’d passed a million times and never made any point to go into or really hadn’t even it was not on my map. So So when so I was surprised that there was a bar or that, that my friend that my boyfriend was inviting me to that bar, because it was so not on my radar. And then when we walked in, and it was in my, my neighborhood, my neighborhood, and then when we walked in Yeah, it’s like, it had a kind of atmosphere and community that like, was so not common for Montreal, like really unique. And, you know, we would play like we would, we would speak with the bartender and kind of, like, make jokes with the bartender. had that that like back and forth, kind of chitchat, but also like jokey change, chitchat?
K Anderson 04:08
And like flirting or
Gerard Reyes 04:13
I don’t know, flirting, I would say more just like joking. And like, it’s like, very familiar kind of vibe. Yeah. Even if I’d never met that bartender before. So it was like, very, yeah, it felt like a kind of strangely, even though it was like very, it was new to me. It actually felt very familiar and very, like, very much like home because there was a kind of the event and even though we weren’t there, typical customers. Like we would have actually walked in in drag. That’s what that’s what we did. We walked in and drag and and the drag that we were doing was like dirty drag is what we’d call it. Meaning that like we weren’t trying to actually pass As women, and we have like facial hair and body hair, and but we would we would, we would do drag as a way of, like, making another otherwise boring night into a fun night. Okay. And so that would be like we saw that. So it was also it wasn’t just how I was perceiving the, the bar when I walked in it was also how we were perceived by the people in the bar, which was also not your common you know, your common life path, your common person in the bar? Like we were both not that not the not the usual gender or not the usual sexuality and not dress the usual way. So there was a kind of like, you know, when you’re in the zoo, and you like looking, you’re observing animals, it’s like we were kind of in that like sniffing each other out type of deal.
K Anderson 05:56
But despite that, you felt welcomed? Yeah, yeah, definitely. And, and so you said before that the bar was not on your radar? And is that because you just didn’t know it existed? Or you dismissed it? Because you knew it was for trans women?
Gerard Reyes 06:13
No, I didn’t know as a trans woman. I just didn’t know it existed. Okay. And, and I think what happens often, you know, people talk about the LGBTQ eye, to spirited, etc. community. And it’s not one community. Yeah, it’s very clearly not one community. And so those those like gender, and sexuality divides, really are very visible in like places, the places that you go. So at that bar, it wasn’t like, so much for queer or queer or gay or lesbian. It was for trans women. And it was for straight men.
K Anderson 07:00
Yeah. Until then, what’s like the rest of the scene in Montreal? Like, is it very segregated? Or is it kind of more fluid?
Gerard Reyes 07:10
It’s changed Actually, it’s changed a lot since I first moved here. The first time. Well, when I first came to Montreal for summer, it was like in 2002, around then. And then I moved here in 2006. And since 2006, I’ve been in and out like, I’ve, I’ve moved to New York, I moved to LA, I moved to Berlin. And so I’ve been back and forth. And back at the very beginning, like in 2002, the village was very gay male, very gay, Sis, male. Very white, right? Yeah. And like, almost every establishment, every venue, every bar, every club, cater to that clientele. And then there was, I think, like, one lesbian bar, I think no trans bars for trans women or trans men. And then there was one drag bar. And now, and then obviously, there was also city bar, I don’t actually know when city bar opened, but I didn’t discover it until like 2011. So that’s very, a lot of years actually living in Montreal that I didn’t know city bar existed. And now I’d say the village has, like, it has like had like, kind of crumbled. It has kind of crumbled. It’s trying to research but it doesn’t really serve the same purpose as it did before. You know, there was a time when, when I think gay men, maybe trans, maybe a lesbian women were in a place of being, like being the How should I say this? Where where, like, if we’re talking about the full spectrum, where like, because of because of AIDS and HIV, were stigmatized, highly stigmatized, I think I mean, not just because of that, but that was one one reason, I think, and also trans women of course, and sex workers etc. However, I just think like as a as a society, gay males have come to be have have gotten a lot of have come to rise into like a lot of positions of power. Have a lot of visibility now in television shows and movies and you know, and it’s an It’s they’re not actually the people I think that need most protection. You know. And so I think the focus has changed. And also society has changed. So I think people, younger generations are not identifying necessarily are much more fluid, gender and sexual sexually fluid. And so it doesn’t necessarily it’s not always like, you don’t need to go, like, hang out just with your gay friends if you’re gay. If you’re gay male, you know, and that that’s where you feel safe. But you can have friends who are, who are trans, you can have friends who are queer, who are non binary, who are lesbian who are straight. It’s like, it’s all good. I think that that changes how people and then of course, there’s online hookups and dating all that
K Anderson 10:48
stuff. It seems it seems become a lot more mixed, then over the years.
Gerard Reyes 10:52
Yeah, definitely. I think so. And now I think also, like, people have been saying that, like, straight people are coming to like, crash weird parties. So, I mean, is that crashing? Is it just like, we want to hang out? Because we like the way you party? Do you see what I mean?
K Anderson 11:13
So you don’t feel like that’s watering anything down? If there’s lots of straight people adequate party?
Gerard Reyes 11:23
Look, in general, I’d say I’m for the unification of the human race. And so I understand why there are divides. And I while I do while most of my friends are queer. I think I think of queer as more of a mindset than as of necessarily anything else. So like, if there are straight people, I think straight people should be welcome in queer spaces, as long as they respect. Yes, we’re people who are there. And if they’re planning to disrespect the queer people who are there, that doesn’t make any sense?
K Anderson 12:01
Yeah, but it’s not necessarily that they’re planning to disrespect. It’s that they don’t kind of appreciate the privilege that they’re bringing with them. And the and the way that that can come across, I suppose. And I guess that’s what people have problems with. But let’s, let’s talk about city bar. So what, what inspired you to create your show about the space?
Gerard Reyes 12:34
I’d say. So, when I say that my show was inspired by that space, I didn’t try to recreate that space, in my show. That it was really like, in French, we say an alarm, like, like a kind of like a launch, like a launching pad. That led me into discovering a lot of things that became the piece. So So meeting a lot of trans women in that, that bar. And that was I think, like, really, I feel like the beginning of me learning about trans people, actually. And, and then I went on from that, like, I went on to learn vote. Study in New York, and in the ballroom scene, especially in New York, Vogue, and Vogue, Vogue fan, which is one of the styles of Vogue was created by femme queens or trans women. And so, and then in the ballroom scene, there’s also trans women, sex workers, and, you know, not just trans women, sex workers, other sex workers and with other gender, other genders. But so it was like a kind of an opening, I’d say, into into a new community into a new part of the human race and learning about people who are who have another experience on her. Right?
K Anderson 14:16
Yeah. Yeah. And so when you say you didn’t like know, anything about trans women was that just like, you just had didn’t have anyone in your life? Who didn’t kind of engage with
Gerard Reyes 14:32
now because again, like, you know, often like I often like I’d say, I mean, I don’t know what the stats are in terms of like how many people identify as trans like in a whole population, and I’m sure it differs from country to country. I don’t think there are a lot of trans people if you like, consider the entire population. Right. And so unless somebody I’ve probably met trans people before in my past, I just necessarily they didn’t necessarily. They weren’t, they didn’t mess, maybe they’ve just passed, and I couldn’t tell that they were trans. Or, you know, maybe, or they didn’t tell me that they were trans or it didn’t come up in conversation. And so it wasn’t something that I was thinking about,
K Anderson 15:24
actually very much. Until then, and then. So how were you introduced to voguing?
Gerard Reyes 15:31
So I lived in New York from 2004 to 2006. And in New York, some of my friends like I would take, I’m a dancer, so I would take like different styles of dance classes. And one of the classes that I took was like hip hop, which was actually the first dance style that I that I learned. But informally, like not through taking classes, and then some of the people that I would take hip hop class with, also vote. And I remember like being out at a club, after one of our classes, so going out with some of my friends, and then one of them started voting. And I didn’t know what the fuck that was, and I had, but I loved it. And I remember I said, like, what do you do? And then he said, Well, I’m blogging and, and that, like, fast forward that like, totally, I just erased that memory from my brain. And then like, fast forward to 2011, I think or 2012. And my boyfriend, the same boyfriend that I would go to city bar with. He was from New York. And he I like would share some of the videos of what I was doing in the studio. And, and so I started, like working on a new piece, and that was the beginning of my choreographic career. And I show him a video and then he’d say he, I remember him telling me like, this is this is really good. And this is also makes me think of voguing you know what voguing is. And I said, No, I don’t know. I don’t know what it is. And so then he we watched, Paris is burning. And I found out more about, about the scene. And I was touring in the United States. And I was in Pennsylvania, which was about like, a three hour drive from New York and I had a couple days off. So then I went into New York to take a class, like I looked online, I found that there were classes that I went into New York to take a class. And like, within the first 10 minutes, I was in love, like it was, it was a very clearly a passion. And it just like synced, it just like linked so many fragmented parts of who I am. As a dancer, as a queer male, as a Latino, as you know, somebody who loves fashion, who loves posing, who loves all these things. So it just married all of that and was like a space that I had never had before to perform, perform kind of what’s inside of me, as opposed to just think about the, and we came to realize actually all the hetero normative rules that had been placed on me even as a dancer. And as I mean, I also do contemporary dance. So let’s say as a contemporary dancer, because contemporary dance all often thinks of themselves. dancers are the dance like media thinks of itself as quite avant garde and very, like progressive and actually, it’s like, actually, not,
K Anderson 18:41
it’s just not and you saying that because their agenda rose?
Gerard Reyes 18:46
Yeah, it’s very binary. It’s very binary, the Korea because it because actually a lot of the choreographers. I mean, the choreographer I worked with most not history now she is, well, I don’t know how she would identify in terms of her sexuality. But she is sis female. And, and her work is actually quite binary. It’s very male, female and very archetypal. Like she allows, she allows the females in her company to more flexibility and how they behave on stage. So you can be like, soft, soft and sweet and tender as a female on stage. And you can also represent yourself as very, like, strong and I don’t know, strong, strong and like muscular and like rough and you can, there’s a more of a spectrum in the expression gender expression for females, but for men, it was like, you’re Adonis, you’re like strong. You’re here to lift women. You’re here to be macho, you know, like, so that was what I was living with, as like, that was my that was my job for you. Seven years before before going to city Barfi before finding meeting this boyfriend before, like discovering how to play with gender and, and open up that conversation and then learning about trans people and learning about ballroom and Vogue. It was like, my world was like blown apart.
K Anderson 20:24
And, and so talk to me. So when there’s different is it different genres of dance different sub genres? Is that what you call it? Or like, the different because there’s just types evoking styles? Yeah. Okay. That’s that’s a better word. How many like different styles of voguing are there? There’s three. Oh, okay. Oh, yeah, that’s a manageable number. So, yeah, so can you and you specialize in ballroom Kiki.
Gerard Reyes 20:57
So I’m the I’m the pioneer of the Kiki ballroom scene in Montreal. So quick, like side note, is that after I went to New York, and I trained with like some of the best voters in the world, like Jose extravaganza, who was on that Madonna tour, way back when Archie Burnett, who was the grandfather of the house of Ninja, the mother, Amazon laomi Maldonado, who is the judge on known as now probably most famously, as the judge, and volger on some Nike commercials, but also on the legendary series that just came out. Yeah. Yeah, and many, many others, many other artists. And so then, after that, I created the solo. But then I wanted to also teach. And so I got some of these teachers permission to teach bobe back in Montreal, and then move to Berlin, where there was a scene and continue to teach there. And then when I moved back from Berlin, to Montreal, that’s when I started the scene here, but I had continued to teach also, when I would come back intermittently between on trips back to Montreal. So your question was about, like, what are the different style?
K Anderson 22:24
Gerard Reyes 22:25
so there’s old way, new way invoke them.
K Anderson 22:29
Gerard Reyes 22:30
And in terms of the evolution of the styles, that actually, it’s not just that, like, bam, there were like three styles. It’s not like the Big Bang. So there was there was first old way, which was the first way
K Anderson 22:44
and how did it get that name?
Gerard Reyes 22:47
It got that afterwards? Yeah. First, it was first performance, it was actually first spin in depth or pop spin a dip. That’s what it was called. And then became old way once a new way came around. Yeah. And then new way was much more. So old way is very higher hieroglyphic very martial arts inspired. Very, like so kind of two dimensional. Kind of what you might gender as like, more male or masculine. It included also like, some freezes, so like, be bowing freezes. Because if you can think back to like, imagine New York, the 70s it, like people on the street, would be kind of mixing to or like seeing each other inspired by each other or in the club, seeing each other and styles and hip hop and you know, some things from Hip Hop come into voguing. Right. And and so there’ll be some crossover like things don’t always are not as pure as we think of them later on. Right. And then new way was that but much more about balance and had to do a lot I think there were a lot more dancers probably like train dancers that came into the scene to push all the way into new way work. So it was more contortion a bendy flexible like balance and precision. Like that’s what the and faster. And the music also changed over time right in the scene. And then there was Vogue fan which was created by femme queens or the trans women in the scene, who kind of changed the old way into a more feminine, like, we’ll say just feminine in terms of typical genders, and so, softening, softening the lines, softening the quality making it more about the illusion of Like this, like hourglass figure, so, catwalk then becomes kind of guess what? I don’t, I don’t subscribe, subscribe to so much of these gender norms, but so I play with them. But I think of myself more as more fluid or non gender non conforming. So for me, it’s like fun. But for some other people it’s about it’s, it’s, it’s who they are, you know, and it’s it’s about passing, and it’s about belonging and feeling good. And showing showing themselves in that way.
K Anderson 25:38
And to do to you saying that because some people feel like more closely aligned to one style of dance.
Gerard Reyes 25:46
Yes, absolutely. One of those one of those styles of Oh, yeah, it’s not so common that people do more than one.
K Anderson 25:53
Gerard Reyes 25:54
Yeah. That’s interesting. Because it’s not just about a style of dance in the sense that, like, now it’s becoming that, but that’s not like, if you go in, it has a purpose, it serves a purpose. You know, ballet is like a style of a style. Right? Yeah. I mean, it’s also, I don’t know how many hundreds of years old and very, like links to aristocracy, and, you know, palaces and monarchies and all that stuff. But, but now, it’s like, a way that people train in a way that people like a living, like a, like a way for people to make a living. Whereas Bo, is so much it’s so linked to, like the queer, trans experience. Gay, you know, that, it’s about finding, it’s about expression. And it’s about connecting fragmented parts. It’s also I’d say, like, even it’s about healing. Because it’s about connecting parts of ourselves, that are have been like stripped, that we’ve been stripped of, or that we haven’t been allowed to express because of taboos and the way society is. So it’s comes from a very different place, I think, Why you? Now people can be like, sis hat, you know, women or men who want a Vogue. It’s rare that there’s, there’s sis men, but like, sis hat women, for sure, will come in vogue. And, and have fun, and also, you know, express parts of their sexuality or parts of, or do it for exercise. And I mean, that that’s what happens the world over with. Yeah, and, and with bringing things, opening things up to outside is that a lot of people are invited to the party now.
K Anderson 27:54
Yeah. But I guess you saying like in terms of some of the more established and older forms of dance, there’s more. There’s more of a kind of career path for want of a better term, if someone is learning that there’s more of a kind of, this is what you can do when you’re a practicing ballet. dancer. But, but voguing is more about kind of your identity. And and, and you would get involved in it because of expression rather than it’s something that you learned from when you were a kid.
Gerard Reyes 28:34
I’m sure there’s 1,000,001 reasons why people get involved with voguing. So I won’t tell you I won’t say well, I won’t say that it is one specific way. I can maybe just mostly speak for myself and what it means to me and why I do it. Which is that for me, it I wasn’t doing it for the cool. I wasn’t doing it to be trendy. I wasn’t doing it for my career, even though it was part of that exploration, right. It was it It came from a place of like real curiosity. And, and a feeling that like this was deeply connected to like the core of me. Like it spoke to me and like I said, you know, after 10 minutes of being in class with Benny Ninja, I, I was just sold, I was like this is this is this shatters the idea of like, self criticism, and really opens up this idea of like self love. And in my solo also, there are two mirrors, which are part of the set, and that that mirror was present in city bar. And that mirror was also present in my first vote class. And in my first vote class, we were asked to look into the mirror and use the mirror As a tool of impact of empowerment, rather than as a tool of criticism, which is how it’s usually used in dance classes,
K Anderson 30:07
but like you’re not standing straight now for you’re not your leg isn’t going high enough that type of thing.
Gerard Reyes 30:13
Yeah. And then it’s also just ingrained. You don’t even need the teacher to tell you that anymore. Because it’s actually just ingrained in the way that you look at yourself in a class. Yeah, in a dance class general. So it’s kind of it becomes the invisible voice in the room. You know? Yeah, yeah. And, and that was, we were actually taught to do the opposite of that. In the vo class, we were told by the teacher, look at yourself, and think about, like, all of the things that, that you love about yourself, and look at yourself, and imagine like that you are perfect this way, that you don’t have to change anything about yourself in order to feel that kind of feeling of grander and glamour and worth, hmm, you can just like, tell yourself that, and now start believing it.
K Anderson 31:06
And wait, and after 10 minutes, you started believing it? Yeah, 10 minutes, that’s all it took.
Gerard Reyes 31:13
I mean, that. I’m also you know, it’s wasn’t the first time I’ve I’ve had, I like thought about myself in the world. And a lot of these things like, these things are part of practices that I’ve begun, like, since I was 17, or 16. And I had like, a depression, and realize that the Depression was actually a symptom of the environment I was in and not, it had nothing to do with my worth. It had to do with other people making me feel like I was not worthy. Yeah, like, I was not sexy, or fun, or, I don’t know, you know, any of those things that, like a good person to be friends with or whatever, popular, interesting, you know what I mean? So, back then, like, that’s when I started to become interested in meditation and Buddhism, and, and all of that so strangely, like, a lot of people wouldn’t necessarily link like Vogue to Buddhism. But I think there are, there are like, a lot of at least the way I’ve learned it here and like the Western world. So maybe bastardize Buddhism is a better way to say it. elecard Buddhism? But yeah, it’s it. That was like work that I’ve been doing on myself since I was 1617. Reflecting so when I when I came in contact into contact with voguing when I was like, 30, what 3533 it was, it was not my first time not my first day at the radio rodeo here.
K Anderson 33:04
But the the we’re on the radio, but that was but but it helped solidify some of those concepts in your head.
Gerard Reyes 33:15
Yeah, of course. Of course. That’s what I that’s why I meant that’s why I said like, it fret, like fragmented pieces of me. were like, able to like come together coalesce and like, bind and like re form. Does that make sense?
K Anderson 33:32
Yeah, I’m thinking I might need to like book a class.
Gerard Reyes 33:35
While you’re in London. There are class. I know some people there.
K Anderson 33:40
And so so back to the city bar. Do you remember hearing about it closing? I did. was a sad, sad day. Why did it close?
Gerard Reyes 33:58
I’m not so good with details. I’ll just be honest about that. I think it had something to do with rent. I think it had something to do with like not having enough money to pay the rent, maybe. I know that like the event. Like I had some I knew I knew the person who lived above city bar. And that person was also like, evicted. So then they they did like a rehaul of the whole building. And now it’s like a gentrified bar. Boy, yeah. Yeah. So I think it has to do with money. It was just about like, getting more money in there getting a bar with a clientele that Yeah, would would give them more money.
K Anderson 34:47
Hmm. And did you get Did you get a chance to say goodbye.
Gerard Reyes 34:53
I’m kind of in a sort of like an informal way. So I’m also An ally of sex, the sex work community. And they’re I think it’s the 17th of December is, is like sex workers rights day. And I’m not I you know, I speak many different languages that’s not necessarily the right title. Like sex worker appreciation day maybe. And so so I joined some friends, some sex worker friends. And we had done a tour we did a tour of, of like downtown Montreal, and we are on our tour, we stopped by city bar. And we had a moment in front of City bar to pay respects to the bar as a space that that has served trans sex workers for many years. And so that, for me was a moment of like reflection and gratitude towards city bar and the inspiration that the people there gave me a space they created for me and my partner and my boyfriend to also be ourselves and to have some fun.
K Anderson 36:22
Did you ever go to city bar? Well, if you did, tell me all about it. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook with the user name and K Anderson music. Hit me up share photos, tell me stories. Let me have a bit more insight into that world. You can also find out more about Gerard at his website share x rays, R e y e s.com. Love spaces is not only a podcast, but a concept record as well. I’ve been writing songs about queer venues, and the people who used to live their lives there. And we’ll be releasing songs over the next year. You can hear the first single, which is called well groomed boys and is also playing underneath my talking right this moment on all good streaming platforms. If you enjoyed this episode, I would really appreciate if you subscribed, left a review on Apple podcasts or just told other people who you think might be interested in listening to. I am K Anderson and you have been listening to lost spaces.