Arts Building, Riverside, CA 92507

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With Sami L.A. Akuna

An Intersection of Choreography, Dance, Theatre, Culture, Race, Language and Fashion


Arts 100


Wednesday, April 19, 2023


Part 1: 11:00-12:20PM
Part 2: 1:00-2:20PM








Queer Dance appears in many spaces throughout the Queer Spectrum, but is most prevalent in Urban settings, Ballroom culture, and Drag Shows, and flourishes in clubs around the globe. This is particularly true in Gay and Lesbian Dance clubs and house parties. Vogue, Runway, Flag, Social Dance, Performative, Pageantry, and Drag are just a few of the arts forms we will be exploring. Inside the exploration of Queer Dance, the play/dance will also combine the artistry of pantomime, lip-synching, impersonation, and imitation. This technique includes a focus on a range of movement, choreography, and performances that were choreographed by MVPFAFF - Mahu, Vakasalewalewa, Palopa, Fa’afafine, Akava’ine, Fakafifine and Fakaleiti/leiti, as well as Asian Pacific Islanders of mixed ancestry in Hawaiʻi.



Part I: 11:00-12:20PM

With just one day to play/dance, the play date will focus on the embodied practice of various generational Drag Shows that flourished in Hawaiʻi from the late 1960s until around 2010. We will draw from the embodied practices of The Glades Show Lounge to the Gender Bender Lip Gloss Revue, The PaperDoll Revue, The Taste of Honey, Dragon Haus, Viva Tropicana, Babes in Poiland and the House of Chandelier.


Part II: 1:00-2:20PM

The play date will peak into the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and how the Queer community responded to the crisis, and used the nightclub setting as a means for escape. Responding to traumatic events of loss and confusion about HIV/AIDS through dancing, drugs, and alcohol, the dance floor became charged with aggression, confusion, despair, and escapism. There generated the vitality of coming together as a community, and sharing the exchange of freedom and the pulsating rhythms humans have come to enjoy while going out.


About the Artist:

Sami L.A. Akuna is a National Endowment for the Arts recipient, and has choreographed and performed in Asia, Europe, North America, and across the Pacific. With over 25 years of professional experience, Sami has performed as principal dancer with Iona Contemporary Dance Theatre, and is the Artistic Director of Giinko Maraschino and Piko Dance Arts. Currently, Sami is the Arts Education and Cultural Programmer for the Mahui, and the Entertainment Director for the Honolulu Legacy Foundation since 2022.

Sami holds a BFA in Theatre and Dance, and MFA in Asian Theatre Directing from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, and currently teaches the nation's very first Queer dance class. The class explores the communal embodiment of gay nightclubbing during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s to Disco, the Hawaiʻi Drag Scene, and Vogue and Ballroom Culture. Sami began a career in Butoh and Drag in 1991, performing at various nightclubs, house parties, and non-traditional performance settings. 

Cocoa Chandelier, Sami’s alter ego, travels continuously as an advocate and spokesperson for HIV/AIDS, and is a long standing member with the United Territories of Pacific Islanders in Alliance that serves the Native Pacific Island and MVPFAFF+ community across the Hawaiian islands and the Pacific.


Event Details

  • Russell
  • Citlaly Osorio
  • Ashley Isa

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