For weeks thousands of people crowded streets of colombiaand protest against inequality, growing poverty and police violence. President Ivan Duque deployed the country’s army and police, and more than 40 people were killed.
On April 28, during a demonstration in Bogota, three young dancers confronted their fear of violence there with the ultimate expression of life: dancing.
Piisciis, or Akhil Canizales, 25; Nova, or Felipe Vilandia, 25 – both identified as non-binary – and Oxide, or Andres Ramos, 20, a transgender, was identified by other protesters in the crowd due to a viral video of them dancing that they posted on social media. two weeks ago.
“We decided to go out to protest for our human rights but also for there to be some visibility for the LGBTQ community and the non-binary community,” Piisciis said.
As they approached the Capitolio Nacional, or National Capitol, in Plaza Bolívar, Bogotá’s main square, a woman suggested to the Piisciis that the three go up the steps of the plaza and dance as they did in their viral video. There was one problem: riot police crowded up the stairs.
“We were very afraid because everyone in Colombia is afraid of ESMAD,” Piisciis said in an interview, referring to the Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbio, or mobile anti-disorder squadron. “They are violent and aggressive with us.”
However, they proceeded.
Wearing yellow warning tape that read “peligro,” meaning danger, wrapped loosely around their trunks like tube tops, and black pants, heels, Nova’s black ski mask and long blonde wig on Axid, they climbed into the descent.
“We went up there very scared,” Peschis said. “The truth is that at that moment we were afraid because we didn’t know when someone would throw a stone or explosives at us or if the police would beat us.”
When Nova, Piisciis, and Axid reached the highest landing of the Capitolio, the music began to play. she was “Through Colombia to the end,” a guaracha song written by Piisciis to protest. By the time the riot police noticed, they were already in vogue.
In the song’s first break, as seen in a widely circulated video, Piisciis, Nova, and Axid started waving their arms and hips simultaneously; Left, right, left, left. It was a classic fashion show. Then they shook their heads at the beat, vigorously flipping their hair.
When the officers in riot gear began to encircle the trio, they slipped cunningly and walked past the crowd while making their sensual hand movements. The crowd erupted in cheers.
With more officers encircling the group, Nova crouched and began to head toward the rhythm, little by little getting closer to the officers. Their arms and hands are clenched and elegantly folded, with their fingers bulging out in front of their faces like Baroque motifs. The duck walk was in the ballroom.
Oxide was handed a large flag to Colombia by a stranger and began to wave it, as the Piisciis also walked close to the protesters. Then the Piisciis rose to their feet and rolled their bodies vigorously, their hair closely following him. Suddenly, the Piisciis stopped mid-turn, bended one knee while keeping the other straight, and fell straight to the ground, onto their back. Iconic dive.
Ducks walking, spinning, hand movements and diving all came from modern ball culture, a world far away.
Drag Hall first appeared in Harlem in the 1970s. It was a haven for gay blacks and Latinos who had been ostracized from the mainstream white community. Ballroom was a great world they imagined and brought to life.
Competing in drag ball events has strengthened the community among various marginalized groups. While many were not welcomed into nightclubs or bars at the time, they could turn up the ball as is, and then some, and take it out.
At the protest in Bogotá, dancing on this tradition allowed Pechis, Nova and Axed to claim an international vision in a state hostile to their identities, they said.
“In that moment, we were all connected to the message of struggle, resistance, empathy, strength, and love,” Beskes said.
Nova said, “We resisted with art and vogue. We were afraid, but the people and the love of the audience were our gasoline to get up there and face the police.”
Piisciiss learned how to dance this way by watching videos on YouTube. They said they started in 2014 and learned New York’s modern style. They have watched videos of Leiomy Maldonado, a judge on the HBO Max TV show, “Legendary,” and many other contemporary dancers like Yanou Ninja and Archie Ninja Burnett. At the beginning of the year, the Piisciis held dance lessons where they met Nova and Oxide. Then Piisciis learned Nova.
Nova said Colombia’s modern ballroom culture is growing. “It’s very new, only five years old, but during that time it has grown and expanded to include cities like Medellin, Cúcuta, Pereira and others.”
However, they are often denied space to perform, Piisciiss said. The group hopes to break down barriers and spread popularity across their countries.
“We want everyone to talk and ask about fashion,” Piisciis said. “They think it only exists in the United States, and that’s why we’re here: to show that it’s not just on TV or fiction.”
“He is here in Bogota.”