A Love Story About Work by Liz Tenuto by Liz Tenuto

Liz Tenuto

As a lover:

About 3 years ago, there was momentum that was beginning to build in San Francisco, a pulse that kept getting stronger and stronger between new transplants, dancers, performance artists, drag and nightlife performers, comedians, documenters, mentors and curators. Through showing up for each other, engaging in dialogue, socializing and continuing to produce work, a community grew. Like any good relationship, it
is a metaphoric orgy—we are collaborating, curating, communicating, seeing shows
together, discussing the shows, SQUARTING and hosting labs. We share evening performance bills, friendships and potlucks. Our size has been growing now for 3 years.

Most know us as the queer performance community.

As a worker:
The audience growth has lead to a formalized artistic success of sorts. With audience growth comes ticket sales, which means interest from producing theaters. Economically speaking, grants and ticket sales fund artistic work today. If one has a growing audience, then fancier theaters will want to produce their work and they will be able to apply for loftier grants. We have built a momentum so far, and by the laws of physics, the rate of change of the momentum of a particle (queer performance scene) is proportional to the resultant force acting on the particle (grants, production theaters, curators) and is in the direction of that force (how we write about or advertise ourselves). Within our local artistic fields, the top has opened itself up to us. We have relationships and interest from established performance producing houses (like when Angela Maddox gave us tickets to YBCA shows for free or deeply discounted for a season) and local publications (like when Rob Avila wrote an article in the SF Bay Guardian about the burgeoning queer performance scene in the Bay Area in April of 2011). Many of us have personal artistic mentors like Sara Shelton Mann, Augusta Moore and Keith Hennessy who are gifted and experienced. Many have jobs teaching, grant writing, assisting or performing for other artists or arts organizations.

The arts have historically been open to being queer (sexually and culturally). Labeling art as queer for show goers creates an assumption that within the work queer artistic history will be taken into account. If it is a theater show, I assume (for better or worse) that those involved have a working knowledge of theater. I assume that dancers will demonstrate knowledge of dance history through form. With momentum now, at this point in the SF queer performance community’s development, do our shows continue to align with being queer or dance or experimental? At what point does our language and classifications for ourselves limit us as artists? How relative is this to how queer we are personally, how much we feel like we belong in specific communities and how experienced we are as artists? When does the shift occur from working within a specific community to opening up to a diverse audience? Does that shift happen when you’ve really hit your stride in terms of aesthetic and process to the point where you believe in yourself and your work so much that lots of other people believe in you?

As a person:
Sexually, I am not queer. Culturally, in terms of being non-normative, I am. But then, can I really say that I am queer? Personally, I wouldn’t apply with my dance work to events advertised as queer art showcases (The News) or queer art festivals (Too Much!). It is because I don’t feel like I fully encompass the word. And if you believe that you fully encompass the word, isn’t it a bit insulting for me to be all up in there? Sometimes you need to give a little space. I would be in the audience at a queer show. I’d perform for someone else at a queer show. But, I wouldn’t apply with my work to a queer show because I don’t have a fluent knowledge of queer performance history. It’s a respect for what you don’t consider fully yours.


[box class=”grey_box”] About Liz Tenuto – Liz Tenuto is a student and teacher of feel good movement. In SF, she has performed with Laura Arrington, Erika Tsimbrovsky/Avy K Productions, Anne Bluethenthal and Dancers and Scott Wells and Dancers. She teaches dance to kids and teens in public schools and at ODC. She really wants health insurance one day. Liz Vimeo Page [/box]



  1. Honey, believe me, you are a queer. You’ve earned your faggot stripes. Welcome aboard!

Leave a Reply