Maggie Crowley on "The Femme Show"

by Brian Jewell

Bay Windows

Thursday October 11, 2007

What do a modern dance with Doc Marten boots, a stop motion film with Barbie dolls and a burlesque belly dance have in common? They're part of the sexy fun of The Femme Show, a multidisciplinary cabaret that explores queer femme identity. The show features 15 artists with backgrounds in everything from modern dance to cartooning to conceptual art.

"We thought it would be cheesy to put 'there's something for everyone' on the poster," laughs Maggie Crowley, the show's organizer, "but it's true. It's going to be a lot of fun. There's a lot of interaction with the audience, which I think people are going to enjoy. There's a film, there's stuff that's pretty straight up modern dance, there's edgy performance stuff ... it's all mixed together."

The show aims to explore some serious ideas in an accessible way. As Crowley elaborates, "The main guideline was that I wanted work that specifically addressed issues around femininity and femme identity and queerness. It's not a talent show. What I mean by that is that it's not just a place for people who identify as femme to perform. You had to be performing something related to femininity.

"There's a femme resurgence amongst our generation," she continues. "Some of us are understanding that femmeness does not equate to the tools of the patriarchy."
Combining art and identity politics might not be everyone's cup of tea, but Crowley can't imagine it any other way. After graduating from Emerson with a double major in Dance and Political Communication, she worked for the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry. In 2006, Crowley's work was recognized by The Advocate: she was one of seven young people profiled as "future gay leaders" for her work in preserving marriage equality.

Despite the hectic lifestyle of a full-time activist, Crowley always found time for dance, including a season of The Nutcracker. "That was intense," she sighs, "but it's good to at least get out of the office and get some exercise."

These days, Crowley is able to focus on her dancing; plies have replaced petitions in her life, and she makes her living as a dancer and teacher. But she hasn't lost her interest in politics, which informs her art more than ever.

"I've always made pieces that were about my experiences, and women's experiences," she explains, "and as I evolved I started to address themes that had to do with queerness. I've seen my choreographic sensibility become influenced by queer culture and drag.
"I wanted to bring those things into modern dance, but I didn't really see a place for that. That's a big part of why I started this show. I wasn't going to sit around waiting for someone to say, 'hey we're looking for queer modern dancers who use text in their performances and dance to music with words, that's catchy. I realized it would be a really long wait to hear that! I decided to create a forum for the kind of work I want to do.

"I want to make queer work for queer people to see, as opposed to dance for dance people to see."

Although The Femme Show is in its infancy, Crowley looks forward to its next phase. She'd like the show to become more collaborative, and hopes to take it on tour. Though she's not sure what shape the show will eventually take, she's certain the future is femme.

"I think this is a really exciting and empowering time for femmes and femme identity, and I'm really pleased to be part of this cultural moment."

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See The Femme Show Oct. 12 and 13 at 8 p.m. at Capen Auditorium, 85 Seaverns Ave., Jamaica Plain. Tickets $12. Info: www.thefemmeshow.com. After the Saturday show, Mad Femme Pride sponsors an after party at The Alchemist, 435 South Huntington Ave., Jamaica Plain.

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