Sparkly, Magical, Trouble Makers – A Conversation With Kai
We spoke to the badass bi creative collective based in LA and immediately we fell in love with them and their work. They also host unicorn pARTy every year for bi pride month – as if we couldn’t love them anymore?!
Q – Hi Kai thanks for chatting with us fellow UNICORNS. Wanna start by telling us a bit about yourself and your work with GTM?
I come from hardcore dance background. I trained as a ballerina and performed all over the world.
First of all I’m almost 6ft tall and I’m black – there’s not a huge space for me in ballet, particularly at that time, even in contemporary I’m a little bit of an oddity. Much less these days, but I was when I was trying to figure out where I belonged.
But that pushed me to start to make work on my own which wasn’t my original plan.
In the course of doing that, over 5 years,
I kept exploring themes around bisexuality and realised that a lot of the same people were working with me
and that they all almost also identified as bi or queer.
I was like ‘wait a minute there’s a 11 of us, we’ve been working together for years we should probably make this a thing’. So that’s how Good Trouble Makers was born.
It was never a goal or a plan, I actually fought it for a while and then had to admit that this thing had grown and it was time for me to take some ownership and give it some shape.
In the course of doing that I realised, well I hope I’m wrong, but I don’t know a space anywhere else in the world that’s really focusing on centre of the spectrum folks in the arts.
Realising that we were occupying a unique space, a lot of people seemed to be drawn to because we also try to centralise marginalised communities including people of colour, women, trans, disabled people we try to
make sure all those threads are running through our work.
It’s a grand experiment to see what this is going to be and it’s exciting to see it grow in this authentic way. We’re holding a space that isn’t anywhere else. It feels important.
Q – So you get to work with so many talented people then?
Yeah it’s kinda the best!
Q – Word on the grapevine is you guys have a similar name to us for an event you run?
Yeah when I saw that you were called UNICORN it made me laugh, as our flagship event is called unicorn pARTy. It’s for the same reasons I think. Why not take this word that means so many different things and can also be negative and
make it our own sparkly, magical thing?!
Q – Can you tell us more about this magical, kick-ass party?
We partnered with The Bootleg Theatre in LA and host it once a year in September in aid of bi pride month. We’re planning to be there again this year too as we love the space as it’s multi use. They have a beautiful seated theatre that seats about 100.
In the theatre we do a dance performance and then there’s a flexible factory space which we use for vendor village. Here we invite bi and queer vendors to come with all their stuff. Then there’s a bar that also has a music stage and we have musical performances.
You get a whole bunch of stuff all in one night and it’s a lot of fun!
Q – Is the Good Trouble Makers your full time gig now?
As of the beginning of 2020 it is, which feels scary and weird. Last year I was trying to still do outside work and do this but I worked myself into insanity.
It felt too soon but it seems to be happening and I’m going to trust it and go with it. I still do a little outside teaching and choreography work, but what I do day-to-day is Good Trouble Makers now.
It feels big and scary and a big responsibility but also like it’s what I am supposed to be doing.
Q: How important do you feel queerness in arts & culture is?
It’s part of the bedrock of arts of culture let’s be real.
It’s really important, for us it’s critical and vital also self care and mental health and all of that stuff because being in a space where people are doing similar things and
sharing similar values is mind blowing and incredibly powerful
and I think it’s something we don’t get to do very often.
To me queerness feels central to our work. It allows us to create community within our group and with other artists.
We just hosted an incredible artist for a workshop who is a queer disabled woman of colour and to get to have that type of exchange with her is great.
We also worked with an artist from Texas who works with queer theory and what does queer in the moving body look like.
To realise that there are all these people having beautiful, very specific conversations in performance and getting to bring them together means we can support each other and learn from each other.
As much as making work is what we do, building community is as well.
Q – Do you have any specific work you want to share via UNICORN?
We have stuff online but i’ve taken a lot of it down because a) so that we can encourage people to join us in real life and b) unless it’s made for film it’s not always the best representation of the performance.
I think the best way to connect and learn about what we do is to go to our website
We are releasing a dance film in June and will be premiering at the One City One Pride festival in west Hollywood.
We have InVISIBLE – this is where we host workshops all over and invite bi folks to come in, we help them identify and record stories that were important in their bi coming out or bi personhood. We then take those into the dance studio and create pieces based on those stories and that’s what we perform at unicorn pARTy as one performance.
We’re also in the process of securing funding to turn our live performance, Invisible, into an online performance. Here you’ll be able to listen to the stories online, see the dance films – but that’s still in the works.
Q – The theme of our second issue is ‘Dream’. What is your dream for TGTM and UNICORN party?
For unicorn pARTy – the dream is that it is a long running annual event in LA that showcases queer, bi talent from all over the world so that there is a night where we can all realise that our community has rich arts and cultures and amazing communites all over the world.
For Good Trouble Makers – it’s a big dream and vision. From the beginning I’ve always been clear that our goal is we’re creating our own institution. Other organisations can approach us and work with us, but our values and what we do are not up for compromising. So what I’d like to see is us become a home for arts and performance and community building that encompasses these communities that we work with.
We see ourselves become a support structure for queer artists in Los Angeles, a community hub and also artistic generators.
We’re on our way and we’re actually further along than I realised.
I’m also the artistics director of a rehearsal & performance space called Downtown Dance & Movement. The two things really work together it gives us a home to develop creative programming in and we want to keep developing this so that there’s a physical home for queer and bi artists to come work.
Q – Do you have any bi role models? If so who are they and why do you look up to them?
That’s a great question.
I think I have less role models and more people I feel like I have learned a lot from and have influenced the way that I work.
I joke a lot that I blame Ian Lawrence for this…
*points to her face*
He was pretty instrumental in me really being visibly out and bi in a larger way. I’ve been out since I was 15, but taking a more active role in organising and activism is really because of him. He is someone I admire and have learned a lot from.
Also Nicole Kristal of Still Bisexual is also someone I’ve learned a lot from. She’s where my interest in telling bi stories came from.
In terms of icons i think there’s the people that all of us just feel proud to get to claim like the Frida Kahlos.
I admire Sara Ramirez, the actor especially as a woman of colour who’s trying to navigate how all of those identities work together.
Yeah there’s a couple!
Q: If you had one piece of advice for your younger self (looking back now) what would it be and why?
Stay the course.
I was lucky that I grew up in a ‘pretty supportive’ environment. There’s no way I could have known that my life would turn out like this so what I would tell myself is:
Stay the course and trust being yourself is the right direction to go
even when that feels harder or fitting in would be easier. FUCK THAT! Be you it’s gonna work out ok.