Highlighting Queer of Color Joy Through Performance

Photo Courtesy of Detour Dance

Two drag artists walk into a bar…

This isn’t the start of a joke. Eric Garcia and Kat Gorospe Cole—otherwise known as Curro Nomi and Sir Acha—co-founded and co-direct Detour Dance, a dance-theater ensemble based in San Francisco. Garcia is a devised theater artist, dance filmmaker, and community organizer, while Cole is a director and producer in film and live performance. Together, they are working to “create contemporary dance and devised theater through a queer lens incorporating elements of drag and ballroom which are typically seen as ‘nightlife.’”

As a primarily devised theater company, Detour’s productions are collaborative and are composed of artists across disciplines and art forms. Additionally, Detour’s work is by people of color, for people of color. As stated on the organization’s website, Detour “centers the prismatic experiences of queers and people of color through bold performance and film” in an attempt to highlight and celebrate lineages and legacies, as well as to present the complexities of life today and to demonstrate future possibilities. And queer community sits at the heart of everything Detour does. As Garcia says, “Our work is so rooted in [the queer community]—from the content, to our drag aesthetics, to our collaborators; we bleed that so very clearly, and it’s been really beautiful to watch and be a part of how that queerness in our company has really bloomed into a staple of how we move through the dance world.”

In fact, Detour’s involvement with Horizons Foundation is the perfect example of this community. In 2017, Detour’s co-directors first discovered Horizons through their involvement with other partnered Bay Area organizations, like Fresh Meat Productions and the SF Transgender Film Festival. From there, the organization went on to receive its first Community Issues grant for its performance Fugue. 

This year, through its continued partnership with Horizons, Detour received another Community Issues grant to present its 2023 immersive theatrical performance We Build Houses Here. Inspired by the recent loss of some of San Francisco’s gathering spaces for queer communities of color, this production invited audiences to explore ideas of sanctuary, rebuilding from wreckage, and claiming space as we look toward generating new possibilities for the future. This production, like Fugue and other Detour performances, is immersive. As Garcia says, “It’s a space for folks to be able to dream and lose themselves with us as performers, versus being passive spectators or being spoon-fed a message.”

Through its performances, Detour encourages audiences and participants to embrace radical joy and to celebrate their communities and identities. Horizons’ 2018 San Francisco Community Needs Assessment found LGBTQ communities of color are especially at-risk and underserved. And as Garcia and Cole note: while creating works that focus on bringing awareness to this oppression and hardship is certainly important, it is also important that communities of color make and are given space for highlighting joy, dreams, and celebration. Horizons Foundation President Roger Doughty says, “In the wake of recent and unprecedented violence against the LGBTQ individuals, community-building and finding joy within ourselves is absolutely essential, and it’s our privilege to support Detour’s work.”