"Yaaaaas for the Goose Club!" screamed a group of young people boogying down at R&V this year. But what is the Goose Club, you ask?
Originally conceived as an inflatable disco tent, this year the Goose Club set out to provide a sanctuary from the festival-related mayhem that reigns beyond its walls. Director and choreographer, Kayla Paige approached R&V with a very clear intention around creating a safe queer space, where there hadn’t previously been one; a place where anybody and everybody, regardless of age, gender, and inclination, could come to dance and feel comfortable in their own skin.
This year in the Goose Club, the tone was set by a group of LGBTQIA+ dancers, who used performance to celebrate and uplift diversity and inclusiveness.
Kayla called for the dancers “to bring their complete selves” within the concept she had created. In turn she hoped that the audience would feel empowered to lean into the energy they’d created in that space, “we want to make them feel comfortable to go crazy and step into their own queerness”.
Performer Sam Dawson says that "It means a lot to have a festival openly invite and create a space for the LGBTQIA+ community” and for them “the agreement that there would be no tolerance for hate speech in the environment was a game changer".
Another of the Goose Club performers, Vogue legend of House Givenchy, Raymond Fong reflects that when "queer dances and culture are woven into our dance practices on the stage, we are all inspired to claim the space as our own."
Gizzy Local’s Sam Reckas spent the 29th of December with the Goose Club crew, a camera and coupla rolls of film in tow, and recalls the atmosphere of the tent on the night.
“The energy of the Goose Club is not at all quiet; it can be felt in your chest, the bass and hype pump loud and proud. This place is a time capsule; nostalgia is rife. ‘Better off alone’ by Alice Deejay blasts on the speakers and fists pump at the ceiling. Vintage halter neck blouses, archived cargo pants, diamante skate belts, and Speed Dealer sunglasses completed the look.
As 7pm approached, the smell of spilt drinks and sweat filled the air, and so much fun was being had that a mystery concoction formed on the dance floor, turning the mud and alcohol into an adhesive so strong that shoes stuck relentlessly to the ground. There were no Fs given though, because the crowd was too busy jumping up and down in a frenzy, waiting for the much-anticipated GOOSE”.
She describes the collective mood of the room, “elevated with each provocative dance sequence” as the performances rolled. Sultry, fiery, and playful by turn, the performers embodied a fabulous cast of characters, including a martian, bunnies and of course, a goose, to play out dramatic storylines. The audience lapped it up.
For Sam, her experience in the Goose Club served as a somber reminder of how rare it still is to celebrate ‘us’ in our entirety, especially when we think about how far we’ve supposedly come. The performers too, acknowledge the challenges but are also quick to point out that it is the embracing our own unique self that can serve as a superpower when it comes to making it in the creative world.
Dancer, Isiah Reid, Ngati Porou acknowledges trying out different versions of self during their career, but believes that “you can never be truly happy in your career unless you are truly happy in yourself. Stay true to who you are and trust the process.
“Everyone has their own time, and while it might not come today, tomorrow, or even next year, it will. Bring your culture with you wherever you go…and no matter where you end up, always be proud of where you come from. Maintain a constant reflection on your origins and what makes you, you."
Dancer Jessica Tatoa spoke to Sam of embracing the vulnerability of it all, and fellow performer Samuel Dawson urged, "Don't half ass it on the emotion - the pure essence - be enveloped in it. Once you feel good in yourself, you can perform in your best skin."
Mother Honey, also of the Vogue trio of House Givenchy, summarised the power of inclusive spaces such as the Goose Tent at this year’s R&V beautifully, "Find your people, your community, and stick with them because they will be the ones who will help you develop and prosper. They will assist you in finding where you belong, your identity, yourself, and who you really are”.
Safe, inclusive spaces for our LGBTQIA+ community such as the Goose Tent in festivals such as Rhythm & Vines are an incredibly important start. And while there’s still a long way to go, they serve as a good reminder of the struggle that has led to this point in our history, and a source of inspiration to keep striving to express our own true selves, and honour and celebrate the journeys of others who are seeking to do the same.
Story by Sam Reckas & Sarah Cleave Photographs by Sam Reckas Rhythm and Vines