When I was three, I loved to spin in my kitchen. We had a huge contraption of a record player from the 1960s —long, wooden, heavy— its cupboards housing gargantuan speakers and at its centre, a turntable with clickitty switches, clacking as my mother would touch needle to record. I always wanted her to play Teddybear by Red Sovine. I loved his voice, low and sombre, the calm speak-sing way he told stories about boys loving semi-trucks, layering tales overtop twangy country tunes. My grandfather, a Hungarian farmer who loved birds, gave us the record and Mom thought that was why I loved Red Sovine; that he reminded me of my grandfather. But all I wanted was to spin and spin and spin like that record, letting Red’s slow melodic voice be the incantation that transformed me into him, his lush voice and his country bumpkin Roy Orbison look. But that wasn’t enough. Once I had become Red, my child logic told me that if I kept turning it would be alchemy, and I would become a red semi-truck, broad and confident and forward facing—changing me from what I was on the outside to what I felt on the inside. I turned until my eyes went out of focus, the kitchen a smear of fridge and table and linoleum floor, my arms outstretched like I was the grate at the front of the truck’s cab, hurdling far from my home in Treaty 4, Saskatchewan, with my Mom standing in the doorway of our low income housing unit, watching me with an Export A cradled in her fingers, the smoke trailing like it was a lit stick of incense, an accessory to my makeshift magical ritual.
Fast forward thirty years and this is still what it feels like to dance in this body, which I define not only by what it is, but by what it isn’t —not male, not female, not ‘straight’. The words I use to define it —Magyar, queer, gender nonconforming—complicates my body, makes it less defined, solid and watery, a chameleon who also knows, as Popeye would put it, “I yam what I am, and that’s all that I yam.”
Wanting to kiss everyone —that realization came early in my life. My they-them-ness took longer, a notion and then a feeling and then a blossoming explosive realization. When it came, I felt like I was three years old again but fully transformed —revving, throbbing, alive. The pleasure of naming the feeling of my body —the healing it brought me, my bones and my blood —I had to share it and have been posting videos of me dancing in my kitchen to songs crooning from my record player. These videos, though adjacent to my work as a dance maker, feel different. For me, each dance is a ritual, an invitation for you to see my body being its queer self and to allow it to alchemize your body —whatever that body means to you.
Maybe you’re an owl and a pegasus, or a mermaid and a horse. Maybe you’re the sizzling of the Northern Lights, the wind across the Rocky Mountains, the Red Sea. Maybe you’re a secret kiss in a secret space that’s made public, a flicker of light, a wine glass being carried across a candlelit room.
In the videos, I play. I play with gender and costume, baseball caps and green sparkly jumpers, ripped fishnets and sneakers. I play with my body as phenomena, side shuffling in the last of the sunlight in a silver beaded jacket so I can be your ‘lucky star’. I play with dancing for my ancestors, bits and bites of Hungarian folk dances from YouTube. I shake howls out of me until I become my animal self, something between a wolf and a human. When I post, I want the videos to act like breadcrumbs so you’ll follow the soft purr of my engine —the sound of a promise, that you can be whatever you want, whatever your body is or was or will be. What can I say? I’m a dancing grrlboi who knows how to turn themself into a truck. And I love my bones. Yours too.
TANYA MARQUARDT (they/them) is a queer writer and performer. Their book Stray: Memoir of a Runaway was named a 2018 Best Queer History & Bio by The Advocate. A punk show version, co-created with Theatre Conspiracy’s Tim Carlson, toured the US and Canada. Tanya's theatre and dance work has been presented at Summerworks, PuSh, Dancing on the Edge, the Brooklyn Museum, Dixon Place, VIDF, The Tank and The Collapsable Hole. Their essays have appeared in Medium, Huffpost, Howl Round, Grain, and Plentitude Magazine. Tanya’s play Some Must Watch While Some Must Sleep is the subject of an NPR Invisibila podcast. They currently dance in their kitchen, write memoir, and send you all queer love during this strange, strange time.