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“We offer Legendary Children as a love letter to our community during COVID19 times.”

The world got a behind-the-scenes look into Seattle’s ballroom culture with a dazzling 5th anniversary edition of Legendary Children. Legendary Children is an annual event hosted by the Seattle Public Library and Seattle Art Museum as part of their public programming to celebrate and affirm House and Ballroom culture, as well as QTBIPOC (Queer Trans Black Indigenous People of Color) people across the board. Emceed by two vivacious and luminous community members, CarLarans and Aleksa Manila, the night embodied their call to “stay safe, stay sane, stay sexy, and stay home!” Two dozen creatives and six houses participated in the night’s performances, one flowing to the next, a kaleidoscopic event of fabulousness. 

For those who might be learning about ballroom culture for the first time, ballroom communities have been around for decades, serving as a means of family, support, creativity, and expression for Black and Latinx LGBTQ people who may have otherwise been estranged from their own families. Validation and freedom of expression come in the form of “balls,” which can include fashion catwalks, theatrical vignettes, dance performances, music, or modeling. At balls, “houses” compete for prizes in different categories inspired by the world outside the ballroom, sometimes worlds unfortunately withheld from QTBIPOC. Houses could be thought of like families, each having a house “mother” and/or “father.” The ballroom community has faced issues of appropriation over the decades, and continues to today. However, Legendary Children is about deep appreciation and celebration of our local Seattle area ballroom communities, and this year it took a more backstage approach into the heart of what House culture is all about: love.

“It’s about supporting each other no matter what house you’re in…there may be shade on the floor, but off the floor we have each other’s backs.” said Mother Chi Chi Princeton, of the Royal House of Princeton, based in Tacoma. “We come together to walk balls…but at the end of the day we still have real life issues and struggles that we have to face and go through.” said Father Eleekay Princeton. Through brief interviews with current House mothers and fathers, documented by SPL artist in residence, Momma Nikki, the audience gets an inside look into the connection and tangible support within the circles. Stunning video montages of each house by Momma Nikki set to music by SWAMP XADiii showcase their fierce, hype, and femme energy. Other houses showcased are The Royal House of Noir, The Celestial House of Arcadia, The Marvelous Monéts, The Illustrious House of Essence, and House of Boba.

Vocal and musical offerings take the form of filmed performances, or cohesive music and dance films. Adra Boo’s “Give Me Love,” set against twinkling lights, is honey to the ears. Xi Wunderlunde gives a full set of three original songs. In a provocative performance, Adé performs “Put A Spell On You” in what looks like a witchy jazz club. Adé sits on a velvet couch, with fingers on a ouija board, sometimes holding a skull. She serenades behind a crystal ball, and one feels they’re placed right in the midst of Adé’s dark, mysterious aura.

Sultry red and blue lighting accompany a visual Tinayuyot: Prayer by Guma’ Gela’. Seated against a wall, two people slowly touch foods such as coconut oil and sugarcane to their bodies with compassion and tenderness. In a mesmerizing retrograde, coconut milk un-pours from their head as So’le Celestial’s “Release Me” plays. Lourdez, one of the creators behind Guma’ Gela’, caresses their own face with a chili pepper. Exploring food in relationship with their own bodies, Tinayuyot holds evocative perspectives of nourishment, intimacy, spirituality, and respect for ancestral culture and body.

Photo from previous iteration of Legendary Children. Photo by Naomi Ishisaka.

Later in the evening are live performances of spoken word from poet Storme Webber and multidisciplinary artist Dakota Camacho. Their pieces are passionate and raw about the struggles of their experiences. You can hear the call for change in their voices, their faces close to their web cameras, their messages of pain ringing loud and true. Another striking statement of honor is found in artist Christopher Paul Jorden’s video preview of their new sculpture, andimgonnamisseverybody, which will be part of the AIDS Memorial Pathway in Capitol Hill. Set to go up in March 2021, a large sideways plus sign (creating an “X”) made of speakers will live in the Central Plaza of the Pathway, and virtual DJ sets will accompany the sculpture. Both the future public art piece and the video preview celebrate the historically stigmatized and excluded communities affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as well as those affected by the current pandemic.

The entire night ends with a virtual runway, as no one would expect otherwise. Open to the public, a Zoom celebration of fashion, fierceness, and dancing ensues. Switching from screen to screen, home to home, we get a real glimpse of the individuals who celebrate and find community in the ballroom world. Joy, belonging, and praise echo to each other with background tracks by DJ Riz. If anyone were to imagine COVID19 dimming the light of the Ballroom community, Legendary Children is sure to prove them otherwise.

Legendary Children’s 5th anniversary streamed virtually on November 21, 2020. Find out more information here.