Before it shuttered in the spring of 2014, Montreal’s Citibar served as a meeting point for t-girl sex workers and the men who loved them. The legendary Ontario Street dive also offered an outlet for footloose freaks who wanted to cut a rug somewhere less staid than the Village’s gay clubs. And, at least in one case, it offered the initial spark for a piece of choreography: Gérard Reyes’s genderfuck vogue extravaganza The Principle of Pleasure.
“My boyfriend and I would go on Fridays with our friend Patsy, dressed up in dirty drag with our beards and dicks popping out from under our Kelly Bundy dresses, walk over in flip flops, and throw on our heels at the door,” Reyes says of his nights at Citibar. “There was this stripper pole beside a big mirror and nobody ever used it. I was playing around on it one night, watching my reflection in the mirror and had the first inspiration for the piece.”
Blending voguing and striptease with top-notch technique (he’s a former Compagnie Marie Chouinard dancer), Pleasure sees Reyes engaging with audiences as he’s decked out in fabulous lace ensembles, heels and a full beard — with a dose of Miss Jackson, of course.
Performing femininity comes easily to Reyes. But it wasn’t always that way. While girliness came naturally as a kid, at some point in his 20s he started finding discomfort in openly femme behaviour. After moving to Montreal and palling around with plenty of drag queens and trans people, his understanding of what gender is and could be started to expand.
“It made me see how gender means many things to many people,” he says. “It can be a thing that defines us. It can be something to play with. Or it can be something that’s never questioned. Working on this piece has allowed me to accept and express other parts of myself without judgement, which is huge since it’s still very taboo for men to appear effeminate in Western society; at the same time gay love is increasingly accepted.”
Now based in Berlin, Reyes also teaches workshops for aspiring voguers.
“I have and continue to learn a lot from vogue,” he says. “It’s helped me to see how much of our behaviour is constructed and socialized because it gives you back the power to play with your body and represent yourself in ways that are usually stigmatized
Since I’m dealing with an expert, I have to ask: Does he have any tips for perfecting my strut?
“Step one is buying comfortable shoes,” he says. “Something open toe with back zippers is best. Step two is to keep your cookies in the jar, as the queens would say. That means crossing at the knee when you walk. It gives you that super model flair, instead of having your legs three feet apart like you just rode a horse across town. Nothing sexy about that.”