Category: Arts and Culture

Community members respond to possible relocation of HOPE Outdoor Gallery

Story by Amanda Pinney & Edited by Bryan Rolli

Photos By Tess Cagle

Video Filmed and Edited by Kailey Thompson


Splashes of neon paint explode off the concrete walls nestled into the grassy hill on 11th and Baylor Street, home to Austin’s iconic graffiti park, the HOPE Outdoor Gallery. Each layer of spray paint reveals a colorful mess of chunky bubble letters, intricate murals and hastily scribbled phrases. The artwork changes constantly, as the space welcomes myriads of locals and tourists who need only a spray can and a bit of inspiration to leave their mark on the city.

The HOPE Outdoor Gallery was developed in 2010 as a short-term art installation linked to the HOPE Campaign and created with the intention to channel and promote positive messages in the community. Property developers planned to turn the gallery’s concrete walls — remnants of an abandoned construction project from the 1980s — into condos once the installation ran its course.

View the rest of the story here.

Meet One of the Only Feminist Bookstores in the U.S.


BookWoman owner Susan Post looks through her cell phone behind the check out desk of the feminist bookstore. In 1975 Book Woman opened its doors in Dobie Mall, and 40 years later is one of just 13 feminist bookstores in the world.


By Sarah Jasmine Montgomery, Vedant Peris, Kris Seavers and Sunny Sone

 See the full story here.

The day after the presidential election, the first customer to walk into BookWoman recounted an emotional morning to owner Susan Post.

“She said, ‘We got up this morning and my daughter had been watching the election and she saw my expression and she said, ‘Mom, what happened?’ and she said, ‘We lost,’” Post said.

The woman got her daughter to school and then headed straight for the comforts of the quaint bookstore, which sits under a purple banner on North Lamar Boulevard.

“The first thing she wanted to do was come here because she knew she’d feel better,” Post said. “She ended up picking up a book for her daughter. She said, ‘I’m going bring her a book about a strong women. We didn’t lose. We’re just more aware now of what we are up against.’”



BookWoman is not limited to solely feminist texts – the store sells materials related to the LGBTQ rights movement and, above, t-shirts supporting a local author.



BookWoman is one of only 13 bookstores left in the United States that self-identifies as a feminist bookstore. It’s also one of 18 independent bookstores in the greater Austin area, where, like the rest of the country, there is an all time high number of bookstores. It seems that people are now interested more than ever in buying books locally, even with the successes of national chain retailers and declining numbers of book sales.

BookWoman in particular has situated itself from the beginning as a political and activist space, and Post said the community’s need for her books is just as important now as it was when the store opened in the 1970s. In the months since the presidential election, Post said she has seen an increase in her sales and an interest in activism — not only in rallies and protests, but within the space of her store.

“People are still continuing to gather and to work and to protest,” Post said. “Instead of just signing a petition, people are showing up and expressing how they feel about the political climate.”

One recent BookWoman event featured two black women poets, Sequoia Maner and Sheree Renée Thomas, as part of an ongoing series in partnership with Torch Literary Arts, a nonprofit with the mission to “support the work of black women and girls through creative writing.” More than 15 people crowded between the shelves to hear the open mic and feature poets, who touched on subjects including #BlackLivesMatter, sexual assault and LGBT issues.

Ray, a woman who attended the poetry event and preferred not to share her last name, said BookWoman serves an important need for a space that people can find representations of their beliefs — as well as opposing views.

“I think that’s really important, especially now with so many people not being sure how to become politicized,” Ray said.

A book published last year by Kristen Hogan, the education coordinator at the University of Texas at Austin’s Gender and Sexuality Center, features BookWoman and other surviving feminist bookstores to explore how the stores have historically countered racism and created networks of diverse feminists. The book, titled “The Feminist Bookstore Movement: Lesbian Antiracism & Feminist Accountability,” explores the radical history of feminist bookstores, and how modern journalists seem to gloss over these histories.

“Feminist bookstores have been not simply spaces to gather but sites of complex conversations among staff and collectives and, in turn, with readers about feminist accountability,” Hogan writes in the book.


BookWoman itself began as a passion project of the Common Woman Collective, a group of Austin women who dedicated themselves to ordering books and finding a place to host a storefront. Post helped DeeDee Spontak, a carpenter, and other members of the collective fix up three donated rooms at the corner of 21st and Guadalupe streets. In 1975, the store opened its doors with a red and yellow hand sewn sign that said “Common Woman Bookstore.”

Post said business boomed from the early to mid ‘70s, when customers flocked to the store to buy books they literally couldn’t find elsewhere.

“There weren’t a lot of books published by women, or publishers were turning down more radical things because there might be nudity or their might be lesbianism or there might be activism,” Post said.










Witches Are Among Us

Story by Selah Maya Zighelboim
Photos by Elise Cardenas and Yelitza Mandujano
Video by Elise Cardenas
Audio by Julie Gomez

“You can’t throw a rune without hitting a witch in Austin”

Kristi Lewis’s first forays into witchcraft began with dead animals. When she found pieces of bone or other animal remains on hikes, she would wrap the animal in wire the to preserve it and honor its characteristics.

“I was just drawn to the idea of rebirth in a way, that death isn’t the final end-all,” Lewis said.

In November, she started selling jewelry inspired by her pagan beliefs full-time through Etsy and pop-up shops. One day when she was vending her jewelry at Independence Brewery, a woman saw her and pulled her children away, warning them to stay away from witches. Another woman and witch herself, Jessica Beauvoir, approached Lewis and invited her to join Austin Witches Circle, a creative collective for “witches, pagans & magical folk.”

“[Austin Witches Circle] is an opportunity for local witchy folks who make things to try and make a living selling or supplement their livelihood doing something they love,” Beauvoir said. “It also helps bring people together. We are always interacting with each other and being inspired by each other.”

Three to five times a month, Austin Witches Circle puts on markets where witches and non-witches can sell goods such as potions, amulets and jewelry. They also host occasional workshops and spiritual events like Sabbats, festivals that mark dates of seasonal or agricultural importance.


Austin Witches Circle allows dark-art vendors to sell their crafts without judgement or skepticism they would receive at other art markets around town. When Beauvoir began selling teas and herbs around Austin, she faced some difficulties finding the right place to sell them. She founded Austin Witches Circle to bring together people with similar interests in witchcraft and art.

Though there is no requirement to be a witch to vend at Austin Witches Circle’s markets, Beauvoir says the vendors’ crafts share underlying themes, such as alternative spirituality and reverence for nature. According to Beauvoir, no specific belief or practice makes a person a witch.

“I think what makes a witch is when they identify with that word and figure out what it means to them,” she said. “I wouldn’t say there is any one characteristic that all witches share.”

Beauvoir uses herbalism to practice her witchcraft.  She identifies a secular chaos witch, meaning she uses her belief itself as a tool. Beauvoir says believing in something is what gives it power, so her beliefs can adapt depending on her needs. If she wanted to cast a spell that required belief in a particular deity, she would believe in that deity for the duration of that spell.

According to Cedar Stevens, another member of Austin Witches Circle, Austin has a large witch and pagan community, and though most witches are women, though there are some men as well. Many witches are quite discreet. 

“You can’t throw a rune without hitting a witch in Austin,” Stevens said.

Stevens, a former atheist and scientist, now identifies as a witch and as “Wicca-ish.” She followed a trail of books from native plant landscaping and gardening, to agriculture, to herbal medicine and eventually to magical herbalism. Stevens was skeptical about magical herbalism at first, but found it to be her calling and soon started selling oils and incenses based on plant magic through her store, Natural Magick Shop.

Witchcraft is a practice, not necessarily a belief. Witches create from materials provided by the earth. They can choose to believe in pagan spirits or gods, something else or nothing at all.

According to Chris Godwin, acting clergy at a pagan congregation, Hearthstone Grove, witchcraft is the practice of pagan beliefs.

Godwin’s congregation practices Druidism, the second largest pagan religion in the United States after Wicca. Godwin’s Druid congregation focuses on traditional Irish gods and practices. They recite prayers in Gaelic, and rituals feature fires where congregants place offerings such as alcohol. Their community practices a kind of witchcraft that focuses on herbalism. Godwin says he’s skeptical of the efficacy of witchcraft, so he doesn’t practice it often.

“[Witchcraft] is kind of like prayer,” Godwin said. “It’s for when you have no agency left, and you must find some form of agency, some way to express and get out of the psychological state of being in need or being frustrated.”

All girl vinyl collective challenges male domination in DJing

Chulita Vinyl Club team lead and DJ Xochi Solis focuses on the turntable at the collective's gig Feb. 24 at the Carousel Lounge. The "all-girl all-vinyl" group of DJs is based in Austin and has chapters in San Antonio and on the West Coast.

Chulita Vinyl Club team lead and DJ Xochi Solis focuses on the turntable at the collective’s gig Feb. 24 at the Carousel Lounge. The “all-girl all-vinyl” group of DJs is based in Austin and has chapters in San Antonio and on the West Coast.

By Sarah Jasmine Montgomery, Vedant Peris, Kris Seavers and Sunny Sone

See the full package here:

The vibrant sounds of cumbia, salsa and other Latin rhythms pulsated the walls of the Carousel Lounge in East Austin one cool Friday evening in February. Inside, a life-size ceramic elephant served as the backdrop to the DJ table, where various women took turns pulling records from their sleeves and laying down hip-swaying beats. At the carnival-themed bar, patrons sipped Lone Stars and nodded their heads until a particular song moved them to the dance floor. The festive mood was typical of this particular DJ collective’s gigs, but it was a rare night when most of the members of the Austin chapter were together, taking turns as older members helped out new ones.

Austin native Claudia Saenz founded the Chulita Vinyl Club in 2014 when she noticed a lack of spaces for women — especially women of color — in the DJ industry. In just three years, the group blossomed into a thriving organization with about 50 chulitas — the word is a term of endearment in Spanish and means “cutie” or “sweetie” — and seven chapters across Texas and California. The “all girl all vinyl” collective teaches new members the technical skills needed to work a turntable while encouraging a judgement-free space for women whose identities are often marginalized in the music industry. Xochi Solis is a DJ and the Austin chapter’s “lead Chulita.”

“[DJing] isn’t hard, but it can be daunting when you’re trying to learn, and it’s a male-dominated arena,” Solis said. “So we create a safe space for learning technology, but also a safe space for conversations about identity politics, social justice issues.”


Xochi Solis is the lead Chulita and a DJ of the Chulita Vinyl Club's Austin chapter. She said the collective is a "space to empower women of color in the DJ industry."

Xochi Solis is the lead Chulita and a DJ of the Chulita Vinyl Club’s Austin chapter. She said the collective is a “space to empower women of color in the DJ industry.”

Saenz has since moved to California and started four other Chulita Vinyl Club chapters there. Solis, a local visual artist, has taken on a leadership role here in Austin, where she’s fondly referred to as “mom” by the 20 or so DJs she helps manage. She says the group grows every other month or so.

“When we play gigs, women come up and want to know more about industry, or are excited because we played a song that reminded them of something their grandmother or grandfather played in kitchen,” Solis said.




Solis began collecting her own records 20 years ago. As a small girl, she listened to the vinyl collections of her father, who was a DJ at Baylor University’s student station in the 1960s and ‘70s. Her personal collection ranges from the sounds of the Queen of Tejano music Selena Quintanilla to the more experimental music of Yoko Ono and Laurie Anderson. But as a third-generation Austinite and self-identified Tejana, it’s the native sounds of Mexican-Americans in Texas that Solis loves to play the most. 

“It tells a story beyond what the song or the corrido or whatever the tune might be,” Solis said. “There’s a story of, ‘Hey this is on Teardrop Records’ or, ‘This is on Joey Records based out of San Antonio,’” Solis said. “It’s really about this endeavor of enterprise that people wanted to share this music and share these stories.”

Chulita Vinyl Club DJ Ana Cecilia "La PhDj" Calle said she didn't feel at home in Austin when she moved from Colombia to pursue a doctoral degree. "I thought the best way to feel at home would be to bring my record collection," she said.

Chulita Vinyl Club DJ Ana Cecilia “La PhDj” Calle said she didn’t feel at home in Austin when she moved from Colombia to pursue a doctoral degree. “I thought the best way to feel at home would be to bring my record collection,” she said.


Every DJ in the group has her own repertoire, from salsa to hip-hop to ‘80s pop. Ana Cecilia Calle, who goes by “La PhDj” when she’s behind the turntables, plays a lot of cumbia — a dance genre popular across Latin America — from the ‘50s and ‘60s. When she moved to Austin from Colombia to pursue a doctoral degree at the University of Texas at Austin, she didn’t feel quite at home. But she thought bringing her record collection would be the best way to settle in. For her, the draw to vinyl is in the materiality of the format.

“Being able to carry something and saying this is actual sound, and all I have to do is put a needle and make it spin,” Calle said. “So when it spins, the whole history of that object spins as well. Like the travels it had to make, the scratches it has. It is a single thing happening — and it only happens once — that’s the history of that object playing in that very moment.”

Camila “Cienfuegos” Torres-Castro is one of the newest DJs in the collective. She joined after moving from a small town in Mexico to Austin, also to pursue a doctoral degree. Like many of the DJs, she found the group on Facebook, and she was drawn in by the appeal of learning how to spin. But she also found a friend group — a multicultural group with “political edge.”

“I don’t mean to brag or anything, but I think what we do is a really way of resisting right now because we’re all women of color, and we’re making space in a scene that’s predominantly male,” Torres-Castro said. “It’s not just spinning because of spinning, we are actually doing it with a conscience of our position as women in color in this day and age with Trump as president in Texas.”

As the chulitas spin at the Carousel Lounge — which has asked the collective to perform a monthly show — and other shows across the city, including at South By Southwest, it’s clear the chulitas have created a much-needed niche here. In Austin, women make up 20 percent of musicians in the city, and 10.4 percent of musicians identify as Hispanic, according to last year’s Austin Music Census. Solis said “a space of exploration” like the Chulita Vinyl Club empowers the women individually and makes them stronger together.

“Things are changing really fast in our communities, and I think the call for Chulita Vinyl Club to come together was in reaction to that change,” Solis said. “We were seeing our own communities of other people of color diminishing and going, ‘Where are the people that I can relate to culturally?’”

Tejano Music Timeline

austin music demographics crop

Outsider Fest Showcases LGBT Art

Story by Selah Maya Zighelboim
Photos by Yelitza Mandujano and Selah Maya Zighelboim

Amber Bemak and Nadia Granados, two artists from the United States and Columbia, explored political and personal themes in a performance called “American Spectral History” during the third annual Outsider Fest. Using video and performance art, they presented images of aggression from North America against Latin America, violence against women and queer people and lesbian lovers.

“One thing that people said a lot to us after the show is that it made them feel turned on and disgusted at themselves for being turned on but also at what we were showing,” Bemak said. “I think that’s a good descriptor of our work, and we want people to have that visceral experience at the same time because so much of what we talk about politically has to do with sexuality and gender and sex.”

 Amber Bemak performing “American Spectral History”.

Like many other performances at Outsider Fest, “American Spectral History” touches on topics of queerness and intersectionality. Outsider Fest, an LGBT art festival that ran from Thursday, Feb. 16 to Sunday, Feb. 19, featured spoken word, concerts, films and theatrical performances. According to Curran Nault, the festival’s founder and organizer, the goal of Outsider Fest is to facilitate conversations between different groups of people — between artists and academics, different kinds of artists and different races, ethnicities and classes.

“What’s kind of important to me is the name ‘Outsider’ itself,” Nault said. “It’s meant to evoke, obviously, sexuality, as being out, being queer, but also all of the different ways that people can feel marginalized, outside of the norm, outside of power.”

Use this interactive map to explore the different venues used during (Out)sider
Map and captions by Julie Gomez

This year’s theme was ‘Into the Wild,’ which Nault said is meant to express the idea of reconnecting with nature to solidify community and re-emerge, ready to fight. According to Nault, one show that touched on this theme was “Promised Land” by Rudy Ramirez. In the show, Ramirez goes on a personal journey to find self-acceptance, at one point traveling and camping in the woods.

Ramirez said he created his show, “Promised Land,” with a specific kind of audience member in mind, a young queer Latino who needed confirmation that his feelings and experiences were legitimate. Ramirez wanted “Promised Land” to be the validation he needed when he was younger.

“I was queer in my head before, but when I saw this world, I was queer in my heart after that,” he said. “It was a feeling that this world is possible, we can get there. It’s not something that’s just imaginary. It can be real, and it makes it so much more worth fighting for.”

Lilia Rosas (left), Irene Lara Silva (center left), Paige Schilt (center right), and Trystan Cotton (right) during “Conference on the Couch”.

Besides art shows like “American Spectral History” and “Promised Land,” Outsider Fest also included panels. Most days of the festival began with a Conference on the Couch, where attendees could gather in Nault’s living room with a panel of academics, who sat on couches and chairs with attendees to discuss their work. These panels covered art activism, transgenderism and queer publishing.

For Nault, who is radio-television-film lecturer at the University of Texas at Austin, taking academia from its “ivory tower” and bringing it to the community is an important aspect of the festival.

“The fact that we’re literally welcoming you into our living room sets a tone for what the festival is really about, that is that there’s no separation,” Nault said. “There’s no separation between the people making the festival and attending the festival. We’re all together in this family setting.”

According to Nault, art’s emotional resonance makes it unique as a tool for community-building and activism. This resonance allows it to stay with its audience in a way that something like a pamphlet, which only hits on an intellectual level, cannot.  

“Art creates new worlds,” he said. “There’s something that points to a utopian impulse or an imaginary impulse. It creates new visions beyond our current state. It creates a yearning for something different.”

Video by Elise Cardenas, Selah Maya Zighelboim, and Yelitza Mandujano

Art From The Streets

By Mackenzie Palmer, Peyton Yager, Kathryn Miles and Taylor Gantt

David Schumaker woke up every morning on the cold streets of Austin, but one day this would all change.

Schumaker was walking past the Trinity Center downtown, and a woman volunteer at a local art studio stopped him and asked him to tell his story. Schumaker explained how he had been living on the city streets for more than 5 years due to the loss of his parents, alcoholism and drugs.

The volunteer immediately invited him into the art studio and told him to take that grief and anger and paint a picture.

“At the time I had a broken heart and a lost soul, but the program was therapeutic for me,” David Schumaker said.

For over 25 years, Art From the Streets has given the homeless community a chance to start over by providing them with a studio at the Trinity Center, art supplies, and volunteers to help sell art in hope to create a new beginning.

The non-profit organization is run on donations and holds pop-up art shows around downtown Austin. The art shows provide an opportunity for income for the contributors, 80 percent of the earnings of the art go to the artist. Their slogan, “Give Art a Home”, fully embodies the message that AFTS provides an encouraging space for artistic expression for those who need it most

The artists are able to attend 3 free studio sessions each week while creating one-of-a-kind pieces all year long to prepare for the annual “Art From the Streets Exhibition Show”.

Last year’s 24th Annual Show and Sale at the Austin Convention Center brought over 1,200 people who purchased over $90,000 of art in the 10 hours they were open.

The show changed one artist’s’ life entirely. “I own a duplex on South Lamar now. I made enough money at the show last year to pay 2 years of rent,” Jerry Hurta said, “I have a lot of returning customers and people that have gotten to know me, I have a fan club at the art show each year now.”

The program does not only bring money and stability to the artists. It provides them with creativity and determination to belong to something in this world.


“At the time I had a broken heart and a lost soul, but the program was therapeutic for me.”

Cathy Carr lost everything she knew in a house fire and immediately was forced to live off of the streets. After hearing about Art From the Streets from a couple friends, she immediately fell in love with the program.

Carr’s painting subjects are usually animals because she feels they are independent and courageous. She hopes to open either an art or a music studio of her own one day to inspire others.

The artists create personal relationships with each other and the volunteers during the studio sessions and the annual exhibition show. Individuals that were once invisible are now seen as a local celebrity. Art From the Streets motivates their artists to be rewarded for their hard work and dedication all year.

The volunteers at the studio range in age from 20 to 70. Most of the volunteers have a passion for art and become truly inspired by the products the homeless or at-risk artists create.

The volunteers often have jobs in the St. David’s episcopal church which allow them to be on site and available for all of the art sessions. They like the consistent schedule and central location because it allows them to build strong bonds with the artists and serve as not only a volunteer, but as a friend.

Schumaker explains that a change in perspective can sometimes be all a person requires to get out there and help somebody in need.

At this year’s art exhibition David Schumaker is expected to have over 200 paintings on display. Schumaker now pays for his own apartment from his earnings for his art and never looks back at the life he once lived.

The Trinity Center is located downtown at 304 East 7th Street. Open studio times are Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm.




Swingin’ to the Beat

Photos by Jane Morgan Scott


Every Tuesday night, they climb the steps up to a Georgian style mansion with brown brick and white doors. The latch on the door is slightly heavy, and opens with a push. Once inside, they change into shoes with will ease their feet onto the dance floor.

Stephanie and Dan Procter have been attending swing classes at the Texas Federation of Women’s Club commonly called, “The Fed”, for nearly two years now. But, they have been dancing for much, much longer.

The couple first met in 1992 at Ruby’s BBQ when Dan showed up to listen to a live Cajun band.

“And I was there, pretty much minding my own business, this really cute dark-haired girl came up and asked, ‘Will you waltz with me?’” he said.

After the dance, Dan thought his dance partner was endearing, but was discouraged by her friend.

“She was with this guy who was real tall, who I assumed was her boyfriend,” Dan said.

“He wasn’t!” Stephanie chimed in.

After their first encounter, the two bumped into each other at local dance scenes. Even twenty years ago, dancing brought the couple closer together. And while Dan didn’t know much about Stephanie, he was determined to win ask her out on a date.

“They used to have these things called phone directories. They were big, thick books,” Dan said. “I didn’t get how she spelled her [last] name, so I spent a couple of hours flipping through the M’s.”

“Really? I didn’t know that,” Stephanie said laughing.

When Dan finally found Stephanie’s correct last name, he called her and asked her out. She agreed.  The two eventually married in 2009, and never left the dance floor.

With dancing styles like Zydeco and two-step on their plate, Dan said it was time for a change.

“After 20 years, you get tired of dancing backwards at the Broken Spoke,” he said referring to an Austin honky-tonk dance hall.

The couple landed inside the Fed on 2312 San Gabriel Street, where the Austin Swing Syndicate houses swing dancing. Thursday evenings feature beginner classes, while other days consist of specialized dancing for balboa, lindy, and shag.

Dan and Stephanie currently attend Sunday-through-Tuesday classes for balboa. Even though the couple does not consider themselves in the “cool” crowd because they are beginners, it’s an adventure for them where they are eager to learn.

“The steps are more complicated, and the rhythms are more varied,” Dan said. “I find it more challenging, although more fun.”

Stephanie enjoys the change in attire and culture.

“I got to buy a bunch of different shoes for this,” she says.

The shoes used in swing dancing have what Dan says is a “slidey” sole. He bought his from a local thrift store, and Stephanie has three pairs of shoes with small heels and straps around the ankles.

“It’s different from boots,” she added.

Dan’s favorite part about dancing?

“Dancing with Stephanie,” he said looking at his 50-year-old wife.

“For me, he’s always been my favorite partner,” Stephanie said.

Stephanie said she’s also enjoyed the nonverbal communication of dancing.

“You’re having a physical conversation, and it doesn’t have to be sexy. But it is a communication form,” she said.

Dan adds that there is no real age limit to dancing, as he is 63 years old. This is evident since every week at least 200 to 300 people attend the Fed for swing dancing. Middle-aged couples to pre-teenagers come through the door, some regulars, others first-timers.

The Procters’ advice for those wanting to join is to ignore what others might think.

“Don’t worry what you look like!” Stephanie said.

“Realize that nobody is really watching you.  And if you’re a beginner, they’re going to recognize that, and they’re not gonna judge you for it,” Dan said.

Dan said that ultimately, perseverance is needed to have a good time.

“There is bit of a wall you have to push through, and that’s what we’re doing right now with swing.”

Written by Ceci Gonzales

Video by Meredith Knight

Cultures Dance their way into Austin

 By: Nick Castillo, Sara Eunice Martinez, Kaylee Nemec

10 IMG_0666_20


Bright dresses and choreographed dance moves captured the stage at the Austin Earth Day Festival on Saturday.  

The Mueller Lake Park event highlighted multiple social dance styles, including flamenco, ballet folklórico, square dancing and tango.

Oaxaca: Arte en Movimiento, was one of the dance groups at the event. It presented a traditional Mexican dance from Oaxaca. Edgar Yepez dance instructor at Oaxaca, said the dance represents Mexican heritage.

“It’s a Mexican tradition,” Yepez said. “It’s a Mexican folklore.”

Arte en Movimento’s goal is to be a growing space for culture and art, while promoting diversity, opportunity and cultural expression. Yepez said they’ve been around for a year and have seen their program grow tremendously from four participants to 40. He credits the growth to style of dance.

“The main difference in the style of dance is Guelaguetza,” Yepez said. “No one is doing Guelaguetza in Austin. That’s the main difference between other kinds of dance.”

Oaxaca showcases the vibrant social dance culture in the city.

But Austin isn’t always as kind to professional dance. Austin’s professional dance culture has the same issues as other major cities. According to Caroline Clark, who is working on her Ph.D. about Austin dance, said the only dancers who make a salary are ballet dancers. There’s also limited space. But she added that “that’s true everywhere.”

While professional dance has its troubles in the city, Clark said the most important thing about Austin’s dance culture is its growth.


Origins of Dance Cultures

Infographic Created By: Kaylee Nemec 


“The most important thing to know about Austin dance is that as Austin’s population grows, the diversity of dance forms that one can do here increases,” Clark said. “There are many kinds of dance here, from African forms to Hispanic forms to European folk forms to Asian forms. And, don’t forget the big Native American powwow that takes place every November. And, the very influential Texas dance hall tradition.”

Some of the biggest reasons for social dance’s popularity in Austin is it’s fun atmosphere. Mickey Jacobs, a senior tango instructor at Esquina Tango Cultural Society of Austin, said people attend tango classes at Esquina for the relaxed environment.

“We laugh a lot,” Jacobs said. “It’s a very open, and welcoming community. That’s really what esquina is known for and that’s what brings people back. It’s not intimidating … We make it easy to take that first step.”

Jacobs said Esquina offers a wide variety of classes. The main focus is Argentine tango, which places emphasis on the dance partners’ connection. Jacob’s performed a tango routine with fellow instructor Orazzio Loayza at Saturday’s festival, which displayed the dance’s heavy reliance on a duo’s embrace, and it additionally showed the technical side of the dance.

“It’s a couples dance first and foremost so learning to have the conversation, if you will, between the follower and the leader, but instead of a verbal conversation, it’s a conversation with your body,” Jacobs said. “It’s a very sensual dance. It’s all about responding to each other’s body movement … It all goes back to an embrace. The dance position is called the abrazo, which means embrace, and that’s where everything originates.”

Jacobs added that Esquina isn’t the only place in Austin teaching tango. She said the tango culture in Austin, much like the city’s overall dance community, is alive and well.

“There’s a very vibrant community,” Jacobs said. “There are a few 100 people, who regularly dance tango. There are definitely people around town, who are great, that serve people all around Austin … There are good teachers throughout the city, and a very vibrant active community.”



Meanings of Bharata Natyam Hand Gestures

Photos and Cutlines By: Kaylee Nemec



Photos and Cutlines By: Nick Castillo


Videos filmed and produced by: Sara Eunice Martinez

Texas Revue: Diversity Meets Worlds of Talent

By Isabella Bejar, Marina Chairez and JD Harris

Beat boxing, dancing, rapping, singing, and many more unique talents drew a full crowd at Hogg Memorial Auditorium on April 23, 2016. Nearly 1,ooo people attended the University’s largest talent show, Texas Revue.

The University of Texas at Austin began hosting their annual student-run talent shows in the 1960’s and then re-established in 1995. The Texas Revue is composed of individuals and various student organizations. Different talents continue to bring the UT community together for one night, while showcasing a variety of talented acts.

Over 55 acts auditioned, but only around 10-12 acts can be featured each year. Performers compete in a Texas tradition to win the “Best Overall” award and $1,500, while the titles of “Crowd Favorite” and “Technical Excellence” are also up for grabs.

Many may have different goals, but it is truly shown that all contestants give their heart out on the stage and hope for the best. Ray Villarreal is the first solo rapper to perform at the Texas Revue.

“I would like to get known here at UT because that would be really big for me and great exposure. I would feel on top of the world. Either way it’s been a fun ride. I’m having the time of my life and being able to do these things that not a lot of other people can say that they’ve done is great and it’s all because of music,” said Ray Villarreal.

With only five minutes on stage to showcase their talents to a panel of judges, the real work goes on months and maybe even years in advance. Each individual puts in hours of practice and sacrifice, but when doing something you’re passionate about, all that practice doesn’t feel so much like work.

“Entertaining a crowd is my favorite part of performing because I think I’m a good artist, but an even better performer. I think that’s what makes you stand out – engaging with people and getting them to sing along or even jump in the crowd and crowd surf. I think it’s fun,” Villarreal said.

The audience is really able to reflect on the importance of interpersonal cultural diversity, while being exposed to the many cultural performances. From Bollywood to mixes of hip-hop and traditional Bhangra, each performance is judged on things like creativity, technical achievements and skill.

“I was very engaged by the cultural dance and music groups who not only presented strong, well-rehearsed pieces, but also aimed to share cultural dance and music forms with a broad UT audience,” said Rebecca Rossen, judge and professional dancer, choreographer, and assistant professor in UT’s Department of Theatre and Dance.

“I was specifically looking for strong collaboration in group pieces, clarity and excellence in concept and execution, skill, uniqueness, and stage presence,” Rossen said.

That stage presence translated into social media using “#TexasRevue” which managed to reach over 60,000 people through personal tweets, media coverage and Instagram. Posts of friends and fellow students rooting on such a variety of artistic styles goes to show the diversity in the UT community.

Riju Humagain, logistics officer for Texas Revue, said “I think Texas Revue is unique because it honestly showcases such a diverse set of talents that is present in this University.”

All those components came together when Texas Nach Baliye, a traditional Indian dance team received the “Overall Winner” award at the end of the night.  

Poo Poo Platter: Serving Up Austin Drag

Jessica Jones, Fatima Puri, Shannon Smith

At 9:20, the stage manager throws open the dressing room door.

“Ready to go on at 9:30?” he asks.

But everyone shakes their head; Cupcake is running late—they’ll need more time. Seconds later, a frazzled man rushes in with a large suitcase in tow. The dressing room quickly becomes a center of chaos.

He yells that he only needs ten minutes. As Brady rips open the suitcase, one thing is clear: a transformation is about to take place.

Brady puts a hair net over his short, buzzed head and gets to work on his face. Quick brush stokes of foundation, blush, eye shadow. He swiftly applies glue to his fake eye lashes and places them perfectly on his lids. While he finishes up his lipstick, someone straps his heels. He shoves gel implants into his otherwise empty bra, and gives them a shake as he glances in the mirror. Next, he places two different wigs on his head and pins then into place.

Exactly 10 minutes later as promised, he sings, “Cupcake is reaaaady!”

Someone hands him the mic and he steps onto stage.

The dressing room looks like the aftermath of a tornado, but the five remaining queens backstage are too excited to even notice the mess. Tonight is a Poo Poo Platter show—and they’re ready to serve up the most unique of Austin’s drag.

Poo Poo Platter was formed three and a half years ago, after founding member Waldo moved to Austin and saw an opportunity to bring a new type of drag to the area. At the time, Austin drag was focused on female allusion, but Waldo knew others would want to join him in bringing a lighter-hearted, funnier type of drag to the city. With now more than ten members and at least two shows a month you could say it was a success.

Waldo, stage name Bulimianne Rhapsody, the creator of Poo Poo Platter, gets ready before the show. Photo courtesy of Shannon Smith.

Waldo, stage name Bulimianne Rhapsody, the creator of Poo Poo Platter, gets ready before the show.
Photo courtesy of Shannon Smith.

Although they are a troop, every member gets to design their own part of the show, from music and props right down to costumes and makeup.

“We’re very much independent contractors. Everyone does their own thing, they’re responsible for their own acts,” said queen Arcie Cola.

But being a part of the troop certainly has its benefits. It’s easier to book shows when you’re offering more than just one act, and the members understand that. Many of them had solo careers as performers before joining Poo Poo Platter, but enjoy the special relationships that being a part of this group provides.

“You can always be an individual performer, whereas being in a troop it’s a family. So for me it comes down to work and family,” said Zane Zena, who performed as a wrestler previous to joining Poo Poo Platter.

And the closeness of the group is apparent, even to an outsider. Whether they are helping each other in the dressing room, taking a cigarette break or just dancing around together during a rehearsal—it is clear that the group shares a special bond.

A big part of that bond is their agreement that “drag” is something that cannot easily be defined.

“When somebody tells you that you can’t be something—you do it. That’s drag to me,” said Zane Zena.

While Cupcake was more keen on not defining it at all, “I don’t know what is and isn’t drag… It’s not my problem to define the word, I’m not f***** Merriam Webster.”

And while the actual definition of drag may not be important, the troop agreed that there is a definite need to shine a light on drag as a real performing art.

Poo Poo Platter cast. Photo courtesy of Poo Poo Platter.

Poo Poo Platter cast.
Photo courtesy of Poo Poo Platter.

They practice hours a week and spend hundreds, even thousands of dollars, on making their own costumes. Yet, people are still quick to dismiss drag as being a real art. Respect—that is the universal word each queen mentioned. And the Austin International Drag Festival this past weekend was one step in the right direction.

An entire weekend dedicated to promoting and supporting the drag community, Poo Poo Platter was able to host events and mingle with infamous drag queens from around the world. More than anything, the second annual festival acted as a way of spreading the idea that drag is an outlet for artistic expression, not simply men in dresses.