Big Thick Energy
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Performance artist Demon Derriere curates a fierce festival of self love and body positivity
“If you don't feel like cheering or screaming or wanting to rip your clothes off by the end of it, I've done my job wrong.”
Performance artist and “booty manipulator” Demon Derriere chooses bold words to describe the upcoming three-day festival she has curated for Darlinghurst Theatre Company at Eternity Playhouse. Bold is correct when trying to sum up the vibe. Big Thick Energy is a celebration of body positivity and liberation through movement, creativity and community. It runs from March 19-21. The variety festival will feature ten skill-sharing workshops, local artisan markets and three evenings of high-energy entertainment and stereotype-shattering acts with proudly thick, curvy performers at the forefront.
“I want the audience to feel inspired, liberated,” says Demon. “I want them to feel that really beautiful sense of community, you know, that realisation that they're not alone. I want them to feel seen and heard and I want to help reprogram their minds, because we've all told ourselves that we have to look or act a certain way, and to no longer seek approval or permission from anyone else. I want you to just be yourself as you are, and to have fun and to be loud and to cry and to laugh and to connect with people, and to feel catharsis.”
"I wanted the name to be heard and seen as both feminine and masculine, as I believe I hold both of those energies present within me"
If you’ve seen Demon shaking it on a stage (or a bar top) around Sydney in scanty PVC or a moo cow costume, or taken part in one of her booty-centric dance classes, you might have found yourself wondering how the Derriere experience came to be. “Demon Derriere is a booty manipulator, she's a body-positive activist, and she is someone who is unapologetically herself,” she tells us. “It took me a while to really manifest her. I wanted the name to be heard and seen as both feminine and masculine, as I believe I hold both of those energies present within me. Plus, she just sounded bad-ass, pun intended.”
Big Thick Energy is the cumulative point of Demon’s art, personal and professional lives: “I grew up in Australia, and I experienced racism and discrimination, and at a young age I had to assimilate to stay safe. On top of that, growing up and hearing doctors or overhearing my parents and friends saying that I'm fat, obese, unhealthy, overweight talking about me in such negative tones… in my professional life, I was turned down for acting roles by casting agents, because they ‘already had a brown girl’ or ‘the voluptuous girl’ on the books. I forever felt like I was being underrepresented. I wanted to change that. I've done so much work on myself. I saw myself blossom, and went ‘I need to share this now with the rest of the world’.”
"Community movement and collaboration are always massive concepts that are involved in my work, always"
If you’re interested in picking up what Demon is putting down, you can grab yourself a one or two-day festival pass, or dip a toe in with a one-off workshop or ticket to the nightly Shake the Room Showcase featuring a mixed bag of performers like freak show performer Sarah Birdgirl, First Nations queen Tyra Bankstown, drag queen Peach Fuzz and more in the realm of burlesque, vogue, slam poetry, and live music. On Saturday Demon teaches “Bootylesque”, the glamorous Ginger Foxx (Miss Burlesque Sydney 2020) will lead a workshop on classical burlesque, Faye De Lanty will school you in second-hand styling, Sealegs Makeup will share beauty tips, and Jes Subba does dancehall. On Sunday, Demon does “Bootylates”. There are classes in comedic burlesque with “colourful cannon of chaos” Rainbow, movement with Mama Medusa (creator of body posi bash Buxxxom Soiree), hooping with Kiri the Spinning Sensation, and life drawing with a difference with Bonnie Cowan. Amongst the markets, which are free to visit all day, you'll find things like "titty mugs", art prints, vegan cupcakes and food from Demon's "beautiful Greek aunty".
“Community movement and collaboration are always massive concepts that are involved in my work, always,” says Demon. “So from teaching dance to performing my fusion of neo-burlesque, twerk and belly dance routines, to helping others express self-love and self-care – that's all being presented in Big Thick Energy. So it's just what I do just on a much larger scale, with more body-positive artists and activists.”
"This is a big booty party where everyone can celebrate after being stuck at home for a year"
For the record, it is not a prerequisite to be “big” and/or “thick” in build to attend any of the above events. You only need to be willing to get amongst that “energy”.
“It's for BIPOC to no longer feel misrepresented; for mixed race people to no longer feel othered; for people of all abilities to feel represented. It's definitely there for my queer family and for LGBTQIA+ folks to feel accepted; and most importantly, for the deaf and hard of hearing community to feel the music but also to feel catered to. It’s going to be AUSLAN interpreted, which is really important to me as a hard of hearing person myself... This is a big booty party where everyone can celebrate after being stuck at home for a year.”
Big Thick Energy runs from March 19-21. One-day passes are $180, two-day passes are $320, single workshops are $40 and three-class passes are $100. Tickets for the Shake the Room Showcase are $45, or book all three for $99. Find tickets and timings here.
Want more of the fierce and fabulous? Check out all the ways you can experience drag in Sydney.