You are reading excerpts from Andréa Spearman’s recorded conversation with Javier Stell-Frésquez
10 in 10 theme music: Bright, upbeat pop music that you may hear in a teen-centered drama series.
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[An animation shows a bright green background and a prominent “10” with the “0” designed to look like a clock face with the hands moving. Another “10” pops up and is nested within the original clock-face “0,” with “IN” nested inside the second “0.” Dancers’ Group’s logo is in the corner and the text beneath reads “Quick insights with the Bay Area Dance community.”]
Andréa Spearman: Welcome to 10 in 10 with Andréa Spearman where we have short and lively dialogues with our local dance community.
[Fade to an image of Javier standing on a large tree branch leaning back against its trunk. Her eyes are closed, head tilted down, with one arm hanging down and one hand resting gently on her one bent knee. Her blue dress ripples in wind. Her black velvet boots go up her leg. Silver necklace, bracelet, x-shaped belt.]
Javier Stell-Frésquez is a Two-Spirit, mixed race, Xicanx from El Paso, Texas serving Indigenous communities here in the Bay Area with the Two-Spirit Powwow. She received a BS in Environmental Science with honors in Chican@ Studies from Stanford University. With lifelong experience in many dance forms and performance art, she has competed in the vogue House/Ballroom Scene. His current multimedia performance projects include Chaac & Yum, a Two-Spirit Dance Project, and Mother the Verb.
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[Andréa and Javier are shown in a video call with their images side by side. Andréa (left) is seated indoors with a bookshelf and a painting of an elephant behind her. In Javier’s (right) background, there are numerous picture frames along a wall, a couch, and a leafy plant.]
Welcome back everybody to 10 in 10 with Javier Stell-Frésquez. We’re going to just jump into the first question: Who inspires you?
Javier Stell-Frésquez: I’m working with Landa Lakes, also known as Miko Thomas, co-curator of Weaving Spirits. They are a drag legend as well as a mother of multiple drag houses [and also was recently mother of] a chapter of International Vogue House, the House of Lauren, International. It’s really amazing working with them and they’ve had a long career and they’re also an older Native person who has blazed many trails here in the Bay Area with the Two-Spirit community.
Andréa: Dancing indoors or outdoors?
Javier: Outdoors, easy. I heal easily from bruises and cuts too, so got that going for me.
Andréa: Intricate costumes or all black?
Javier: Intricate costumes or naked.
Andréa: What’s your secret spot in town?
Javier: The banh mi spot, DragonEats. Their duck banh mi is the business. I’m telling everybody about it all the time, so it’s not really secret.
Andréa: What’s your favorite Bay Area institution?
Javier: I’ve really enjoyed working with CounterPulse across the last four or five years. I was in residency with them, I developed this piece Mother the Verb there. Got to tour it internationally afterwards and since then, they have stayed in contact and collaborated with me to produce Weaving Spirits Festival of Two-Spirit Performance.
Andréa: What’s your most recent favorite song?
Javier: Moses Sumney’s “Lonely World.” Freaking amazing. Futuristic sound, very ambient. He did a set at Afrofutures last year that was all recorded on this landscape. So, so cool and his song “Lonely World” was in Lovecraft Country in that moment where they have the voguing and the sort of like queer nightlife scene. It’s great.
Andréa: Another artist is delayed to the show and you have to take the stage to fill the gap. Do you freestyle with music or in silence?
Javier: I might start at the stage and then yell to the techs to turn up the house lights and do something performance arty with a cue to the techs to turn on maybe “Lonely World” at the end of it. [laughter] If I feel it, but probably I would do something to break the fourth wall and remind people that they’re present, they’re there, and they’re part of the show.
Andréa: What’s a piece of advice that has stayed with you over the years?
Javier: I got to study with Cherríe Moraga in her scriptwriting and poetry classes and she always made us write from our body, from our heart, from our soul, from the place that we didn’t want to go necessarily or that felt uncomfortable. So that I think has been one of the most helpful things. I generally start a piece that I know I need to make, such as Mother the Verb, and find my way into it with writing and with reflection like that.
Andréa: What’s a future goal or dream for you?
Javier: That’s been a very hard one during pandemic, I’m sure for a lot of people. I’m sure a lot of our dreams and our visions had to shift so radically and we’re still figuring them out. But I love working on and building the legs under other community leaders’ dreams, so I’ll lift up the one that Landa Lakes has put forth for us and our work with Weaving Spirits. I would love to help make a Two-Spirit cultural center a reality here in the Bay, maybe starting in a virtual space. Making like a virtual center that then becomes a physical space later.
Two-Spirits, for those who don’t know, is—this could be a long explanation—but really to put it very simply, it’s Native and LGBTQIA++ people. People who have both of those identities frequently use a term “Two-Spirit.” It also comes from an Ojibwe term. The word and the way that we organize to bring community together is a really important way to remember that queer, LGBTQ, Two-Spirit people have been a part of Native circle forever. It’s been forgotten since colonization. So really all aspects of Native cultural ways would have a space there. That’d be my dream anyway. So that’s food ways, that’s dance, song, spiritual practice, you know. Art and spirituality and tool making, also until ways of living are all part of Native life and they don’t necessarily silo out in the ways that we currently think about art as removed from life in this society.
Andréa: What haven’t we asked you that you would like people to know?
Javier: I have Weaving Spirits Festival of Two-Spirit Performance coming up. [March 18th] is the opening night and I co-curated with Landa Lakes. It is going to be the second year of what is the first all Two-Spirit lineup performance festival. And it’s going to be at CounterPulse again this year. And we are very excited to have confirmed the Brush Arbor Gurlz, which is Landa Lake’s Native drag house. They’re going to do another piece this year as well. And last year’s was amazing, it was themed around missing and murdered Indigenous women and Two-Spirits. It was beautiful. I was beaming, I was crying. Loved their piece. Then there is an artist Cuauhtémoc Peranda, who [was a] prince of the House of Lauren, also a modern choreographer, also a vogue scholar, also a Mexika dancer from a very respected family in San Jose. And he/she/they will be sharing their first choreography in years.
We’re also going to be working with L. Frank Manriquez, likely as one of our main artists. They’re an elder Cali Native Tongva from the LA area, or their peoples are, and they’re wonderful. They live up in North Bay and they’re also a very celebrated artist of many different disciplines. We’ll be sharing about their visual artwork but also in a format that is storytelling. Actually we don’t really know! Because it’s a commission. The commission process and each artist is going to bring the fullness of their voice and push themselves to make something. It’s very, very exciting every year.
Andréa: Now my favorite part—show us your favorite dance move!
Javier: Okay I’m gonna explain it a little bit since I mentioned Cuauhtémoc and Weaving Spirits. One of the choreographies that he made years ago, probably when we were both in school together, was called The Boy Who Fell From The Sky. And like many of his choreographies, he combines modern dance with Mexika movement and sometimes a little bit of vogue as well. So you’ll see two of those styles in just a little sequence that I’m gonna show.
[Now standing in an open spot in their living space, Javier wears a light colored top and loose black pants.]
Okay, now we gotta reframe. This is from Cuauhtémoc Peranda’s The Boy Who Fell From The Sky.
[Javier’s bare feet make brushing and low thumping sounds against the floor. She’s on a slight diagonal away from the camera with arms held to the sides while she steps and taps on alternating feet. She jumps backwards and takes another step back, swinging one arm overhead. Javier drops her head and torso as her arm sweeps downward to complete the circle and then scoots forward with both feet.]
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Andréa: Well thank you so much for joining us, Javier.
Javier: Thanks for having me, Andréa. And I hope everyone will come out, hope to see you there, at Weaving Spirits Festival, [March 18-26].
[Fade to photo from premiere of Chaac & Yum : Two-Spirit Dance Project at Weaving Spirits Festival. Javier kneels in backbend over Snowflake’s standing leg. Both extend a searching arm above their heads. Each wears Indigenous loin cloths. Snowflake is lit in warm light and wears red. Javier’s curly hair hangs. The text reads “Weaving Spirits Festival of Two-Spirit Performance. March 17-20, 2022. Learn more at Facebook.com/weavingspiritsfest”]
[Fade to the 10 in 10 animation: a bright green background and a prominent “10” with the “0” designed to look like a clock face with the hands moving. Another “10” pops up and is nested within the original clock-face “0,” with “IN” nested inside the second “0.” Dancers’ Group’s logo is in the corner and the text beneath reads “Quick insights with the Bay Area Dance community.”]
If you’d like to get in touch with Javier Stell-Frésquez and the Weaving Spirits Festival, please follow the links below.
Editor’s Note: The dates for Weaving Spirits Festival of Two-Spirit Performance have shifted to March 18-26, 2022.
This conversation appeared in the Winter 2022 issue of In Dance.