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Review: USU Pride Fest — Performing Arts Showcase

The showcase was one of several events in the USU's annual Pride Festival.

Confidently staring down the barrel of another Zoom call, the performers in the University of Sydney Union’s opening night of Pride Fest were a shining example of USyd’s queer talent and their contributions to performing arts societies across campus.  The well-attended showcase was a true surfeit of creative expertise with performances from eight different societies, including the Conservatorium Students’ Association (CSA) who provided witty pre-recorded video adaptations of ‘7 Rings’ by Ariana Grande and ‘Don’t Start Now’ by Dua Lipa. 

The night started off strong and wildly funny with Violet Hull (SUDS) performing an appropriated version of ‘It Girl’ by Jason Derulo — which isn’t a queer song, but she made it “the gayest thing ever,” keeping the original she/her pronouns in the lyrics. According to Alex in the chat: “POG POG POG.” 

SUDS kept the ball rolling with a comedic monologue performed by  Charlotte Blomfield about $3000-worth of rocks and someone’s girlfriend’s grandma being reincarnated as a NutriBullet (?) — I missed the first sentence and clearly lost-out on some critical context—  regardless of my confusion, I thoroughly enjoyed this performance and Kat Porritt-Fraser’s touching musical tribute to Courtyard Cafe. Well-done SUDS! 

The Movement and Dance Society (MADSOC), who run weekly multi-genre classes and end-of-year productions, were up next with a Samba performance by Lara and Lillian. Showing off the style of Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, the duet’s poised style and precise footwork were truly formidable —  and the Zoom chat was truly ‘going off’. Following up, was a beautiful contemporary/lyrical pre-filmed piece (choreographed specially for this!) performed by Therese, Breanna, Imogen, Elizabeth and Rachel. 

A stand-out performance came next from The POP Music Performance Society (POPSOC), but not before they explained that the society is a fan of all types of music including “Russian Doom-Core” — I tried to investigate this genre via Youtube comments but, to my dismay, they were all in Russian; sonically though, I think I enjoyed it.

Performing their rendition of ‘Chosen Family’ by Rina Sawayama and Elton John, Elaine and Ethan of POPSOC got the crowd teary-eyed — and not just from chronic-Zooming eye-strain. I can confidently say this was one of the night’s crowd-favourites. Not only was it beautifully harmonised, sung and played, but it was also extremely moving in the context of Pride and the chosen performing-arts family that was gathered there for the night. 

The A Cappella Society (BarberSoc) strongly followed in the performance suit, presenting two pre-recorded videos that showed off their aca-amazing talent. The first, and fitting for Pride Fest, was a Priscilla Queen of the Desert Medley from 2019 arranged by Catherine Chung, and the  second was Ready by Montaigne, arranged by Riley Treisman; the chat proclaimed it as “magical,” and indeed it was. 

The singing and strumming continued with performances from The Sydney University Musical Theatre Ensemble (Muse) and The Sydney University Jamming Society (UniJam). Ewan (Muse) sang the house down with ‘Corner of the Sky’ from Pippin the Musical, and Alex (Muse)  provided us with some outstanding original songs and guitar. UniJam kept the tunes going with too many to list, but a special mention goes to Lorenzo and Miguel on the guitar and melodica performing a song titled ‘Lotus Blossom’ by Billy Strayhorn; a black and openly gay jazz music composer in 1940s America. Their rendition was vibe-y and fantastically done, and in the chat the song was “taking [Chloe] places.” I wonder where? 

Closing out the night with a bang was the Sydney University Hip Hop Society (Soul x Press, SXP). President Sonja Ison began with a short history of hip hop as a culture developed out of the Bronx predominantly by African American people, citing the four major elements as: Graffiti, DJ, MCing and Breaking. 

SXP brought forward five incredible performers each displaying a different style, with equally high levels of mastery and flair. Finally, in honour of Pride Fest, a Waacking lesson (a form of street dance with roots in the Los Angeles queer clubs of the 70s disco era) by Kandy DeVillain had the entire Zoom call uncoordinatedly on their feet and doing their best with an unmatched enthusiasm. In the chat, Prudence just “wants to be this cool,” and Alex had “joints cracking that probably shouldn’t crack” — for their sake, I’m glad physiotherapy is an essential service. 

After a wild two hours of incredible performances — and the most supportive Zoom chat I have ever witnessed — the Showcase was a must-be-at event. USU Board Director and event convenor Isla Mowbray told Honi that “At a time when our performing arts community is being hit hard by the lockdown… Last night was a fantastic showcase of Usyd’s performing arts societies and was a wonderful celebration of queer artists.” I couldn’t agree with this sentiment more, and I would encourage everyone to look into each of these societies’ online classes and get-togethers, as well as the rest of the USU Pride Fest line-up here