Breaking Open the Big Tent: Portland’s Queer Circus Performers Defy Gender Roles

Editors Note: If Cities Could Dance captures dancers’s personal stories and their deep-rooted relationships to their communities. Watch a new episode every Tuesday through May 28, 2018.

Portland is known for celebrating the eccentric, quirky and DIY, and the city’s dancers certainly embody that unique Pacific Northwest spirit.

As the leader of Sir Cupcake's Queer Circus, Jack StockLynn inhabits the role of a whimsical trickster, using acrobatics, theater, creative costumes and aerial dancing to bring a childlike sense of magic to our otherwise mundane, adult lives.

“As a performer, what I’m trying to do is to send my heart out into the audience and bring them into my story,” says Jack StockLynn, the leader of Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus. As Sir Cupcake, StockLynn inhabits the role of a whimsical trickster, using acrobatics, theater, creative costumes and aerial dancing to bring a childlike sense of magic to our otherwise mundane, adult lives.

The law of gravity seems not to apply to Sir Cupcake as he twirls through the air on swings and hoops. And the gender binary doesn’t seem to, either: Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus spotlights queer and trans performers whose playful costumes experiment with gender presentation as much as they do with color and design, giving everyone on stage and in the audience the space to be themselves. “As a performer, I’m so rarely cast in roles that reflect my gender identity,” explains StockLynn, who is transgender. “In struggling with that, I started making my own shows.”

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StockLynn grew up in Oregon City, just south of Portland, and moved to Portland after studying physical theater and clowning at the Cornish College for the Arts in Seattle. He wanted to be close to home, he says, and to live in a city with a large LGBTQ community and arts scene. Though Portland’s ongoing gentrification is making it less affordable for artists, StockLynn remains optimistic: “I just have to figure out how to push back, and to raise other voices so we’re all there together.”

Watch Sir Cupcake and Queer Circus members KC Fong and Nick John give a pop-up performance in their friends' backyard. Then, they take their acrobatic antics out to the streets, where they dance across the Hawthorne Bridge to the tracks of the Oregon Pacific Railroad and the city’s Eastbank Esplanade. - Text by Nastia Voynovskaya

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