Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus

What a kick! Dance that moved us

2018 in Review, Part 4: Dance that turned our thinking inside out and took us places where we'd never been before

Sure, we love big jumps and fast turns, but that’s not what makes the best dancing. The best dancing is the kind that takes us places we’ve never been before, or turns our thinking inside out.

Some of Oregon ArtsWatch’s best dance writing this year did that, too. Collectively, the OAW dance team—the writers covering dance, that is; don’t book us for your holiday party just yet—has decades’ worth of writing, research, and performing experience, as well as the burning desire to produce insightful and inspired coverage of dance in all its forms.

Like ArtsWatch? Help us out.

We couldn’t bring you the stories we bring without your support, which is what keeps us going. Oregon ArtsWatch is a nonprofit journalism publication, with no pay wall: Everything we publish is free for the reading. We can offer this public service thanks to generous gifts from foundations, public cultural organizations, and you, our readers. As the year draws to a close, please help us keep the stories coming. It’s easy:

Lucky us: we had so much to do in 2018 that we can’t revisit it all here. Instead, we’re sampling some of the moments, big and small, that especially moved us this year:


Odissi Dance Conpany’s Artistic Director Aparupa Chatterjee with the ODC repertoire: Tanvi Prasad, Divya Srinivasa, Divya chowdhary, Swati yarlagadda, and Ramyani Roy. Photo: Sarathy Jayakumar

Embracing Odissi in the age of Trump

The 2016 U.S. presidential election continued to galvanize artistic action two years after the fact. “Since Donald Trump took office, I have been watching and admiring artists all around the world react to his words and policies and have been wondering how I should respond myself,” Jamuna Chiarini mused. “I think that my choice to step away from my Western dance practices and focus solely on Odissi is my response. The more degraded American culture gets, the less interested I am in being a part of it.”

Chiarini’s piece explored Odissi’s technical and cultural assets and illustrated why it particularly appeals to her in this degraded day and age: “Some dances in the Odissi repertoire aren’t even taught until a dancer reaches 40, because it’s believed that younger dancers don’t yet have the emotional depth and life experience to properly express what the dance is about. Odissi also doesn’t have strict rules on body shape and size as Western dance culture does. What is considered beautiful is much broader in Indian dance culture.”


Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus flies through the air on KQED

Jack StockLynn and his circus describe what it would be like if Portland could dance

Gentrification is pushing performers to the outer limits of the cities they call home, and local performers are no exception. A new web-based video series called If Cities Could Dance, produced by Bay Area PBS affiliate KQED, zooms in on eight urban areas—San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Detroit, Los Angeles, Baltimore, New Orleans and Portland—where performers are fighting to maintain their spaces, their voices and their cultural identities.

Sir Cupcake is the subject of an episode of KQED’s “If Cities Could Dance” series./M.Fayre Photography

On May 8, the series will profile Sir Cupcake’s Queer Circus, a Portland-based troupe of clowns, aerialists, dancers, jugglers and contortionists, led by the self-described “bumbling trickster” character Sir Cupcake, aka Jack StockLynn.

“Our shows are glittery, campy and full of love and positivity,” StockLynn says of the company, which is composed of queer and transgender performers and their allies. “We are seeking to uplift our community and ourselves by working together to tell queer stories in a fantastical way.” In this dance-centered series, the circus occupies a special niche: although its eight core members aren’t dancers per se, some have trained in contemporary and underground dance styles, as well as the specialized performance movements circus arts require.

StockLynn, a Portland kid, ran off to Seattle in the early 2000s to study with a clown master at Cornish College of the Arts. He moved back in 2006 to train as an aerialist and acrobat before joining physical theater company Do Jump! in 2010. It was about that time he noticed something was missing in the circus world. Although Portland has a large circus community—“four big studios that teach, and a number of smaller ones,” StockLynn says—“there are a lot of queer circus artists, but not a lot of queer circus content.”