‘Huge, very loud, and with a lot of glitter’Irene Hsiaoon June 10, 2022 at 4:01 pm

For the first time since a pandemic hiatus, The Fly Honey Show is live for three days only of sparkle, sweat, and shimmy. Begun in 2010 with about 30 performers in the living room of the DIY venue The Inconvenience, The Fly Honey Show has since manifested through the bodies of hundreds of dancers, musicians, spoken word artists, and more, migrating from warehouse to nightclub to theater as the hunger for the Honeys and the collective buzz of the Hive has grown ever hotter. Now in its 12th year, the Fly Honeys appear for the first time at Thalia Hall, with music by Chicago artists Glitter Moneyyy,Maggie Kubley, Jana Rush, and Shannon Matesky.

The Fly Honey Show 
Thu-Sat 6/23-6/25, doors 8:30 PM, show 9:30 PM (midnight toast and afterparty); Thalia Hall, 1807 S. Allport, theflyhoneyshow.com, $40-$175.

“I fundamentally believe in the value of dance as a tool for physical liberation and healing and storytelling,” says founder and director Erin Kilmurray. “This is that idea exploded out to the universe—huge, very loud, and with a lot of glitter. Fly Honey is a project, where every time you come back to it, you as a person and artist can evolve and grow and re-identify inside of it. My relationship to my body, just like everyone’s, changes minute by minute and day by day. Every time I come back to this project I’m a year older. The ways in which I want to express and be seen have evolved. And in the best way possible, the people who watch and the people inside tell us what it is every year. Over the years, people inside the project started taking ownership over what they loved. It has created its own culture.”

“I’ll never forget my first show,” says multimedia performance artist Kubley, who has sung every year since its inception and serves as vocal director this year. “I was supercharged by this burlesque atmosphere that had this punk flare to it. These kids lived in a communal living situation in a loft. The show was a bunch of girls taking their tops off. It was like, ‘You want to sexualize me? Fuck you, I’m going to sexualize myself. You can’t stop me.’ I was hooked. I have stayed with the show because, as feminism changes, as people become smarter and more responsible and double down on inclusion, equality, and diversity, it not only teaches me but energizes me to become a better person and light that fire in me that I want when I make art. It’s hot, sweaty, sexy fun but it’s so much more than that.”

“The mission was always about body positivity and women’s empowerment,” says Matesky, poet and founding Fly Honey artist. “It empowers all bods, no matter what your bod, using movement as a catalyst for change in your own life. The first year we had negative responses about us being scantily clad. We are reminding people, I don’t lose value because of what I wear. It’s been beautiful to see how much the community responds to the show—not just audience but participants. We sometimes think maybe we’re getting too old for this; maybe we should slow down or stop. But there’s a need for the fellowship that the Hive brings and the opportunity to harness our liberation.”

“Every time a person is allowed to express themselves fully is resistance work,” says comedian Melissa DuPrey, who is cohosting the show this year. “It is combatting all the ways the patriarchy and porn, which is so male-centered, has oppressed our thinking of what pleasure is. I consider myself a pleasure activist.”

“One of our favorite memories was hearing the band play a mashup of our songs ‘Hoe’ and ‘Clit’ and having all the Fly Honeys screaming ‘CLIT CLIT CLIT CLIT’ back at us while we twerked,” says hip-hop duo Glitter Moneyyy. “Fly Honey has inspired us since day one to let it all hang out.”

“Forms of self-expression are acts of defiance against a world that wants us all to conform, homogenize, assimilate,” says drag artist Irregular Girl, a Fly Honey performer since 2017. “Dance, and in particular, dancing in your own light, celebrating your own spirit, is a gift that performance and nightlife give us. There is freedom in it. As a trans girl, it’s impossible for me to feel safe and secure in myself 100 percent of the time. The world has shown me that it’s a scary place for a lot of us. But I know that when I am performing, when I’m dancing, I am at peace.”

“I’ve been in Fly Honey since I was 22,” says singer/songwriter and longtime performer Quinn Tsan, who is coproducing the show this year. “It shaped my entrance into adulthood. I came out of an abusive relationship a little bit after I started the show. It made me feel more interested in the issues the show champions and interested in championing those issues with a larger organism of people and material and art-making. It was really fucking fun, and it pushed us to be more active and louder in the political and cultural space.”

Sawyer Smith lifts Quinn Tsan during a past Fly Honey Show. Eric Strom/GlitterGuts

“Seeing, and now performing with, so many beautiful and talented artists of all colors, genders, shapes, and sizes, really makes me feel seen and right at home,” says first-time Fly Honey performer Diamond Gant. “Dance is a big part of my life and as a Black, plus-size, female artist, this world and industry can definitely be narrow in how talent and beauty is seen in someone who looks like me. Despite the challenges that come, I’ve always pushed forward because I know that dancing and performing is one thing I was put on this earth to do, and the impact that I want to make through it is much bigger than myself. Joining the Fly Honeys on the stage feels like a moment to celebrate all of us being unapologetically ourselves and doing what we love despite how this world may feel about us!”

“I had no idea that this enigma of an experience had been happening for years. Then having my mind blown witnessing the Fly Honeys for the first time. I remember thinking about how badly I want to be a part of this community, not just a spectator,” says associate producer Vic Wynter, who has performed with the ensemble. (Wynter is also directing About Face Youth Theatre’s Gayme Changersthis month.) “There has been an open invitation to assist in how the show is getting shaped, shared, and structured, and I’ve appreciated the space I’ve been given to speak and be heard. I have felt genuinely valued from the moment I saw my first show, to being on stage, and now working behind the scenes.”

“The project at the end of the day is, we want to feel fly,” says Kilmurray. “We want to, and we want the people who are watching to see us that way, and we want the people watching to feel that way themselves. It’s hard to be in your body and feel good about it. When do you not want to feel that way? There’s a need to be in some kind of fellowship around feeling yourself—there’s pretty much never enough of that. People are continuing to do the project, people are experiencing their bodies change, people voluntarily change, people go through transitions in their bodies. To come back into this space and be seen as an updated version of yourself is pretty amazing.”

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