Why The Fly Honey Show Is Summer’s Sexiest Party
A raucous reinvention of burlesque and cabaret that’s become a late-summer institution, The Fly Honey Show returns this month for its biggest edition yet: Fly Honey 9 runs five weeks at the Den Theatre. What began in 2009 as a benefit for the multidisciplinary DIY arts group known as the Inconvenience has taken on a life of its own, with dozens of performers — dancers, choreographers, musicians, performance artists — coming together in celebration of femme energy, body positivity, and gender equality.
That said, it’s not easy to convey exactly what to expect from The Fly Honey Show to those who haven’t experienced it. So we asked several members of this year’s cast to help explain.
Emilie Modaff (ensemble member): The unapologetic representation of all kinds of bodies, genders, and talents will surprise folks who come expecting a night of classic burlesque.
Gaby Labotka (ensemble member): At first glance this looks like another burlesque, but it’s so much more.
Bear Bellinger (Fly Honey 9 cast member): People expect something burlesque-inspired to be all about this one version of sexy, but one sexy does not fit all. There is a sexy for everyone in this show.
Bindu Poroori (co-curator): I think audiences are delightfully surprised by how crass the show can get (and it can be pretty in-your-face), and it allows folks to relax and party a little more. But then you get hit with really serious stuff — performances from featured artists that ask you to seriously consider your responsibilities in the world, poetry that shakes you and moves you to tears, invitations to join in and celebrate community and hope and power.
Alyssa Gregory (ensemble member): I had never seen Fly Honey before [creator and director Erin Kilmurray] asked me to perform in Fly Honey 4. I told her no because of my work schedule, and I also wasn’t feeling great about my body. My best friend came into town and I took her to see the show. After the opening number I made the decision that I was going to do the show the next year no matter what. Seeing all those bodies on that stage so confident, I got emotional.
Bear Bellinger: There is an unapologetic sexiness to the show that is intensely personal. I think the intersections of identity and how people choose to celebrate their version of femme is surprising to most audiences.
Julia Miller (featured performer, August 23–25): It really expands the concept of what cabaret can be and how we can respect and love each other while being sexy at the same time. It’s also such a fun party experience; being in the audience just makes you want to be up onstage with all the amazing dancers and performers.
Gaby Labotka: The first time I saw the show, I thought: This is what self-love looks like. This is what it’s like to be sexy and free without the male gaze interrupting. I want to do that!
Tia Monet Greer (ensemble member): The show does a great job of making sure people from most marginalized groups are involved in some capacity. It’s probably the only production I’ve been involved with that puts that priority above anything else.
Karmen Elaine (ensemble member): This is a celebration and communion between multiple communities. It’s also hard work. We build this through intentional relationships, investing in our own, and being vulnerable with each other.
Alyssa Gregory: Nobody is ready for the band. John Cicora, our band director, is a superhuman. Last year when we performed “Pony,” half the audience was up in their seats dancing.
Bindu Poroori: I think people might also be surprised that this show isn’t just fancy-pants professional dancers — it’s populated by a lot of regular-degular-schmegular people, and a lot more than just dance. It feels like a whole world.
Alyssa Gregory: I want people to leave The Fly Honey Show and fall in love with themselves. To see that it’s okay to be yourself, and the self you have in that moment is perfect. That a space does exist, and it’s always necessary because loving yourself is hard work.
Bear Bellinger: Be you. Be unapologetically you. Revel in your uniqueness and bathe in your intricacies. But, while you do so, understand and affirm the humanity of those around you.
Bindu Poroori: I hope that people walk away feeling comforted and empowered by the experience of communal love and intentional courage that this show puts forth. I hope they feel a little looser, a little sexier, a little louder, a little more ready to fight.
Emilie Modaff: I’d hope that a first-timer could leave the show feeling like they deserve to take up more space than society has deemed appropriate. I want someone to leave the show having seen what pure, uncensored joy looks like.
Gaby Labotka: I want them to go home, look in the mirror and see that they are fly too.