Fall Arts 2019: Dance

Portland’s Body Home Fat Dance Blazes a Radical Path

The fast-rising company has all but abandoned the conventions of mainstream dance, with an in-progress work that explores fat bodies in motion.

By Brendan Nagle August 27, 2019 Published in the September 2019 issue of Portland Monthly

KT Kusmaul didn’t set out to establish a dance company. Three years ago, her goal was far more modest: to offer fun, community-minded movement classes for Portlanders with bigger bodies.

“I didn’t think I was fully qualified, but no one was doing it,” recalls the 41-year-old, who grew up taking ballet, tap, and jazz classes until, she says, body shaming forced her out. For the classes, “I was like, ‘I’ll just try and see what happens.’”

Within a year, Kusmaul’s undertaking, which she called Body Home Fat Dance, was selling out every week. By fall 2017, Body Home dancers brought their spirited chassés and fan kicks to plus size fashion show Knock Out. (On October 20, they’ll return for the show’s third go-round.) And now Kusmaul finds herself the artistic director of a full-fledged dance company that has won over audiences in Portland and Seattle.

Last year, Kusmaul landed a residency at experimental dance hub Performance Works NW, where she and collaborators worked on Weighted Bodies, a piece that all but abandons the conventions of mainstream dance—it’s composed of what Kusmaul calls “expressive movements.” Nine dancers execute a series of focused moves, each body jiggling and rippling uniquely in space. Cathartic shrieks punctuate the gentle thigh undulations and resounding stomps. It’s not about proving they can move as well as anyone else—it’s about showing what they can do because they’re fat. 

Kusmaul is quick to note that Weighted Bodies, which she’s still expanding, is grounded in something deeper than “self-love.”

“Instead of it being about body love, it became about curiosity and exploration,” she says. “It’s not us being uncomfortable. If there are people in the audience who are uncomfortable with jiggling fat bodies, or they have in their mind some level that’s too fat, then that will be their discomfort. I’m not going to work them through that.”

Knock Out

Oct 20, Wonder Ballroom

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