Unapologetically Queer: An Interview with Atlanta Dancer Corian Ellisor

PHOTO: Jon Dean

PHOTO: Jon Dean

Corian Ellisor is a known powerhouse in the drag community a la the years long hostess of Gurlfrandz, Ellasaurus Rex. In the heels of Ellasaurus, Ellisor exudes a comforting aura. Even amidst the sass and glamour she is equally known and praised for, no matter how embolden and bitchy she can get on the mic, the personality and stage presence of Ellasaurus is conjured from a classic glamour girl sugarspun of sass and spice. She is undoubtedly part of the hearth and home that makes up the community, especially within EAV’s queer stomping ground, Mary’s.

Ironically, Ellisor’s efforts to transform into Ellasaurus can be seen as Corian “dressing down” in comparison to his other work. As much as Ellasaurus makes the audience feel at home, warmed by her laughter and inducted into high spirits (and maybe some shade), the scope of his talent reaches far beyond Ella’s rightful place as a sparkly soiree ringleader. Corian Ellisor’s other outlets of expression are emotive with roots well into his childhood and have influenced him into a studious academic performance path. Pursuing theater and dance under determined duress, Corian has long been a teacher and collaborator focusing on the human form’s vast realm of movement.

 

 

At the precipice of getting his Master of Fine Arts from George Washington University, Ellisor will be performing their conceptual piece, On My Mind, at 7 Stages on November 3rd, 4th and 5th. Long a teacher and collaborator of dance, On My Mind will combine it all:  dance, live singing, drag, comedy. Above all it is a true work from Ellisor’s heart:  a compelling autobiographical story revolving around being a gay son of a young Black mother and what it is to handle both maternal fears and projections alongside the strength and lessons in a threatening socio-economic and racially prejudice American society.

Corian and Ellasaurus in so many ways are a duality. Two sides of the same soul, one is needed for the other to actualize Ellisor’s artistic aspects. As two carriers of varied frequencies, each spirited body of work and expression of self are not so much a contrast but a compliment to the whole. Both express elegance and electricity, core characters of Corian, in differing ways to act, react, celebrate, thrive. Ellasaurus who shapeshifts an environment into a fury of fun and a diva that the drag community has looked up to and Ellisor as an artist with a deep respect for the teachings of theater and divinity of dance come together create the moving compelling performance that is On My Mind. Wussy talks with Corian Ellisor about his path in performance.

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What were your beginnings like as a kid?

I grew up in a suburb of Houston called Humble. Spelled “humble” but pronounced “umble”. I was a pretty shy kid who did not have a lot of friends. I did however have a passion for putting on a show and my mother took note of that. When I was old enough, I became heavily involved with theater and dance.

 

Around what age did you start dancing?

I started formally dancing at the age of 13 at Standing Ovations School of Dance in Spring, Texas. I went on the study dance at the University of Houston where I received a BA in Dance. I mainly focused on modern and contemporary dance. As I have gotten older, I use the techniques that I was taught growing up, but I am much more influenced by my culture which is queer, black and southern. I also take what I have learned from theater and music to help make my performances more of a variety show and less straightforward dance.

 

It’s appropriate, then, that at some point you started performing in drag. How has your theater background influenced that?

I started doing drag because I found myself struggling to have a dance company. I found it easier to work by myself. If I messed up or did not do something on time, it was my own fault. I wanted to perform as often as I could and play by my own rules, so drag seemed like a good option.

I also started doing drag with a group of amazing people that inspired me to keep pushing my boundaries as a drag artist. Namely Brigitte Bidet, Violet Chachki, Lavonia Elberton, Kryean Kally, Zaida J and Hydrangea Heath.

 

PHOTO: Jon Dean

PHOTO: Jon Dean

How has moving to Atlanta shaped both your queer and creative identity?

I moved to Atlanta in January of 2009. I feel like It has a place that has accepted me for the person I truly am. I moved here without knowing that many people which made it easier to make mistakes without feeling judged. Atlanta is a place where you can make your own opportunities. You do not have to sit around and wait for something to happen. You can make it yourself.

 

How has your identity informed who Ellasaurus Rex is as a personality?

My drag persona comes a lot from my mother who is a very strong and independent black woman. My biggest pop culture reference comes from Clair Huxtable from The Cosby Show. She was smart, could sing, speak other languages and she did not take crap from anyone. As my drag has continued, I find other strong black women as a cornerstone that I keep revisiting.

 

In what ways have you been able to express being queer, black and Southern with your upcoming performance at 7 Stages?

Every day I walk out of my house; I am an advocate for my community. The 7 Stages performance gives me a platform to voice my everyday experiences on a larger scale. Using storytelling, I give the audience a glimpse into my life which is my identity.

 

What are your hopes for young queers, especially queers of color, going into the future, under Trump's America?

We have to keep the dialogue open about all injustices we face as a group of marginalized people. With that being said, my hope lies in the future of young people. They are open, accepting and willing to stand up and fight for their rights. I hope they live louder and prouder than I could ever imagine. The only way we can advance society is by being unapologetically yourself.

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Sunni Johnson is a writer, zinester, and musician based in Atlanta, GA.