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    SF’s British Queen Steals Show in The Christmas Ballet Before Competing for the RuPaul’s Drag Race Crown

    Bianca Del Rio, who? San Francisco’s very own Lady Camden will be the one to watch when she works the runway in season 14 of RuPaul’s Drag Race. But first, audiences can catch a glimpse of the next potential Drag Race star in Smuin Contemporary Ballet’s The Christmas Ballet. The annual holiday tradition—a smorgasbord of dance from tap and jazz, to swing and sock-hopping—gets a mischievous twist when special guest Lady Camden performs on LGBTQ+ Night, Tuesday, December 21.

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    The San Francisco drag queen extraordinaire—and alter ego of former Smuin artist Rex Wheeler—will host the evening, as well as step into the red-hot heels of “Santa Baby,” the iconic role originated by Smuin Artistic Director Celia Fushille. The Christmas Ballet was created more than 25 years ago by Michael Smuin (1938–2007), who came up with the fiercely festive show as an alternative to The Nutcracker, declaring that he was going to set dances to all different types of holiday songs, from popular melodies to multi-denominational tunes.

    “Being cast on RuPaul’s Drag Race is a dream come true and to be able to celebrate this moment with the ballet company I’ve loved so dearly in this LGBTQ+ Night is very special,” Wheeler told the San Francisco Bay Times. “Getting to dance with my peers again as Lady Camden in this beautiful, hilarious, and heartwarming performance feels like a very full circle moment, and if it’s anything like the previous LGBTQ+ Night, the audience is going to be on their feet with absolute joy.”

    Wheeler attributes his stage name to an unusual childhood growing up in Camden, where his father ran a famous nightclub and his mother was a fashion designer. He attended the Royal Ballet School, performed for the Royal Family on several occasions, and devoted his early career to mastering classical repertoire.

    However, he changed his mind about his classical focus after seeing Smuin’s The Christmas Ballet, declaring: “It looked like such fun. I thought, ‘To hell with my preconceptions, I want to dance like that!’” After three seasons of dancing with Smuin, Wheeler left to focus on choreography (he also contributes one new piece to this year’s The Christmas Ballet, a new trio set to “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” by Vivaldi) and performs as Lady Camden around San Francisco including mainstays such as Hamburger Mary’s, Oasis, and Beaux. Lady Camden will make her debut on season 14 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, premiering January 7, 2022.

    The LGBTQ+ Night performance of Smuin’s irrepressible holiday classic is filled with surprises that add camp, culture, and miles of cheer. Every ticket purchased will also provide a donation to Project Open Hand, a nonprofit organization that serves lifesaving, medically tailored nutrition to community members experiencing critical health conditions including HIV/AIDS, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease in San Francisco and Alameda counties.

    “We are humbled and truly honored that Smuin is donating a portion of the proceeds from The Christmas Ballet LGBTQ+ Night to Project Open Hand,” said Project Open Hand CEO Paul Hepfer. “Not only is Smuin at the forefront of contemporary ballet, but they are also at the forefront of supporting and helping their community members in need.”

    Lady Camden headlines Smuin’s LGBTQ+ Night performance of The Christmas Ballet at 7:30 pm, Tuesday, December 21, at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (700 Howard St, San Francisco). A rollicking afterparty hosted by Lady Camden will follow. Tickets ($25–$99) and information are available by calling 415-912-1899 or visiting https://tinyurl.com/mpt2fs8k

    Published on December 16, 2021