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    Lady Camden Hosts Rip-Roaring LGBTQ+ Night for Smuin’s The Christmas Ballet

    Can you hear the “slay” bells ringing? Smuin Contemporary Ballet is kicking off the holidays in San Francisco with The Christmas Ballet, December 14–24 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts! This annual holiday tradition featuring everything from ballet to tap, jazz, and swing gets a twist with special guest Lady Camden for its annual LGBTQ+ Night performance on Tuesday, December 20.

    A fan favorite and first runner-up on the most recent season of RuPaul’s Drag Race, Lady Camden is the drag alter ego of former Smuin artist Rex Wheeler—a dancer, actor, and choreographer who previously performed with and choreographed for Smuin. Hailing from across the pond, Wheeler attended the Royal Ballet School 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 leaving Smuin, Wheeler began performing as Lady Camden around San Francisco at mainstays such as Hamburger Mary’s, Oasis, and Beaux. She rose to worldwide acclaim following her appearance on season 14 of RuPaul’s Drag Race, before embarking on a worldwide tour as a featured performer on RuPaul’s Drag Race: Werq the World.

    Now San Francisco’s very own British Queen is home for the holidays! Offering an irresistible combo of British grit and American charm—plus tons of talent to boot—Lady Camden will host and “werk” the stage in this extra-special edition of The Christmas Ballet. The festive alternative to The Nutcracker was created more than 25 years ago by company founder Michael Smuin, who declared he was going to set dances to all different types of holiday songs, from popular melodies to multi-denominational songs.

    Each year, fans of The Christmas Ballet can look forward to pieces such as the slinky “Santa Baby” trailing the world’s longest feather boa, or “La Calandria,” a lively folk dance-inspired solo with a show-stopping finale. The lineup changes year to year, with new numbers unveiled every season (this year unwraps two world premieres by Amy Seiwert and Nicole Haskins).

    For the LGBTQ+ Night performance of Smuin’s irrepressible holiday show, the company has created special programming and casting that celebrates the vibrant LGBTQ+ community. Plus, Lady Camden will step into the red-hot heels of the iconic “Santa Baby” role, which was originated by Smuin Artistic Director Celia Fushille and has been passed on to other dancers every year since.

    Each ticket purchased for LGBTQ+ Night will provide a donation to two community organizations. “I think it’s important for us to support local organizations each year, to raise funds and spread awareness about the amazing work they do,” says Fushille.  This year’s beneficiaries include LYRIC, a San Francisco-based lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQQ) youth organization that inspires positive social change with LGBTQQ youth, their families, and allies.

    The second benefiting organization is Project Open Hand, which was originally founded in 1985 to feed people with HIV/AIDS, and now serves lifesaving nutrition to community members experiencing critical health conditions throughout San Francisco and Alameda counties. Says Wheeler from Perth, having just wrapped up an Australian tour, “Celebrating Christmas is a wonderful tradition that brings people together—and is also a fabulous time to share with those in need. I can’t wait to reconnect with my San Francisco community at this show!”

    Lady Camden’s sizzling “Santa Baby” performance will headline the LGBTQ+ Night performance of Smuin’s The Christmas Ballet 7:30 pm, Tuesday, December 20, at the Blue Shield of California Theater at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (700 Howard St, San Francisco). The full run of Smuin’s The Christmas Ballet is December 14–24. Tickets and information are available by calling 415-912-1899 or at

    Arts & Entertainment
    Published on December 1, 2022