Promoter Zayne Aguilar set out to throw a ‘proper’ gay dance party and create community at the same time

As more and more North Texans are getting vaccinated and health officials are starting to rein in the COVID-19 pandemic, people are getting more and more anxious to get back to some semblance of normal life. And in the LGBTQ community, as we kick off Pride Month 2021, what is more “normal” than a dance party?
And that’s where the Crystal Queer Riot dance parties come in. The first in the Crystal Queer Riot series of dance parties took place earlier this year. But things are really gearing up with the two-day Crystal Queer Riot: Reclaiming My Time on the Dance Floor party, happening June 5-6 at Elm & Pearl. This week, founder Zayn Aguilar of PROPA Productions talked with Dallas Voice about how the parties began and what they are all about.
— Tammye Nash

Dallas Voice: Who came up with the idea and the name for this series of events? What prompted it? Zayne Aguilar: The Idea for Crystal Queer Riot came from being asked by a few gay friends to throw a proper gay dance party.

Tell me about the creator or creators. What is your background? I currently own and work as the creative director for PROPA Productions. PROPA produces techno and house music parties and raves. We have been throwing parties in Dallas for five years now and have showcased artist from all across the globe, debuting some of the biggest names in electronic music today in the Dallas market.

How did you choose the name? Is there a special significance to it? Yes! Every show we produce has an intention, and we always like to bring a positive message to why we gather and dance. The first Pride was a riot, a riot of trans women of color, twinks and queer people who began the queer liberation movement we now know as The Stonewall Riots. Yet to this day these same trailblazers are still very marginalized within our own more mainstream gay community.

Crystal Queer Riot is a call to action, an intentional effort to give the dance floor back to those fighting the hardest struggles. Queer Riot is a community that opens its doors to everyone, especially those who may find it hard to fit in.

Dance music saved my life, and I want to share that experience with other people. I want them to know that there is a community out here that will accept anyone who is authentic and exactly who they want to be. For these reasons, Queer Riot is your favorite aggressively queer and radically tender party.

You have already held one Crystal Queer Riot dance. What kind of response did you get? How many people attended? It was a great response; the event sold out! We took over Rainbow Vomit at Fair Park, and people showed up early ready to dance. And they did! So many people came up to me excited to know we were creating a space specific to queer people, not just gay men.

The place was full of party monsters, club kidz — and they absolutely loved it. Everyone danced and made new friends. People were dressed up from beautiful costumes to fetish wear. We danced ’til 5 a.m.!

You say these events were created with the intention of “creating more dance events for Queer expression” and “more inclusive dance floors” in our community. What does that mean? How do you define “queer expression” in dance? And what does a “more inclusive dance floor” look like? What do you hope people take away from these events? This is the most important part to us. I personally have always struggled with fitting in within the nightlife and club scene of the gay community. I never felt accepted; I felt more tolerated. While there are bars with dance floors in our community, they can feel very cliquish, and the music can seem repetitive and eventually mundane.

I know this sounds very critical of these bars, and I don’t mean to sound that way. These bars mostly play top 40 music, and that is fun, and there is certainly a market for it. These are successful bars and staples of the community for a reason.

However, there are many like myself that enjoy true electronic dance music — house, techno, trance and progressive music. We love to feel the music, the bass vibrating through our bodies — music we can put our own story to.

I miss the days when I could go to a gay club, and there would be people of all colors and genders, dancing and “vibing” together. Today, many clubs/bars are segrated. We have Lesbian bars, Latino bars or Latino nights and Black clubs or hip-hop night. Queer is everyone.

There is a lot of thought and attention to detail that goes into these dance parties, from production to each individual attendee. Dance music gives people an outlet to express themselves not only through dance but fashion and art.

This community has an unwritten law of peace, love, unity and respect. We give each other space to be unequivocally and unapologetically our true selves, and that is Queer expression. It’s liberating. Everyone is welcome, but ego is not.

There is no space at a Queer Riot for homophobia, transphobia, racism, xenophobia or any other phobia that projects fear onto someone.

These parties take on a life beyond the club. We are a community; our common ground is the dance floor, but these connections become bonds that extend into our personal lives. People sometimes show up alone to our parties, but they leave knowing they have made lifelong friends. I know this because all of my friends, my closest and dearest, I have met on a dance floor somewhere on this big, blue planet.

Plus, the music is freaking amazing, because it’s dance music!

You are kicking off your series on Pride weekend with Reclaiming My Time on June 5-6. What comes after that? We have several more shows we will be announcing by June 5, as we ramp up to bring at least two Queer Riots a month — from more pool parties to club parties to after-hour raves and, my personal favorite, day raves. Sunday Funday with mimosas, brunch and, of course, dance music.

What else do you want to mention? What have I not asked you about that you want people to know? Our Pride party on June 5 will be held at our downtown warehouse club, Elm & Pearl, which used to be Dallas’ first queer Black club.

We were very honored to partner with this venue and bring back the name Elm & Pearl for the history it has. This is how queer people “Reclaim Their Time” in this social justice movement, where it all began — on the dance floor!

We would like for people to follow us on Facebook or Instagram @CrystalQueerRiot and share those pages with their friends. Our movement is essential to the curating and production elements we bring to each party we produce. We will be showcasing many queer producers and DJs from all across the country and world.
We are also looking for people here in Dallas who want to bring their talents forward to continue our dance movement. We welcome anyone interested or who has questions to reach out to us through our social platforms.

Crystal Queer Riot: Reclaiming My Time on the Dance Floor starts at 10 p.m. Saturday, June 5, at Elm & Pearl, 2202 Elm St., with DJ Angel and special guest Don Gentry. Tickets start at $10. The Reclaiming My Time on the Dance Floor Rooftop Pool Party, with DJ Angel and Danny Zalefsky, starts at 1 p.m. at Canvas, 1325 Botham Jean Blvd. Tickets start at $20. Tickets for both events available at EventBrite.