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Ceréna Is Inviting Everyone To Her Party

We catch up with the queen of Canadian queer dance music fresh off her first-ever festival set. 

by Madeline Lines

Photo by Daniel Dortas

If there’s one thing to know about Ceréna, it’s that her Osheaga show in Montreal over the summer was the only one all weekend where I saw the security guys dancing along. Her effervescent energy, on and off-stage, is infectious. It’s because it comes from a special place where everyone is welcome. Since coming out as trans and finding her place in Toronto’s queer dance scene, Ceréna is soaking up a new life – and she’s bringing everyone along with.

“It’s very important that people know that it takes a village. I wouldn’t be here without my community that’s been insanely supportive in every way, shape, and form,” says Ceréna. “It makes me feel safe, and I didn’t have that before. So it’s like, yes, give them their flowers.”

Not only was it her first time on-stage at a music festival, it was Ceréna’s first time at a festival, period. “Plus, I’d never even done a one-hour set before,” she laughed. The crowd didn’t catch on though. Part-way through the set she brought out her crew of dancers and collaborators for solo dance stints to introduce themselves, which was special. The crew had repurposed choreography from before Ceréna had even begun transitioning, she confides in me, which was a challenge.

“It was kind of scary,” says Ceréna. “It’s funny because I’m not the only trans person that came out after that. One of my original dancers came out as trans too. I talked to them and I was like, ‘Okay, this is gonna be a trip.’ But you know, now we’re doing this as our full authentic selves.”

Photo: @Magdafy

Music-making and performance has long been a constant in Ceréna’s life, growing up putting on shows for her immigrant family in North York. But it’s dance music in particular that holds a special place in her heart, for the queer community it conjures and how it kept her afloat during her transition. It was a lifeline during a difficult time.

“As a queer person, dance music represents the club, it represents queer nightlife, it represents one of the few spaces that we feel safe in,” says Ceréna.

When the pandemic hit and these spaces of self-discovery shut down, it was a massive blow. Not just for Ceréna, but for the Toronto queer community at large. Instead of waiting around for the clubs to re-open, Ceréna brought the dance floor to everyone’s bedrooms with Club Quarantine. A new queer online dance party was born, and became massively popular – with nearly 70,000 Instagram followers and appearances from Charli XCX to Lady Gaga

“One of the biggest lessons was the number of disabled people that reached out to us saying they’d never been to a queer dance club before, and experiencing it and feeling amazing,” says Ceréna. “It’s really about bringing the energy of the dance club to whoever wants to be there, no matter whether they can get there.”

Even long after bars and clubs have re-opened their doors, Club Quarantine lives on – both in person and online. As we wrap up our interview, Ceréna excitedly tells me Club Quarantine is coming to Montreal soon. I’m bummed, I tell her, because I’ll be in Vancouver that week. She gently reminds me that I can join from wherever I am. That’s her whole thing. Wholeheartedly inviting everyone to the party.

“The music industry hasn’t been very supportive of someone like me for a very long time. I had to pretend to be somebody else, until it literally almost killed me. And then you choose life, right, and choose joy,” says Ceréna. “It makes me so proud and happy that we can be making the change in these spaces, so that any queer person can feel that they can also be in these spaces. We belong everywhere.”