I was gushing as I prepared this interview. Why? Because CHERYL is arguably the best dance party in Brooklyn. And their videos, performances and workshops have been highlighted in venues across New York- including P.S. 1, the Whitney Museum and the The Jewish Museum – as well as in London, Berlin and Lisbon. If a country’s economy is worth its weight in gold, CHERYL is worth its weight in glitter and fake blood. They transform clubs and museums alike with a dollar store makeover – imagine Dolly Parton meeting Alfred Hitchcock and Richard Simmons at Conway.
For many, CHERYL is a way of life. Founded by Sarah Van Buren, Nick Schiarizzi, Destiny Pierce and Stina Puotinen, they remain humble, if not dumbfounded, by their cult following. The monthly dance party is a space of wild and free expression, whether that means dancing, drinking, cross-dressing, throwing-up or making out with a cat.
Like Allan Kaprow’s Happenings, these rendezvouses are not for casual-observers. Everyone must participate to achieve the full CHERYL experience; and with loud music and cheap drinks it is nearly impossible to sit on the side-lines. This was what George Maciunas’ New Year’s Eve Flux Dinner in the 60s and 70s were like when revealers brought food based on themes like the color purple and erotic desire. CHERYL’s themes have included Pizza, Arctic Fury, Fowl Play and Sasquatch on Broadway. But like glue sticks and frozen burritos CHERYL comes with a warning: this is the “dance party that will ruin your life.”
So you are just back from your European tour, did you ever expect or want CHERYL to become such a sensation?
sarah: We had no idea. I think that’s a huge reason why it’s worked. WE started CHERYL because were all friends and wanted a dance party and it was fun and non-serious. We were filling a niche that was empty at the time.
nick: We threw a dance party one night that quickly developed into something totally insane we still can’t understand.
destiny: Sometimes I am still baffled that we can throw a party where we make people to wear masks, fake beards, necklaces made out of real pizza slices, dump a bucket of fake blood on their head, have everyone do high kicks on the dance floor until their legs give out and then they collapse in a pile of glitter, and people keep coming back? Every CHERYL party or event never fails to fill me with awe and inspiration, mainly because of the community of people that shows up and agrees to engage in this sort of hours long, cathartic group performance with us.
stina: I think we somehow tapped into a collective insanity that was brewing already – we just gave it a name (and a cat face).
By the way, who is this CHERYL? Why haven’t I met her yet?
sarah: CHERYL could be anyone or anything. That’s why we wear masks – CHERYL is you, CHERYL is me, blah blah blah.It’s not important who we are as individuals. We are united under CHERYL.
stina: You’ve already met her — CHERYL is you.
My favorite CHERYL memory is CHERYLPIZZA – back in the day when you were at Royale. I woke up the next morning with cold pizza around my neck and grease stains all over my shirt and bed sheets Any favorite memories you have?
nick: Haha. That’s awesome. There are too many good memories to recount. Every party has been special in its own way. Some parties have blown me away. Some parties have scared me, some have made me want to check myself into a hospital.
destiny: Too many fun memories to count. What Nick said. I guess there were some surreal moments in Europe where I would look around and people where doing the CHERYL, or covered in blood, or wearing some insane outfit, and it was obvious that they had watched our videos and got it — they knew what CHERYL was all about. And there we were all were on a dance floor at 4am and we didn’t speak the language and we were strangers in this city and yet and were duct taping the crowd together in a sweaty mess and collectively loosing our shit and it was total euphoria and I had this moment of perspective like, HOW THE FUCK DID WE GET HERE?
For me the morning after a CHERYL is always as fun – cleaning glitter and fake blood out of my ears. Do you guys ever have regrets? Ohh we are partying too hard, ohh I have to stop dancing all the time . . .
sarah: My only regret is not getting enough sleep. At least two of us (me and Nick) are pretty much 100% sober at all CHERYL events, so any weird partying choices we make are made with 100% pure logic and don’t require regret.
destiny: No regrets. I actually don’t ever want the party to end. I have been known to sleep in my face paint and continue wearing my blood encrusted costume for days after a CHERYL. One of our collective dreams is to one day own a 24 hour dance party establishment in a strip mall along side a wall to wall trampoline room, a 7-11, a dollar store/thrift store, a bar, a yoga studio, a spa and nail salon, and butcher shop. Actually that sounds more like a shopping plaza or a mini-mall, as opposed to just a strip mall, right?
Ten years from now where do see CHERYL?
nick: Hopefully by then we’ll own our own 24-Hour dance club/museum/Italian restaurant and we’ll be making music videos for Miley Cyrus.
stina: Have you ever seen Spice World? That’ll give you an idea.
What are you going to tell your grandkids about this when they see photos of you in cat masks drenched in sweat, glitter and cheap beer?
nick: I am not having children for this exact reason.
destiny: If any of us have kids or those kids have kids, I am going to weave a baby slings out of fake hair and silver party tinsel and the kids will be on the dance floor with us. We also might tape together some cardboard boxes and partition off a “Kids Korner” on the dance floor where everyone can just drop off their baby until they are done dancing.
Speaking of kids. Has CHERYL improved your dating life? And by dating I mean sex.
destiny: CHERYL has resulted in soulmate matches, one night stands, non- traditional polyamorous relationships, bi-curious make outs and more. CHERYL exponentially increases your potential to leave the house dressed in a garbage bag or as a troll in a nude colored unitard and end up going home with an attractive stranger dressed as a rainbow unicorn who you may or may not fall in love with, but who you will definitely have hot sex with.
stina: Everyone who comes to the party has a sexy CHERYL story, I’d bet. Let’s just say I feel very comfortable dancing around in a nuditard in front of hundreds of strangers. And I have discovered the sex appeal of hair-epaulets.
It seems that CHERYL has a big gay following. Was this intentional? Have you thought about doing a CHERYL singles mixer?
sarah: Nick is gay. He has played match-maker at CHERYL before and joined people up. But generally, CHERYL is post-gay. Its not about being gay or straight or anything in between or having to explain yourself. The idea is to just lose your shit and if you end up making out with a cat, that’s cool. .
If CHERYL were a country who would be its president and what would the national anthem be?
sarah: Our official country is Go-Go, which is a small island located in the Gowanus Canal. The President is probably Francesca the ceramic cat, with cat-cousin as VP. The national anthem would be “I Want To Fuck You In The Ass.”
destiny: What Sarah said, although I might contend that the anthem is “See You Again” by Miley Cyrus.
stina: I completely agree with what Sarah said, but I will also second Destiny’s vote for “See You Again” by Miley Cyrus as our official national anthem. As all die hard CHERYL-ers know, it is traditionally our last song, with highkicks.
CHERYL in one word . . .