The NYC Covid-led lockdown in nightlife has not been an ideal setting for newer live performers, but this majestic duo is pulsating with starpower and will not be denied our attention. Recording artists, producers, dancers, drag queens, models, immersive theater performers and beyond, The Dragon Sisters are igniting Brooklyn and broadband with electrifying shows and sounds. Towering, chic, and sexy, Odessa (the bearded babe) and Issa (the smooth sis) are flying high and ready to slay the game in 2021… starting with some captivating new music. [Cover photo: Eli Schmidt]
Hello, Sisters! Happy New Year!
The Dragon Sisters: Happy New Year!
How did you ring in 2021?
Issa Dragon: I played it low key, and had a very meat and potatoes kind of dinner. Champagne and grapes. Very quarantine. Very virtual.
Odessa Dragon: The Doll was on the night shift; I work in hospitality for the side hustle. But for most of the day I tuned into “The Lost New Year,” a virtual fundraiser for the immersive theater community. It was a one hour show that was on a rotating loop for 24 hours. We had a 30 minute set in the loop, which gave us the chance to bring in the New Year throughout the day in every time zone.
So, let’s get right into it… who and what are you, lol!? I know part of your alluring mystique is that both your relationship as a pair and your genre as entertainers are kind of ambiguous. You’re like the Boulets, or even The White Stripes, in that respect.
I: We are The Dragon Sisters! Odessa and Issa Dragon. Odessa is from Richmond, Virginia, and they go by all pronouns, just like me.
O: Issa is from the Boogie Down MF’ing Bronx. But we met at North Carolina School of the Arts back in 2009, then both transferred to SUNY Purchase Conservatory of Dance, and have been together ever since.
I: A power duo. Performance artists. Showgirls with bulges and bars. We really are two peas in a pod. Co-directors of ColemanCollective, partners, and so much more.
O: The truth is… we are sisters, brothers, soulmates and best friends. We not only share family, clothes, community and friends, but we have trained and performed professionally side by side for over a decade now. I am her assistant and she is mine, I am her manager and she is mine. I am her biggest cheerleader and toughest critic and she is mine. We are your certified dream team! Now, couple?… We are both happily in love with our own partners, and have never been romantically involved.
How and when did you first find yourselves in nightlife, giving shows with the dolls in Brooklyn?
I: Well, we started working in the clubs with Darrell Thorne. For years, straight after college, while we both were under full time contracts with touring dance companies. At that time, Odessa was working with Bill T. Jones / Arnie Zane Dance Company, and I was with Gallim Dance.
O: Working in NYC nightlife with Darrell really helped us understand our range as performers. For the first time in our careers we were not on a stage separated from the audience by a proscenium and curtain, but among the people, being encouraged to be exactly who we wanted to be and move how we wanted to move. Gogo bitch! but make it fashion. It was very liberating to be honest, especially coming from the very strict world of conservatory training and being a part of the concert dance world.
I: Then we did some backup dancing for Candy Sterling at 3 Dollar Bill and Ariana and The Rose at House of Yes, which led to working with Spencer Ludwig at the Freehold in Williamsburg. “Le Trumpet” was a super successful monthly party which started Jan 2019, and this is actually when we started going as “The Dragon Sisters.”
I: Then somehow we found ourselves having a prime time slot at Bushwig!
I: Yep. And that was actually our last bar gig before the pandemic.
Odessah Dragon: Since then, we have done a number of virtual shows and fundraisers, as well as a few socially distanced outdoor events.
You actually did two consecutive Bushwigs: the traditional giant scale version in 2019, and then the stripped-down Covid edition at Maria Hernandez Park in 2020. You’re veterans! Were those two very different performing experiences?
I: Now, I wouldn’t say we feel like Bushwig veterans. Bushwig is a staple for the queer community! It is an honor to participate, and that you would consider us veterans. We truly had a great time at both shows. There wasn’t much of a difference with how we prepared–just rehearsed like crazy, and turned it at the show for the kids.
O: Bushwig is like nothing else on the planet. The energy at The Knockdown Center [in 2019] was just unbelievable. But, We try to treat every performance the same. Our goal is to always give 200 percent at all times, for every audience, no matter the venue or location.
Speaking of this summer, what were your thoughts and feelings about the BLM-led protests and activities in the city and across the world throughout that season?
I: It was such a charged moment for us. Right in the peak of the summer and deep quarantine, there was a call to action, and it was inspiring to see the unity we could create in a time where we needed to feel it the most.
O: It was a summer full of hope. We’ve been in this fight long before 2020, and it’s going to continue to be in our mission to honor, celebrate and protect our blackness. As a Black man from the South it was truly unbelievable to see so many people, of so many backgrounds, marching for Black lives. It’s about time we start protecting the Black body and mind as a nation. As a reminder to myself and anyone reading, the work isn’t done! We all need to speak louder, march harder and stay educated on the system, so that we can crack it wide open and take control of our future as a country
Back to the fabulosity of the Dragons–how would you describe The Dragon Sisters stage experience for the uninitiated?
O: You can always expect an electrifying display of unity and awareness. Synchronization and cosmic connection that can only come from a friendship like ours!
I: There is a delicate balance of grace and reckless abandon that’s always going on. We love to be on a stage where there’s space for our long limbs, but we also love to be on the floor; face to face with the audience. I like to think our stage show is like a 3D movie, and there are surprises and illusions coming at you from every angle.
Do you have any specific artists, genres, or otherwise that have inspired your own art?
O: Inspiration. The list (more like web) is endless. Firstly, we owe our lives to Erykah Badu, Nina Simone, Nicki Minaj, Lauren Hill and Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter (currently listening to Badu on my shift here in the lobby of the Equinox Hotel). A few of our favorite choreographers are Tommie Waheed, Ulysses Dove, Darrell Moultrie, Alonzo King, Martha Graham and Ohad Naharin.
I: Our art is inspired by our experience in fine art, as well as our personal culture and pop culture. As a creator of theater and curator of art, I have been influenced by the direction of immersive theater, which really gives the audience the opportunity to actively contribute to the experience. As dancers, I am influenced by performers who have successfully blended classical forms with underground and commercial entertainment, like Debbie Allen, Desmond Richardson, Christopher Hernandez, Jose Xtravaganza, Tamisha Guy, Lion Babe, FKA Twigs and Brooke Lynn Hytes. Musical groups we love are Outkast, Salt & Pepa, TLC, Destiny’s Child, Chloe x Halle…There are way more, pero…
O: Our most inspiring visual artists are Gustav Klimt, Myssi Robinson, Kehinde Wiley and Jean-Michel Basquiat. We are always finding inspiration in the lessons taught to us both by our college professors Kazuko Hirabayashi and Stephanie Tooman, as well as our dear mentor and mother Natasha Williams.
Your debut EP, The Fine Print, is six songs that are equal parts chill, cosmic, deep and playful. Tell us more about it!
I: We’re planning to release The Fine Print in 2021!
O: We have been in the creative process of this project for just about a year now, and are so MF’ing excited to share with the world.
I: The process was actually extremely organic. It felt like a combination of sound and language that was just waiting to burst out of us. The whole project was written by The Dragon Sisters, produced by Javery James, and mixed at M.A.D. Productions.
O: It was designed to be a sound score to support a live performance we envision.
And you also dropped “The Dragon Sisters Holiday Special” track in December! This is the freaknastiest Christmas Carol anyone will ever hear! How did that come about?
I: So, Nick Atkinson, a colleague of mine at Sleep No More, (the show I was in pre-pandemic), reached out to us about writing an original song on his holiday EP, A Very Dodo Christmas. Honestly, Christmas wasn’t even on our radar… but just the honor of him asking made us step up, and we turned out the song in one night. It’s been developed into a few different versions now, but we love what has come out of this unexpected collaboration.
O: My first thoughts were “I’m not exactly interested in making a Christmas song at the moment.” I wasn’t feeling jolly or in the holiday spirit, but the beat by our good friend and producer, Shoy-li, definitely got me in the mood to let Santa know who the fuck The Dragon Sisters are!
Do you two follow Drag Race at all? Any thoughts about this season’s odd new format?
O: To be clear it’s #teamTamishaIman, #teamkandymuse, #teamsymone, #teamlalari, and team everyone BLACK, always! We love Drag Race. We Love RuPaul. Never missed an episode. We loved the season premiere twist hunny! “To the main stage, NOW!”
I: Giiirrrllll!!! I loved it. Like the rest of America, I was gagged and gooped at first, but I think it was a great way to level the playing field and give the queens an “equal” opportunity to make a first impression.
Tell us about any future gigs or projects for the Sisters, or anything you think that 2021 might have an in store for them down the road!
I: Only God knows what 2021 will have in store for us, but we know that our journey is one that won’t be wasted.
O: We will definitely continue to share our friendship with the world through our art and talent. The plan is to have a virtual listening party on January 17th. Suggested donation. Everyone is invited!
I: Music is the way for us to share with the world right now. We’re building the performance for the EP and finding more unimaginable ways to create memorable moments and be intentional with our influence. I’m excited to continue to grow with our team of collaborators.
O: We hope to build more connections, meet more like minded artists and walk into our future as the universe guides us.
And lastly: what’s an everyday thing you’re most looking forward to doing again once we’re all vax’ed up?
O: I miss the theater and her long red curtains! I miss sitting in a dark room with hundreds of people watching artists pour out their souls on the stage. It’s my favorite thing to do. Nothing in this world like live theater, music and dance!
I: For sure. I miss live DJs and the dance floor. I miss the ballroom scene too! Looking forward to storming a ball with the House of Xtravaganza.
Thank you, Issa and Odessa!