This year’s fundraising event for the artist-run space features footlong high heels, whipped cream-spewing bras, and live tattoos

Up three flights of stairs behind a metal adjoining a dimly lit nail salon, Brooklyn venue Pageant’s wood-floored studio is bedecked in silver tinsel and red balloons. The collectively operated space for dance-oriented performance is staging its second annual gala. Choreographers, tattoo artists, visual artists, and others in the Pageant universe mingle in their finest Bushwick-fancy dress: bedazzled wifebeaters styled with two-piece suits, interesting haircuts accentuated by sharp collared shirts, and blazers worn with tights-as-pants.

Like last year’s, well, pageant, Pageant presents a delightfully unhinged variety show to fundraise for its coming year of programming, all evaluated by a panel of judges featuring Nile Harris and Yoshiko Chuma among the council, and hosted by fellow choreographer-performer Tess Dworman. The prize for the top performer? Undeniable streetcred that extends from Myrtle-Broadway even to lands inaccessible via the JMZ line (plus a sash). To open the festivities, Bacterial Vaginosis—the drag persona of performance artist Noa Rui-Piin Weiss—peels X-shaped tape from their metallic-painted body while sobbing, crawling, and vogueing to a PC music-style song whose pitched-up vocalist whines about their ex-lovers. A kindred oddball spirit unites each of Pageant’s contestants, who paint “PICK ME” on their asscheeks and pop balloons full of fake blood with their teeth, sing songs about hospital-hotels while rotating on a tiny automated lazy susan, snatch iPhones from awe-struck audiences and shove them in their sports bras without missing a beat to a Megan Thee Stallion track. Someone even leaves with a tattoo: Pageant member Kalliope Piersol enlists artist-about-town Carson Foley to ink her skin live with the name of the collective as a fundraising gag. Each letter is auctioned off under threat that the audience’s failure to Venmo in a timely manner could result in Piersol’s being left with only a partial tat on their upper thigh.

Pageant’s 2024 winning act is a haunting performance by Joel Dean and Tenaya Kelleher featuring a voice modulator, a red carpet, and mini flashlights the gala-goers found taped under their seats. After Dean and Kelleher’s crowning, the lights dim and everyone proceeds to get nasty to the dub, dubstep, and deep house DJ stylings of rich mcd, Contractor, and Sii Sii.

There’s that one line in Field of Dreams (1989) where Ray Liotta’s disembodied voice says, “If you build it, he will come,” and as is the case with Pageant: where there is a space for underground performances, artists will arrive. However maintaining these spaces in New York City requires consistent donations and support from its patrons. The collective’s event doesn’t just raise money, it inspires an audience to take an active role in their programming by directly helping to finance it. Guts and glory aside, Pageant’s second annual gala has all of Brooklyn (and at least two-thirds of Manhattan) eager to see what next year will bring.