Text JF. Pierets Photos Extravaganza
Lars de Valk founded Extravaganza. The first extravagant bears, lesbians, muscle boys, club kids, drag queens, fag hags, fetish clubbers party with a positive vibe in Antwerp, Belgium. Bringing you happiness with themes such as Asian Persuasion, Sinners & Saints and The American Dream. With a crew of 20 performers styled by Harald Ligtvoet and a unique atmosphere, Extravaganza is by far one of the most positive and succeeded ‘be whoever you want to be’-parties we ever experienced so far. 10 reasons why we like the man behind the scenes.
I come out of fashion retail. A family business. When my parents retired I was out of a job and because I wanted to change the course of my life for yet a very long time, it was no disaster. I’m part of a theatre company and every time I was asked to do something creative, I flourished so I started thinking about something that gave me the same amount of satisfaction. I started thinking about an all-round party concept.
Antwerp was in need for a new party but it had to be good. It had to be a concept instead of once again another mainstream party. Since the inhabitants of Antwerp are quite highbrow, it had to be something that could resist the cynicism of the audience.
I had the summer of my life – well, until now – in Provincetown. I was there during the carnival week and never experienced such a feeling of unanimity. From the most trashy transvestites to leather boys and from bears to lesbians. Everybody just accepted everyone for what they were, partying together at one and the same place. I wanted to capture that feeling of equality. It was unique.
I didn’t want an underground concept because those are numerous. I didn’t want anything that had to do with sex. Not on top of it. I’m aware of the fact that sex sells, especially in the gay scene, but I was in need of a place where you could be relaxed. A place where you could flirt without the pressure of a darkroom around the corner. I wanted to create a fun and positive night. A place where people got swapped into a certain sphere in which there was no time for negativity.
When it comes to music I wanted something I heard in New York. No house, no techno, but old songs combined with contemporary beats. It’s a nice angle to start experimenting.
We planned the first edition of Extravaganza in November and started preparations in September. I was looking for people to entertain, via Facebook, via people on the street, at parties. I talked to them out of nowhere. Asking if they wanted to be part of a new party concept. People seemed to be extremely enthousiastic. Then I met stylist Harald Ligtvoet who wanted to interpret my moodboard and was willing to ‘design’ all the entertainers. I’m so extremely gratefull for this group of people who are working around the clock on this concept.
‘I integrated the slogan: ‘Come as you are’. Whoever you are, you can be yourself. It’s not a gay party. Everybody is welcome. It’s a statement.’
I wanted to work in themes. People don’t have to dress up, but they are welcome to do so. Since I wanted to capture the feeling I experienced in Provincetown, I integrated the slogan: ‘Come as you are’. Whoever you are, you can be yourself. It’s not a gay party. Everybody is welcome. It’s a statement.
Decorating makes me happy. Setting a theme, making a mood board, talking it through with the team. I love it! It’s also great to be able to work in Het Felix Pakhuis because then you know what you are doing and how it’s going to look. We start decorating at 8 o’clock in the morning and the make-up and dressing of the entertainers starts at 5. Its hard work but you know you will be in bed at 8 the next day so you can set your state of mind.
It’s a lot of work and sometimes I think I’m having three jobs. I’m both graphic designer, organizer and manager. I wanted to do it myself. The marketing, the thinking, the counting. I found that marketing is harder then I thought so I used promo media to help me. All the artwork and campaigns on top of the party organizing part. But it’s worth it. We have a full house, a happy crew and our visitors seem to like it very much.
You catch me at a moment of complete exhaustion as we just did the closing party at the Gay Pride Brussels. So we’re doing well. Next to our regular parties in Antwerp we were asked to also organize Extravaganza at other locations. We’re having a party at the Antwerp Pride in August and are going to The Netherlands for Milkshake festival. I’m a dreamer while standing with my 2 feet on the ground, but who knows what comes next. As for now: the future looks great!
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