Six years ago, Bodhi Calagna met a woman named Sway. The two hit it off immediately, which took them both by surprise.
“It’s funny, when you’re not looking, that’s when they kind of show up,” Calagna says. “And we weren’t looking. We were literally just looking for play partners. So we knew our first date was an interview for play partnership, and it just kind of morphed. We were like, ‘Wow, this person’s much more interesting than just being about sex.’”
The two formed a bond, one later tested by not only the pandemic but a major life change for Calagna, who as DJ Alyson Calagna had built a massive following. Calagna transitioned, becoming Bodhi, going public with the transition in January, 2020.
Sway, steadfast in her support of Calagna, was instrumental in helping Calagna move forward on their trans journey.
“What’s so great about the universe bringing us together,” Calagna says, “[is that] Sway has been around queer and trans folks pretty much her whole life. It’s been her world. She’s been with men, women, and gender-bending folk. She’s very queer in that way. And she was able to really see me in a way that, intuitively, she just knew.”
The turning point came when Sway one day happened to pick up on a once-over that Calagna gave their body in the mirror.
“She caught me looking at myself in the mirror and saw the pain that I was having,” Calagna recalls. “I remember her opening her arms and just saying, ‘My love, come here. We’ve got to talk about this.’ And I just broke down. That was the pivotal shift of like, ‘I’m going to do this.’”
Another deciding factor was Calagna’s realization toward the end of 2019 that a new decade was literally about to dawn.
“I remember saying, ‘Not another decade in this gender. I just can’t do it,’” they say. “So that was the breaking point for me. I didn’t want to go another decade without just being who I know I am.”
More than three years later, Calagna says, “Things are really, really good. Most days, things are awesome. And then there are other days when it can be tough — with what’s going on in the world with folks like me and all these anti-transgender laws.
“Some days you feel like a superhuman and a unicorn and everything’s amazing. And then you get slapped with these bills, or the stuff that’s going on with our drag community, and it can be heavy, especially because it’s personal for me.”
Calagna had taken an unofficial break from DJing over the past decade, a period coinciding with the Louisiana native’s move from Florida to Colorado, where they eventually launched a second career, becoming a life coach and launching their own practice called Remix Your World.
“It kind of started as just a way to really help other artists, DJs, and people in nightlife,” they say, noting that in their industry, in particular, “there can be an imbalance in mental health care.”
These days, their coaching and therapy practice features various courses and sessions, including hypnotherapy, mindfulness coaching, and psychedelic-assisted therapy, which Calagna explains as “holding psychedelic ceremonies with sacred mushrooms for folks.”
Fortunately, there’s good news for dance music aficionados — Calagna, the DJ, has returned to the booth. Their prodigious talents as a club DJ, with cutting-edge track selections, studiously programmed into distinctive sets and threaded together with impressive subtlety and skill, are once again on display. Calagna is more inspired by the work than ever, a result of a new generation of clubgoers who are “more in alignment with what I’m doing.”
“I think COVID helped [inspire] listening to different types of music and deeper music that may be a little more ethereal,” they say. “There’s just a deeper connection and conversation that I’m able to have with folks on the dance floor now.”
Calagna dubs their particular style “omtronica.” It’s a far cry from the more traditionally aggressive circuit DJ style, which Calagna characterizes as “being pounded to death [by] big crazy drums that are, most of the time, out of key.”
Calagna says there is “an underlying theme and vibe to my music that I don’t feel like has ever really gone away. I think that that’s just the essence of who I am as an artist.” Nevertheless, they add, “I just feel much more in my skin now — and more grounded in who I am. So it’s hard for that not to translate.”
This weekend, Calagna makes their long-awaited return — the first time in a decade — to D.C.’s Cherry weekend dance benefit. Over the course of its first 25 years, Cherry tapped Calagna more than a half dozen times, including multiple years as the Saturday night main event headliner and also as the Saturday after-hours DJ. This year, they’ll spin in the sunrise hours as the closing DJ for the Saturday after-hours. It’s their forté — and favorite to play.
“There’s just so much freedom that goes with after-hours,” they say. “And usually they’re smaller, more intimate rooms. I love Flash for that reason. I really gravitate towards a little bit more of a deeper vibe, and after-hours kind of lends itself to that. It’s really kind of special when after-hours turns to morning. It can be really kind of magical.”
Calagna is the closing DJ for Cherry’s Phantom After Hours, which starts at 3:45 a.m. on Sunday, April 2, at Flash, 645 Florida Ave. NW. Individual tickets are $70, or $280 for a Weekend Pass. Visit www.cherrydc.com.
To learn more about DJ Calagna, visit www.calagnamusic.com.
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