With February’s Winter Olympics fast approaching, Sochi is preparing itself for all things professional sport: building stadiums, unleashing CIA-grade security at its airport and, of course, antagonizing openly gay athletes and spectators with oppressive rules.
For Sochi’s vibrant, local gay scene, though, the show must go on.
Despite Russia’s so-called gay “propaganda” law—which could land someone wearing a T-shirt with a rainbow on it in big trouble—the doors at the Mayak cabaret club remain open.
Below, a collection of recent photos taken at the Mayak:
A performer limbers up before going onstage at the Mayak. Mayak means “lighthouse” in Russian.
Andrei Tenichev, the Mayak’s owner, opened the club eight years ago.
A Mayak performer gets suited—and painted—up for an evening show.
The club features a number of performers and attracts customers from throughout the Caucasus region. Above, a quiet moment backstage.
The Mayak hosts nightly performances despite Russia’s strict laws, and plans to continue to do so as the world’s best winter athletes descend on the city.
Customers file into the Mayak as showtime approaches. The club is open only to those 21 and over.
Performers strip onstage at the cabaret club during a show. Outside the club, Russia’s LGBT community faces increasing hostility and violence, with state TV lending a hand to fuel the hate.
The action onstage heats up at the Mayak. Speaking of heat, the average temperature in Sochi during February is a decidedly un-frigid 50 degrees Fahrenheit.