By Angela Espinoza, Arts Editor
Burlesque is alive and thriving in Vancouver, with a popular International Burlesque Festival each May and the hit weekly show Kitty Nights. On the great and vast subject of burlesque in the city, we spoke with the crème de la crème herself, Vancouver’s reigning burlesque queen, Burgundy Brixx!
How long have you been doing burlesque?
I started doing burlesque in New York in 2006. I took a class at the New York School of Burlesque and was instantly hooked on it. In that class I met a gal named Fem Appeal, and she was starting a little show on the lower east side and she asked me if I would like to be a part of it, and that show was Kitty Nights New York.
So then did you start Kitty Nights in Vancouver?
“Yep! I moved here in 2008 and I got the opportunity to do a show at the Biltmore [Cabaret], and…Fem Appeal had said, ‘Hey, if you did a show in Vancouver, why don’t you call it Kitty Nights and we’ll run both shows from either coast?’ That was five years ago, and we’re still doing it; they’re on Sunday nights in both cities at the same time.”
How do you feel about Vancouver’s burlesque scene? Do you think we’ve had a boom in the last decade, or that the scene has always been present?
“The burlesque revival itself started in the early ‘90s. I know there was a bit of burlesque at that point, with Screaming Chicken [Theatrical Society] and Sweet Soul Burlesque. Even they say, ‘We didn’t know what we were doing,’ and were just trying to figure it out by looking at books and pictures and things like that.
“Definitely since I’ve moved here, I’ve seen a huge boom in the burlesque community. There were only [a few] troupes, and they did shows occasionally…there certainly wasn’t a weekly show here; there wasn’t even a monthly show. But I didn’t see any reason why we shouldn’t have a weekly show—there are a lot of performers here, and I felt like they all needed some place to work…and to perform.
“I think people saw that [burlesque] could be viable as an entertainment form and also as a performance art. There have been so many other groups who now feel like they’re validated and liberated enough to start their own shows, that’s why…it’s really getting more into the mainstream.”
I feel there’s still a bit of a misplaced stigma in terms of burlesque, and it revitalizing a woman’s ability to be sexy. Do you have anything to say in that regard?
“Religion or art or whatever it is, if somebody doesn’t like it…you can’t force anything on anyone. There’s always going to be some women who aren’t comfortable around burlesque, and that’s absolutely fine. I do feel that it’s always been a very safe place; burlesque audiences are generally…brought up to be accepting of all different types of women.
“It’s about the woman bearing something more than her body. Our souls and our spirits are so unique and beautiful and interesting that when you’re sharing something beyond the flesh, it’s always sexy and it’s always interesting. If a woman is brave and joyous in her sexuality and her sensuality, then it’s always transfixing… to watch on stage.
“I don’t care who they are or what they look like, it’s all about this inner fire, and everyone’s is different. All these different flames of women [are] so captivating, and I think that’s what keeps the audience coming back too. Every woman who walks on the stage has something original to bring, and personal. That’s what makes it exciting.”
Now that we’re halfway through the year, how has burlesque in Vancouver been in 2013?
“This has been an amazing year for burlesque in Vancouver, and also for Vancouver on the global scale. Some of these performers from Vancouver are really respected and recognized in the global burlesque…and artistic community. So a lot of performers, myself and many others, have had many opportunities to perform in different cities, in different countries, for different festivals, different headlining events, and to teach what we bring to the table for burlesque to a lot of new performers and performers from different scenes. It’s been a really amazing year for outreach…because we’re getting a lot of acclaim as one of the major cities for the burlesque movement.”
Do you have any performances coming up?
“I always have Kitty Nights every Sunday! Occasionally we do a show where we bring in our musicians and we do a live hard rock accompaniment for all the acts…so for Canada Day, we [did] all Canadian rock hits. I work with Pandora and the Locksmiths and we always have an event the second Tuesday of every month downtown at Guilt & Co. I’m headlining the first ever Edmonton Burlesque Festival in the fall, so that’s very exciting…and that’s a testimony to the fact that burlesque is spreading across Canada, which we like!”
Brixx will also have a new monthly showcase premiering this month on Wednesday, July 17 at the Biltmore Cabaret. Presented by Kitty Nights, the show is entitled What’s New, Pussycat, which sets the stage for performers new to the Vancouver scene. The second show will be on Wednesday, August 14, and you can find event info here.