An interview with Lola Frost gives insight into Vancouver’s Burlesque scene
By Julia Siedlanowska, Staff Writer
If Vancouver’s nightlife is getting too boring for you, you simply haven’t checked out the tantalizing burlesque performances and classes happening almost on the daily. I was lucky enough to attend a recent class with Vancouver’s gem, burlesque star Lola Frost at the Vancouver Burlesque Centre. The class was filled with women of all shapes, sizes, and occupations. After asking for a few quotes from my fellow dancers I found a few were reluctant to comment because of their occupations—but instructor and burlesque babe extraordinaire Lola Frost wasn’t hiding anything.
At about 1 a.m. after her usual Thursday performance at the Keefer Bar in Chinatown she was kind enough to return my call. We began by discussing her start as a burlesque dancer. “I started doing burlesque in the summer of 2006. I’ve always wanted to do it since I was little.” After attending a few shows, she went up to the producer and told him she was interested in dancing. “He said ‘Oh yeah, we’ll put you on stage,’” recalls Lola. “I was like ‘Cool, is there an audition?’ He’s like ‘Nope. You just seem like you got what it takes.’ That’s not the way it happens any more, let me tell you!”
Vancouver’s interest in burlesque has piqued in the last five or so years, and the city currently prides itself on having weekly shows, and classes almost every day. “Our community grows all the time and we actually have quite a big one for a city of our size. I just came back from New York and there are three or four shows a night there! But they’re a city of nine million people; we’re a city of 600,000 so it’s a little bit of a different market there,” says Lola.
Although the stigma of an elementary school teacher baring all for an audience of 50 plus is still there, with such a wide-spread base of fans and participants this global phenomenon may be changing its image. “It’s hard to watch us on stage beaming with joy and be offended by it,” explains Lola. “Sex is one of the oldest conversations and one of the newest conversations that we’re ever going to have.”
When I told my mother I was attending a class she said “Great, one step away from stripping.” Someone recently gave me a great analogy to do with this: people project their fantasies onto strippers, while in burlesque the audience is a vessel upon which to showcase your fantasies. Not that there’s anything wrong with stripping (mom), however I feel the general culture around burlesque is more empowering—at least in relation to men and women (for now). Lola elaborates: “It’s primarily female-focussed, which not a lot of art forms are. [Not many art forms] show women in their mostly undressed form in public with it being celebrated. So that’s a really important thing.”
From my experience, burlesque is an art form that serves as a way to get past rigid social stigmas, and most of all it is a fantastic way to have fun. “I think it gives [people] an alternate view of dance and sensuality and performance and body-ownership that you can’t really find in a lot of different art forms. It’s very inclusive not only with body, but gender and style,” says Lola. “For instance in ballet, you do ballet steps [but] in burlesque you can be anything. You can be funny or you can be sassy and you really get to be yourself, so I think that’s very attractive.”
For those who are confident and curious enough to try it, the form is very accessible. “You really can take a couple classes and get up on stage to try it out,” says Lola.
As far as Lola’s journey, she has recently been to Las Vegas and was second runner-up at the Burlesque Hall of Fame Weekend. She’s now steadily performing and teaching burlesque as a full-time artist. “What I thought would just be some fun dancing around and throwing my costumes off my body turned into a very deep self-exploration and a very deep connection with my femininity and with my artistic abilities.”