Burlesque is the last kind of entertainment still remaining from the days when Vaudeville was king in North American music halls almost 100 years ago.
A live show, it originally featured exotically dressed young women in slightly risqué cabaret acts, which began to feature more nudity as the venues had to compete with the increasingly popular moving pictures. Eventually burlesque became mostly about striptease and, by the 1930s, featured such top names as Gypsy Rose Lee, Sally Rand, Lili St. Cyr, and Blaze Starr, separated by comedians like Jackie Gleason, W. C. Fields, Mae West, and Red Skelton.
It’s been making a comback, too, as both performers and venues find there is still room for this sort of show. In fact, the Vancouver International Burlesque Festival has been a big draw in recent years.
The Duncan Showroom has hosted burlesque before and is welcoming back the Vixens Burlesque Show on Saturday, June 1 starting at 8 p.m.
It’s a unique evening out, according to Victoria Rein, a Cowichan Valley resident who is a member of the company.
“Burlesque is a performance style. I don’t consider myself a dancer and my first time onstage ever was with burlesque. We have four members in the Vancouver Island Vixens and only one of our members has a theatre background, and one of our members — Cherry Cheeks — might have a performance background but we class ourselves as burlesque performers,” she said.
Rein was first introduced to the genre when she took a class in burlesque about a decade ago.
“I got hooked on it. I did my first performance in November five years ago. I didn’t do anything until February of that year and then I booked five shows for February, March, and April and have stayed in it. I love it. Cherry Cheeks and I debuted at the same time at a Brand New Boobies show in Victoria. Sophie Luscious debuted a year before us but the three of us did an intermediate class together and we did intermediate production together.
“Burlesque is very performance-centric. It’s truly all about focusing on individuality. It’s not necessarily about sexuality because there’s political burlesque as well, but it’s really about focusing on self love. Although it’s not about therapy, it can be therapeutic, too.”
And it can be funny, Rein said.
“In our show on June 1, there are a few pretty funny routines that are coming to the stage. I recommend people to come and see us. We’ve got a real variety: some really classic pieces, and some more campy pieces, too. Our Christmas show is very campy. In our Get Cosy with the Vixens winter tour we have a variety of comedy pieces and traditional pieces but during that tour we ended every show with a pillow fight. It can just get crazy. At Christmas, we had a Christmas can-can and since literally none of us are dancers it was hilarious.
“We usually do traditionally inspired burlesque, but, for this show, we have four burlesque performers that have all debuted within the last year. We’ve kind of hand-selected them and invited them to come perform with us. That means we’re a little bit outside of our normal genre in some cases but we feel they’re really strong performers and we’re giving them space to get more exposure and more experience. And then, as well, all of us are going to re-create our debut numbers for the stage,” Rein said.
Tickets are $20 in advance from https://www.showroomproductions.ca/buy-tickets or $25 at the door if there are any left.