Sisterhood of the Tear-away Pants: How Burlesque is undressing Dawson’s hearts
By María Sol Suárez
back row: Tundra Temptress, Beau Cherry, Bucky Flint, Morningstar Maggie, Kitty Fierce middle row: Jynx Faye, Stella Storm, Minnie Moonshine, Lucy S. Diamond, Frisky Freya, Dreamboat Fannie front row:Hussy LaDouce, Chevonne of the Yukon
Two years have passed since Rachel Wiegers ran her first “Introduction to Burlesque” workshop and presented the “grads” at a Boardwalk Burlesque show at the Palace Grande. By now, a fair share of Dawsonites have witnessed the evolution of this titillating project that explores the art of the tease. The few skeptics have been effectively converted, and a healthy fan base has been established.
This year, we were once again delighted and surprised by two nights of Boardwalk Burlesque, held at Diamond Tooth Gerties and hosted by a dashing fella named Chocolate Samurai. Everything from the mise-en-scène to the nipple tassels keeps getting more elaborate and dazzling. We saw a sassy flight attendant prepare for landing on pleasure town, a tailgate party with the cutest Newfie jigger, and even the legendary warrior Princess Xena.
We saw a sassy flight attendant’s emergency landing on pleasure town, a tailgate party with the cutest Newfie jigger, an ethereal enchantress dancing on the moon and many more. Even the legendary warrior Princess Xena and the Mother of Dragons herself took turns to seduce us. It seems like everything from the mise-en-scène to the nipple tassels keeps getting more elaborate and dazzling. At one point during Chevonne of The Yukon’s act, a fire actually started on stage, as if the Universe was saying things got way too hot.
It is so suitable for this to take place in the dead of the winter, our collective darkest hour, both literally and figuratively. There is no other time of the year when we are in such dire need of an uplifting bomb of beauty, glitter and laughter. After all, entertainment is as much of a tradition in this town as the mining that created it, and in my opinion, they go hand in hand.
But the main thing I find fascinating about this art form is the way that it grants total control to the performer, who in turn is motivated to give the best of themselves, making the resulting shows unique and personalized. The Burlesque gang grows into a ecosystem that encompasses everything from costume and set design, promotion and event planning, to emotional support and artistic mentorship.
What we get is a fabulous locally produced show. We get to see our friends and coworkers looking stunning and displaying talents we never knew they had, with plenty of spicy humour to shoo away the blues. But what the performers get is a journey of self discovery and an opportunity to bond with each other through the challenges that come along. So let’s let them tell the story:
How did you feel on the very first Burlesque class?
Frisky Freya: Nervous. Until I saw Rachel in her beautiful underwear and then I thought “Yep. I want to be like Rachel. I belong here.”
Jynx Faye: I felt like “what the hell am I getting myself into?” but in the best of ways.
Bucky Flint: I laugh so hard thinking about that first class. I injured my tailbone and was also full of gas and basically wore pyjamas. A total hot mess. But for real, I was SO excited, which I didn’t anticipate.
Beau Cherry: The first day of class was so intimidating. I was even scared to introduce myself . Then, by the end of the course, we would hang around and talk to each other naked. I have never been that comfortable around girls ever. Hate to say it, people can be judgemental. It felt good to have a “locker room.”
Between the pressures of everyday life and the dreaded winter blues, how did you stay motivated during the course? And double that for Katie Pearse:, who was pregnant during the whole thing!
Frisky Freya: This was actually encouraged as therapy by my doctor and psychiatrist. No joke.
Bucky Flint: Fear! Hahaha! Honest to God. It was definitely a struggle. Work and life were so busy that sometimes I had to choose between practicing or getting a decent night of sleep. Fear of falling on my face and fear of letting the team down motivated me.
Jynx Faye: Lately I felt like I was getting bad news after bad news thrown at me left, right and centre, and emotionally I was incredibly drained outside of Burlesque. I sometimes found myself cringing at the thought of trying to put on a positive, sexy persona. But with the support from my family, instructors and friends I made through the course. Burlesque was distracting me from the negative and became a really positive outlet.
Bucky Flint: This is so spot on. It did become a really positive outlet and an amazing distraction from normal life and work stuff. This was also the first thing I did for myself in years and years. So that was amazing!
Katie Pearse: I found it easy to stay motivated because of all the energy everyone brought to class. In class, we focus on only saying positive things and leaving our woes at the door, so it was a nice escape from whatever else was going on in my life. Even though it was definitely hard work and tiring at times, sharing in everyone’s ideas and enthusiasm and seeing their numbers come together was inspiring! Boardwalk Burlesque is also like being a part of a team, and everyone (including our “alumni” performers) was so great at recognizing when someone was having a hard time and offering support. It was a great group to work with.
Chevonne of the Yukon: These babes put their faith in me and themselves…there was no way I was going to let them down. I try to teach my kids that “word is bond.” You do what you say you will do. Integrity is very important. I did my best but it was pretty challenging with two preschoolers at home!
Conversations about self-love and body positivism have, finally, become part of mainstream media and culture. How would you say Burlesque plays a part in these matters?
Frisky Freya: Burlesque, when guided by such loving teachers, really helps women discover who they are. That it was always inside you – that strength to be fierce, brave, creative, silly, sexy, sassy, tucked in right beside that alter ego, waiting for the perfect moment to explode with glitter.
Chevonne of the Yukon: I totally agree with what Freya said. It is interesting that in course we speak very little about body image; the change in the students happens organically. Burlesque welcomes all open-minded people of all shapes sizes, ages, and is aligned with the LGBTQ2S community. It is a judgement-free space.
The idea here is that every body should have the right to be themselves and be proud of it. Burlesque announces to the world in a very public way that you are in charge of and are proud of your own body and your own sexuality. It takes people from often very insecure and sometimes traumatic places, to a place where they feel the power; a mind frame where they “own it.”
Apart from amazing eyebrow game, what other skills have you acquired through burlesque?
Frisky Freya: Discovering that I am beautiful and I am in control of my own sensuality/sexuality.
Bucky Flint: Channelling and working through anxiety/hard feelings, perseverance, believing in myself, and how to friggin’ walk in heels! Amazing.
Jynx Faye: Bedazzling everything.
Frisky Freya: F*ck. Yes.
What was your favourite part of the experience and what was the biggest challenge?
Frisky Freya: Favourite part: I am beginning to love myself for the first time in a very long time. I feel proud and worthy of self love.
Biggest challenge: trying to see beyond what I hated about my body;I despised it. But having encouraging teachers and friends really helps you take a step beyond those thoughts.Giving yourself permission to love yourself was and still is hard for me.
Also to titty propellers are really hard to make and maintain. Just saying.
Jynx Faye: My favourite was discovering how comfortable I really am performing. I was feeling really nervous during rehearsals, and figure I’d be ten times as nervous on stage in front of a large audience. Turns out performing in front of a larger, noisy audience really encouraged me to give my act my all. Which is something I definitely wouldn’t have expected. That and, of course, making new friends!
The biggest challenge was comedy/storyline of an act. Though I’ve followed big time Burlesque acts since I was a teen, I never really considered how much comedy played into it. So, structuring something other than me just taking my clothes off to music was a challenge for me. Luckily support from everyone in the class really helped everything come together!
Bucky Flint: I have a couple of favourite parts. I think the most important one was truly, deeply feeling 100% sexy and powerful for the first in my life. I thought I had felt this before, I know I’m a strong and powerful woman, but it was completely different. I’m 30, and couldn’t believe I went my whole life without tapping into this energy before.
Much like Jynx, another of my favourite parts was discovering how comfortable I was once I finally got on stage. Rehearsals were intimidating. It took me a long time before I could get in that headspace of rolling with it, even if I messed up.
Of course, getting on stage was scary, but once I was up there, I WAS Bucky Flint and I was finally confident and comfortable enough to give it everything I had.
A final favourite was connecting with some seriously inspiring, strong, and loving women. I’m pretty new to town and had been feeling a bit isolated. I found myself missing close relationships with my femme friends, and burlesque was a great way to make lasting friendships.
The biggest challenge for me was finding ways to create and memorize choreography that works with the way I learn. I knew this would be a challenge because I have a difficult time with memorization, but I found methods that stuck and the videos the Katie made for us were SUCH a great tool! I knew that choreography would be a challenge to overcome, but I didn’t imagine taking my top off in front of the class would feel like a breeze by comparison!
Katie Pearse: Favourite part is seeing the transformation of the ladies from day one to the night of the show! The growth in their confidence is amazing!
Beau Cherry: I joined burlesque for many reasons. I reached all my goals and more. My favourite part was getting out of the house, looking forward to something every Tuesday. Meeting new women in the same position as you, making new friends. Being more confident with my body: I never thought in a million years I would be on stage showing my ta-tas! Also it was a honour to be on stage at Gerties.
My biggest struggle was overcoming the fear of not being great up on stage. I had moments of weakness: not thinking my number was great, my costume was plain. These are all struggles I was expecting to have. The girls were very supportive. We had a Facebook group and everyone would say positive quotes and we would get together after class and talk. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to presenting myself in any way. But the girls would quickly remind me what was great of my number and to own it.
Chevonne of the Yukon: I love it all, truly. What Katie said. At the beginning every student seems to be thinking, “oh no, what have I gotten myself into!” In the end I am surrounded with a confident, creative, bold posse of power as we take to the stage. It is so awesome that I am not alone in this game anymore.
The biggest challenge for me other than finding costume supplies is always helping guide peoples emotion’s. It is one of the most rewarding and best parts, but people are so unique in their needs and wants at times of uncertainty. It is hard to know the right thing to say or do. I have learned a lot about people’s emotions in vulnerable times. I am getting better at this I think with each course.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering getting into burlesque?
Ramblin’ Rose Just do it. If there is one part of you that says “I could do that” or “I want to try it,” just do it. There will always be times when you are scared or unsure. But if you listen to the bravest part of you that’s what you become.
Bucky Flint: During the first class, Rachel and Katie said something that stuck with me, it was along the lines of “imagine your most powerful self and harness that.” I would say yes, yes to this. If you are considering taking the class but are terrified like I was, think of the most powerful version of yourself that you would want to explore and hold that vision. Because you can expect to feel it, and find it and it is glorious.
Also, expect a roller coaster! At times you might feel awkward, uncertain, and like whatever confidence you had in the first place disappeared, but the new sense of self that you discover through the course and from the final performance is UNREAL!
Frisky Freya: When Rachel and Katie say “no negative self talk in class” you take that to heart – and it frees you from so many personal barriers that may have held you back before.
Beau Cherry: My advice would be, if you’re scared to… do it! Nothing ever great happened when you weren’t scared or nervous to do it. The results and feelings were so rewarding. Like Rachel and Katie said, you’ll wish to be back up there. The euphoria you get and the feedback from the audience is undeniable, especially in Dawson. Dawson is so supportive to these women. I’m lucky to have been a part of such an amazing group. So, get up there and shake what your momma gave you!
This year the performers seemed to grow in numbers. Did you notice a big difference in the crowd as well? Is Burlesque fever spreading?
Chevonne of the Yukon: The number of performers was about the same except we now have the alumni from the first burlesque course who have been actively performing since their debut in May of 2015. The interest in performing is very high. A lot of women wanted to do the class but many were away travelling. I think the audience may have vastly expanded!
The first show at the Palace Grand has become legendary. People who would have been unsure about attending a burlesque shows (or those who didn’t really know what it was) heard about the first and subsequent shows from friends and neighbours, and realized burlesque is an art form that most people can enjoy.
The spectators at the Palace Grand show were made up of mostly family, friends and the arts crowd. Since then, we have performed for the Trek Over the Top and the Gold Show. These audiences were vastly different from the first, but they enjoyed the show just as much. Women typically make up about 70% of the fans at burlesque shows.
That said, at our last show I spoke with some longtime Dawsonite “bushmen” who said the show was inspiring and that it would help them get through the rest of the winter. I loved seeing them there. It make me think of the entertainment aspect of the gold rush where throngs of (mostly) wooly men were faced with some epic challenges here. It was the burlesque performers who helped take their mind off of their troubles and make it through till the sluices were running.
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A good show has a funny way to stay with you. Maybe you were in the audience and you find yourself humming the tunes for days, the memory of such a night still making you smile. Or maybe you were up there performing and giving the world a part of yourself. And in it you have found a feeling, along with a flattering shade of lipstick, that you will want to keep forever.